Christ the King Sunday
November 26, 2017
Hail to the King!
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It happens on a fairly regular basis— probably more often than we stop to realize. A new person is elected into political office, a new employee or a new boss is hired at the place where we work, a new rookie is drafted onto our all time favorite sports team, a new pastor is Called to serve our congregation. How will it all work out? Will that new person do what we think they should do? Will they change the things that we want to see changed? While some people will have high hopes for the new person and while some people may not have very high expectations at all, for the most part each of those scenarios requires us to adopt a “wait and see” attitude.
As I was studying this sermon text and as I was formulating our sermon for today I couldn’t help but think of how a similar situation unfolded in the ministry of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of His public ministry there were many people who had high expectations for this new Rabbi from Nazareth. Huge crowds came from all over to hear Jesus preach, to listen to Jesus teach, and to watch as Jesus healed people of all kinds of diseases and deformities— even demons. But there were also those who did not have high expectations for Jesus. Why? He just did not seem like the kind of Messiah they were waiting for. And so there were many people were very curious as to how the ministry of this Rabbi from Nazareth would all turn out. Our text for today focuses our attention on what many people thought was the end of both Jesus and His ministry— His execution on the cross of Calvary’s hill. Borrowing some words from the text itself let’s study this portion of Scripture under the theme: Hail to the King!
“Death by crucifixion” was not a sentence that was handed down indiscriminately in the Roman Empire. Habitual offenders and people who had committed serious crimes against the State were usually the ones who were sentenced to be crucified. What crime had Jesus committee? In Matthew 27:11 we hear the public charge that was brought against Jesus, the “crime” that Pilate had placed on the sign above His head. It says, “Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.” Claiming to be the King of the Jews was not acceptable to Rome or Pontius Pilate who was Rome’s representative in Jerusalem. You may recall how Herod reacted when the Magi from the east came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). From a purely political perspective claiming to be a king in the Roman Empire without the full consent and knowledge of the Roman emperor was a crime that was worthy of crucifixion. But that’s not the entire reason why the events recorded here in our text for today took place, is it.
In Matthew chapter 26:62-65 we see that Jesus was not claiming to be just any king, was He! Jesus claimed to be the Messiah-King! Look at what we’re told, “The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ ‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered.” From a purely human perspective Jesus’ death by crucifixion was the result of His claim that He is Christ— The King!
There are in reality only three possible ways to react to Jesus’ claim to be Christ— The King. The first reaction is to say that Jesus was a liar. Was He? Was Jesus lying when He claimed to be The King? On the basis of Scripture the only answer to that question is, of course, a resounding, NO! When Pilate questioned Jesus about the veracity of His claim to be a King we hear this exchange, “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into this world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked.” Jesus was most certainly not lying when He claimed to be The King. At the same time, however, He was not the kind of king that Pilate and his Roman soldiers were familiar with.
Well, then, if Jesus was not a liar was He perhaps a lunatic? Did He have some kind of delusion, some kind of mental instability that caused Him to think He was the Messiah-King? Again, on the basis of Scripture the answer is still a resounding: NO! At the time of His conception the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33). Jesus knew exactly who He is!
So if Jesus is not a liar (which He is not!) and if Jesus is not a lunatic (which He is not!) then what is the only other possibility? The only other possibility, my friends, is that Jesus is exactly who He claims to be— the LORD, Christ— The King! In fact, He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings! But then why? If Jesus is Christ— The King, if Jesus is the Lord of lords and the King of kings then why did He allow the events recorded here in our text to take place? Why did He allow this puny politician named Pontius Pilate to sentence Him to death by crucifixion? Why did He allow these simple sinful soldiers to strip Him of His clothes and put a scarlet robe on Him, to press a crown of thorns on His head and then strike Him on the head again and again, to spit in His face and to mock Him saying, “”Hail, king of the Jews!”? Why? You already know the answer, don’t you.
As Christ— The King Jesus’ sole mission here on this earth was to defeat our three greatest and most powerful enemies: sin, death and the devil. He waged the war that we could not wage. And in order for Him to win the victory our King had to willingly sacrifice Himself on the cross in order to completely pay for all of our sins. The beating, the mocking, and yes, the cross were all a part of what our King was willing to endure all so that you and I could enjoy living with Him in His eternal heavenly Kingdom. So what the soldiers here in our text say mockingly we say adoringly: Hail to the King! (Pointing to the cross)
But you already know that, don’t you? You already know that at the time of your Christian baptism you were adopted as a dearly beloved child of the King of heaven and earth, that you were made a part of His Kingdom of Grace, and that you became an heir of His eternal heavenly Kingdom, right? I am confident that you already know these truths, my friends. At the same time, however, as we gather together here in the Lord’s house on this Christ the King Sunday this would be a very good time for us to examine our hearts, to examine our lives and to ask ourselves the question, Does my life openly reveal the fact that by the grace of God I believe that Jesus is my King? Or, are there perhaps times when either consciously or unconsciously we have called Jesus a liar?
Think about it. When on the one hand we hear someone say that the Bible is just another book that was written and edited down through the ages by mortal sinful men and on the other hand we hear Jesus say, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17)— who do we say is telling the truth? When on the one hand we hear people say that while the Bible contains the Word of God we should never go so far as to say the Bible is the Word of God and therefore there are some parts of the Bible that we do not have to believe, teach and confess (such as the six day Creation or the seriousness of sin or the reality of hell) but on the other hand we hear Jesus say, “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20) and “Do not add anything to My Word and do not subtract anything from My Word” (see Revelation 22:18-19) — who do we say is telling the truth? When on the one hand we hear so-called Christian churches say that it doesn’t make any difference what religion you follow or what name you give to God because we’re all going to the same place and on the other hand we hear Jesus say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) — who do we say is telling the truth? Are there indeed times when either consciously or unconsciously even we have called Jesus a liar?
Are there perhaps even times when the actions of our life give the impression that maybe Jesus was a “little off” in His thinking and in His teaching? When Jesus tells us that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) rather than seeking the creature comforts of this world, when Jesus tells us that we are to put God first in our lives, other people second and ourselves last (Matthew 22:37-40), when Jesus tells us that if we truly want to be great in the Kingdom of God we need to willingly and humbly serve each other (Matthew 20:24-28) do we ever act as though Jesus is talking craziness?
Christ the King Sunday gives us all a beautiful opportunity to look at a portion of Scripture such as our text for today and do exactly the opposite! Instead of gathering around Jesus to beat Him and to mock Him we humbly kneel before Jesus to bring Him our thanks and our praise. Instead of striking Jesus on the head over and over again we humbly bow our heads before our King and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Instead of angrily leading Jesus out to crucify Him we lovingly lead Jesus out to introduce Him to our family, our friends, our neighbors and our acquaintances. Yes, my friends, today is indeed a beautiful opportunity for us to re-dedicate ourselves to our King.
When it comes to a new politician or a new employee or a new boss or a new member of our favorite sports team, all we can do is wait to see how it all turns out. But when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth serving us as Christ— The King we already know how it turns out, don’t we! Three days after these Roman soldiers here in our text mocked and crucified Jesus for claiming to be the King of the Jews, Christ— The King physically rose from the dead as the Victor over sin, death and the devil. This very same Jesus now rules over all things as the King of heaven and earth. So, let’s strive, my friends, let’s strive to make sure that in our hearts, let’s strive to make sure that with our lives we openly and humbly and adoringly say: Hail to the King! (Pointing to the cross)
To God be the glory!