Sunday sermon 25 November – Christ the King

Christ the King.

Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-134; Phil 2:8-15; John 18:33-37; Rev 1:4-8

I read an account this week of a Canadian lady who lives in two worlds, so to speak. Not heaven and earth – but in two countries. Her name is Cecille and she visits the United States dozens of times a day – when she makes tea, for example, or goes to the backdoor or the fridge. She reads and sleeps in Canada though. And she eats in Canada – because she sits at the north end of her dining room table.

The reason? Her house was already there in 1842 when politicians decided in London where the official boundary line would be. A citizen of Canada, she spends a lot of her time in another country while staying in the same place. Sound familiar to you?

It’s a great story and a kind of a parable of the Christian life for us.

Paul tells us in Philippians (not read today):

Php 3:18  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Php 3:19  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

Php 3:20  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Php 3:21  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Citizenship in heaven. And yet we live totally absorbed with the things of this world. And when Jesus’ ministry got going He preached about the Kingdom coming! In their midst!

We live in two Kingdoms.

Today’s Gospel reading

In the Gospel reading today Pilate and Jesus are talking about Jesus as King but they are talking about different Kingdoms.

It’s a fascinating conversation that John records for us. Listen again.

Joh 18:33  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:34  “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Joh 18:35  “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Joh 18:36  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.”

Joh 18:37  “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 the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Pilate would have no issue with the idea of Jesus as King of the Jews. A bit bizarre, that’s all. Not a threat. He’s just a bible teacher from a small town.

Pilate is a pragmatic politician. He tries to figure this out and therefore asks a great question:

“What is it you have done?”

Of course this doesn’t really help him, because Jesus’ answer is couched in language and concepts of the other world – another reality – the other “Kingdom” to which he belongs:

Joh 18:36  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.”

That is troublesome really for Pilate. He can only respond with “You are a king, then!”  One can only imagine what he was thinking. You are a king -or not. What on earth are you talking about?

Jesus makes it as clear as he can for this Roman: He answers:  “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

I had this great discussion this week with one of our elders about a verse in Matthew which goes like this:

Mat 7:6  “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. (If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.)

Well maybe this is an example of a tremendous truth that simply goes over someone’s head – because they’re not there. There is no way Pilate was going to understand the truth of Jesus and his Kingdom.

We live in these two worlds then. And what people believe about Jesus (in the Christian family) swings between these two worlds in a sense. There are those who believe that it is our job to make Jesus Lord and King of this world – so they fight for truth and justice.

And they are right in a sense – even if they become nutter activists. They plunge into the affairs of this world – or worse still spend all their time debating the affairs of this world – the politicians, the political parties, the social issues of poverty and corruption. Some just talk about the stuff all the time – using the social media or any opportunity to debate causes. They don’t always get involved of course.

One can’t dispute the fact that God calls people to be social reformers. The William Wilberforces of this world are a gift to all – it was he who spent his whole life fighting slavery. Watch “Amazing Grace” sometime and you will get what I mean.

And then on the opposite extreme there are those who spend all their energy and time focussing on spiritual matters – the Kingdom of God and its benefits for us as Christians – with equally unbalanced ways of doing things that are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.

BOTH ARE REAL AND NECESSARY

Both worlds are real and necessary. Don’t we pray each week” Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

If our Canadian lady who lives in her house which straddles a national border were to spend all her time at the backdoor or at the fridge (in America), she would not get to sleep at all (which she does in Canada).

It is a pretty strange kind of way to live, but Christians are a peculiar lot anyway. The old KJV calls us a “peculiar people” which is rather nice. (1 Peter 2:9 – meaning his own possession).

Extreme 1

We can’t retreat permanently from the world and spend our time “in church” gazing upwards and enjoying being with the Lord all the time. Not normally at any rate (although God does call some people to a permanent retreat at times).

We do need to look past the obvious and life and stare into the eternal – we need to be in relationship with Jesus our King because he is not only the one who gives us our orders, but he is the one who empowers us and gives us all we need to be his people in the world. And he calls us to get involved in the world of pain, suffering, hunger, disease and heartache.

Extreme 2

Likewise we can’t spend all our time in the struggles of this world, as that too would mean half the job done. We are to be there with a purpose – and point people to the other Kingdom – to the King who in the most amazing way defines everything that makes sense about Kingship. A Christian who doesn’t point people to Jesus and the gospel becomes a political or social activist and no longer a servant of the Kingdom of God.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD KING?

