Sermon for Christ the King, November 20, 2016
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 23:27-43
Sermon Theme: “Was He a King of Fools?”
(Sources: Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; Anderson, Cycle C, Preaching Workbook; original ideas; History Jokes, history.inrebus.com; Brokhoff, Series C, Preaching Workbook)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
While America has no King or Queen, most Americans are familiar with royalty, because of the British royal family. By the way, in England, when a royal male becomes King, his wife is always given the title “Queen.” However, when a royal female becomes Queen, her husband must never be called “King” if he is a foreigner, — such as the case of Prince Albert who was from Germany and Prince Phillip who was from Spain. Such a designation reminds the folks that Queen Victoria, or Queen Elizabeth, is the true Royal Monarch of the United Kingdom. Not their husband.
Australia is a Constitutional Monarchy, with Elizabeth II as their figurehead Queen. Once when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were visiting a university in Australia, a couple introduced themselves to Prince Phillip as Mr. and Dr. Robinson. When the husband explained, “My wife is a doctor of philosophy. She is much more important than I,” Prince Phillip sympathetically replied, “Ah, yes. We have that trouble in our family, too.”
In the early days, including Old Testament times, when Israel had a King, the King had absolute authority, and people believed in the Divine Right of Kings. In England during the Middle Ages, it was believed that a bad King was allowed to rule the people as punishment for their sins, so you deserved and had to endure a “bad” King. In today’s world, some countries, like England, still have Kings and Queens, but they have little or no authority and are pretty much figureheads.
God used the images and languages of the world to communicate His nature, the mystery of His existence, to us, and so we view God as the King of Kings, the divine monarch of His Kingdom. Earthly kings, then and now, are political; the Divine King, Christ the King, is spiritual, although at the time of His crucifixion, Roman leaders and the religious leaders of the Jews saw Jesus as a political threat. Obviously, Christ was a very different kind of king.
Today, the last Sunday of the Church Year, is known as “Christ the King Sunday,” and is an appropriate time to try to understand the Bible’s imagery of Christ as King and His Kingdom.
For most of those who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was the King of Fools. How ridiculous His kingship seems in the shadow of the cross. The Jewish religious authorities mocked Him. The soldiers ridiculed Him. The one thief on the cross tried to goad Him into acting like a real king, a king who had the power to destroy His enemies. Even the sign placed over His mortally wounded body was meant as a joke: “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
How could He be a king? He had no power, no wealth, no army. Most people thought Him delusional, and I doubt if we would have thought much differently if we had been here. Yes, Jesus’ resurrection provides power and vindication for those who believe, but the world still looks at Jesus as a king of fools. We are considered fools, because we believe in a kingdom that is not of this world, a realm of peace and harmony, a place where the weak and the foolish reign eternally.
No doubt the enemies of Jesus had a good laugh as they watched His life-force trickle from His face like sweat. “If you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself. Come down from the cross.” Ha! Ha! Ha! Some were pointing to the sign above His head, “The King of the Jews,” and laughing convulsively. What a joke!
Does the world look at King Jesus differently today? I don’t think so. As I said before, worldly kings today are mere figureheads, and in light of our love of democracy, that may be a good thing. Even democracies need authority. But people have degenerated today to the extent that there is no respect for any authority, — just riot when you don’t like something or somebody, kill cops because they are doing their job by arresting people, cheat and lie and live outside of any kind of moral authority. There is a loss of respect for any kind of authority. The 21st Century is truly in need of King Jesus, our Spiritual King.
On this Christ the King Sunday it is not only appropriate, but necessary, to attempt to answer the question, “What do we mean when we say that Christ is King, when we pray for His Kingdom to come in the Lord’s Prayer, or when Christ Himself said the ‘Kingdom of God has come near’?”
In his treatise on the Kingdom of God, John Bright pointed out that the term, “the Kingdom of God” is used sparingly in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yet the concept runs through both Testaments and is a unifying theme throughout the Bible.
So, just what IS the Kingdom of God? For the purpose of understanding this, let us break down the Kingdom concept into three categories. Let’s look at each of these.
In the FIRST category, the Kingdom of God can be viewed as the eternal and ultimate reign of God, grounded in creation. The words of the Psalmist echo this understanding when he declares, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof . . .” The hymn, “This Is My Father’s World” also was framed from this understanding. God made us, and, therefore, we are His. Thus, He has the right to rule over us.
In the SECOND category, it can be said that the Kingdom of God only exists when God’s will is obeyed and His authority is acknowledged. God is still the eternal king, but He has given humankind the freedom to reject His authority. In other words, how can there be a king if He has no subjects who acknowledge His authority? Thus, it can be said that those who trust and obey God are in the Kingdom and those who reject Him are not.
Looked at from a THIRD angle, the Kingdom of God has not yet come, or, at least, is not fully present. The Kingdom is yet to come and so Jesus prayed in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come…” Here, the Kingdom is associated with such concepts as “the Day of the Lord,” the “End of Times,” the “Last Judgment,” when the righteous are received into the immediacy of God’s presence, while those who have spurned God’s authority are cast into the outer darkness.
In the first concept, God is above history as ruler and king. In the second concept, God is within history. And in the third concept, God is beyond the end of history. All three concepts are valid.
Unfortunately, we live in a world today where it is popular to believe that every man is his own king and every woman is her own queen, and, yet, that philosophy has not made us happy, and has set us at odds with one another. It is time for the Christian church, the invisible church of true believers, to proclaim decisively, “The King of Kings is not dead, and He is not a King of Fools.” The fools are the ones who fail to believe in His Kingdom.
I think you can see why there is a need to celebrate Christ the King Sunday. Yes, it is true that Jesus is our friend; it is true that He is our brother; and it is true that He is our Savior. But we must also accept the fact that He is our King. He is the King of the Cosmos; He rules the world, and all the nations, and all the planets. We must allow Christ to have total lordship over our lives, during good times and bad times, during famine and great abundance, during low points and high points.
With Christ as our King, we can say with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
So, “Crown Him the Lord of Life who triumphed over the grave and rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save. His glories now we sing Who died and rose on high, Who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die!” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.