Since Prince Charles came to visit with his old friend and now wife Camilla, the debate about royalty has started up here again.

And the basic question is this – “what makes for a good king?” What kind of King would this be?

In fact the whole trial and crucifixion is about this issue. Even from his birth it was clear that Jesus was to be a king:

  • Mat_2:2  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” The wise men present him gold – fit for a king – as one of his gifts.
  • Early on he is identified in this way: Joh_1:49  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
  • Then they tried to make him king here – when he fed the 5000 with a boy’s lunch (potential to solve world food shortages!): Joh_6:15  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
  • And of course about Palm Sunday when he road into Jerusalem – John quotes the Old Testament: Joh_12:15  “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (Quoting Zechariah 9:9)

THE TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION

  • And as the trial progresses we hear Pilate saying: Joh_18:39  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
  • And then the soldiers: Joh_19:3  and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
  • And the story continues:  Joh_19:12  From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
    • Joh_19:14  It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
    • Joh_19:15  But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

 Joh_19:19  Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The question is – what kind of King?

In his human life – a servant king – touching the untouchables, restoring the broken, dying on a tree for our sins.

In his RESURRECTION raised in glorious splendour – the one who is to be worshipped as Lord, the one before whom every knee shall bow.

There is Jesus the human and Jesus the Divine. And His Kingdom had its effect on those around him as the future broke into the present – the sick were healed, the dead raised, and demons – evil spirits – defeated.

We live in between the then and the not yet – our now is a battle as we try to resist the devil who wants to suck us back into his kingdom of darkness.

Peter –who tells us to resist the devil – also writes this (which we have referred to already in regard to the word “peculiar”):

1Pe_2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

KINGDOM CHOICES AND CALLING

Let’s not be duped into thinking that this is just a question of choosing to be nice rather than unpleasant. Sometimes we reduce the Christian journey to a matter of ethical choices – like those who make Jesus a good teacher and no more.

This is war. The darkness and the light are at war with each other.

The truth prevails. As it will in every human conflict. Those who try to manipulate the truth will be exposed.

WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO PILATE IN TODAY’S READING

Pilate tried to crucify the Truth!

Putting a crown of thorns on Jesus and a mocking sign “The King of the Jews” would not change that. And in a fascinating twist Pilate was in fact announcing the truth about Jesus.

  • Pilate embodies the opposite of Jesus’ Kingdom. He controls and keeps the peace so that he will keep control and therefore keep his job. He lords it over people. He kills Jesus.
  • Jesus on the other hand empowers others and washes the feet of those he leads.
  • Pilate’s rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm.
  • Jesus’ rule brings peace, even in the midst of terror.
  • Pilate’s power comes from Caesar and is temporary.
  • Jesus’ authority comes from God and is eternal.

And from the cross Jesus is the suffering servant in the complete sense. Forgiving them. And even caring for them by creating a new community – when he appoints John as Mary’s son and Mary as John’s mother, this is more than just a family and friend thing. It’s a whole new community of love that is greater than family ties, gender, race and earthly citizenship. It’s the church that is being born – God’s family on earth – and the people who are showing forth the Kingdom.

So this is “Christ the King” Sunday.

All this information about Jesus and what he did to achieve our salvation and freedom is known to us. Paul reminds us that as a result of his death, he is exalted as Lord of all. Listen again:

Php 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Php 2:9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so much in the New Testament is shaped by this passage from Daniel 7:

Dan 7:9  “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

Dan 7:10  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

Dan 7:13  “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

Dan 7:14  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

IS HE YOUR KING?

The bottom line is this: Is He our King? Or do we serve others? Are we really passionate about His Kingdom? It influences who we are and everything we do. Listen again to John in Revelation 1:5-6:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

THE KINGDOM IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

One commentator puts it this way:

We are made a kingdom (RSV). John gives us here a fascinating insight into the kingdom theology of the New Testament. The kingdom of God is not seen in the New Testament in territorial terms, but rather in relationship terms. “It is the Kingly Reign of Jesus Christ” (Bonhoeffer).

Ordinary and garden-variety people who receive the love and freedom from Christ are the ones who, as we are willing to become Christ’s servants (Rev_1:1), thereby become His very kingdom in the world.

The apostle John continues: Rev 1:7  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

Rev 1:8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Those who don’t believe will see eventually. In the meantime we live to praise His name and to proclaim His Kingdom – living it out in community here in this place.

May this truth be real for us today.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on November 24, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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