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25 March 2018 message – Palm Sunday and the King

Reading: John 12:12-19

MESSAGE

So –  its Easter morning. You would have expected a service at sunrise. When you were small you might have had an Easter egg hunt in the garden.

You climb out of bed and go downstairs.

And you see a Christmas tree and Christmas presents, with Easter eggs hiding behind them.

You rub your eyes, scratch your head – and go back to bed thinking this is a dream.

Try again 10 minutes later – and yes, it’s true. Someone’s got Easter and Christmas muddled.

You wonder why. What does this mean? What are they trying to tell you?

That’s exactly what makes Jesus’ triumphal entry so interesting.

It was the spring – it was Passover time. There were things you did at Passover – remembering the rescue from slavery and the blood of the lamb on the doorpost which saved people from death – and you celebrate their rescue from bondage.

And Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and people are waving palms.

This is a mid-winter thing happening in the spring. Like Christmas and Easter together.

Although it’s the wrong time of the year, the symbols of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem go with Hanukkah– which John has already mentioned in 10.22. (Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter)

When Judas Maccabaeus defeated the pagan invaders and cleansed the Temple in 164 BC, his followers entered the city waving palm branches in celebration (1 Maccabees 13.51; 2 Maccabees 10.7). (Tom Wright)

We were talking about these extra books called the apocrypha just recently – a whole series of them you don’t find in the Protestant bible.

Here’s the passage from the second book of Maccabees chapter 10, reading from verse 7:

2Ma 10:7  Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 2Ma 10:8  They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

After the temple was cleansed in 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus and his family became kings of Israel.

Jesus and his followers were combining Hanukkah and Passover – declaring that Jesus was the true King coming to claim his throne AND at the same time he would really set people free. He is the new Passover lamb as well –  they just didn’t know it yet.

And the final sign that sealed the matter was the raising of Lazarus. He was set free from death!

That’s why the two verses before this passage and the last three verses of today’s passage are so important:

Joh 12:10  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, Joh 12:11  for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

And:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Joh 12:18  Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. Joh 12:19  So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The raising of Lazarus was the last sign and the hour had come. We talked about that last week.

Palm Sunday seals the destiny of Jesus.

People connected the dots because of the palms. Not just the Jewish community who would have remembered Hanukkah, but the Romans and Greeks would have all recognised the significance of the Palms as a sign of a victory parade.

Like a flag raising parade when the battle is won – it has huge significance. The enemy’s flag is lowered, and the conquering army’s flag is raised.

It’s a powerful provocative statement. And on a donkey – not a huge white horse. They would have remembered the prophecy in Zechariah 9:

Zec 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Palm Sunday is the triumph of the love the God – yes.

But the means of victory – we know looking back the way of achieving victory would be painful to say the least.

FOCAL POINT TODAY

I’d like us to focus on one verse today:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.

Witnessing is a central part of discipleship – of following this amazing man called Jesus of Nazareth.

Giving testimony to what he has done.

Spreading the word.

  • Have you testified this week?
  • Given testimony?
  • Have you been a witness?

V17 – they bore witness to Lazarus’ raising –

Do we talk about the resurrection?

It is the separating point between us and other religions– the dividing line – the ultimate sign of Jesus’ power and authority, his divinity, his supremacy – and of course it leads to his ascension when he is enthroned again on high.

It’s the greatest story worth telling.

Because it brings the greatest sense of hope.

Are we ready always to give a reason for the hope we have?

HOPE?

Our Mission in the newsletter these past weeks has been this; “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have”

Hope – in the face of the greatest enemy – death.

WE DO THIS IN WORSHIP EACH WEEK

  • We wave Palms every week!
  • We cry Hosanna!
  • Worship is exactly that – celebrating King Jesus

–           Celebrating the triumph of the cross

–           Celebrating the power of the resurrection

–           Celebrating the glory of the ascension.

–         Celebrating the love of the Father

–           Celebrating the promises that apply to us – our inheritance that will outlast all the other shiny things that fascinate us.

Peter puts it like this (we shared this in our call to worship today):

1Pe 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Palm Sunday takes us into this week called holy week.

I’ve asked today how we can make this a different week.

I don’t know how you’re going to do that.

But you can’t ignore the power of the events.

I hope that you take the time to remember at the various opportunities we have to remember what God has done for us to establish this inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

I pray that we can really discover for ourselves that he was and is the true king, the true rescuer, the bringer of true freedom.

As we watch his progression into Jerusalem, and on to meet his fate, we must ourselves be drawn into the action, and the passion, that awaits him.

And we must ourselves become part of the means by which his message goes out to the world. (Tom Wright)

The victory was won for us by a young man nearly 2000 years ago.

Our closing hymn captures the profound nature of this day.

1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.

2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!

3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!

Robin Mark has a song that helps us anticipate and appreciate what he has done as we close:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PiH3Tv9gLY&feature=share

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Sunday 28 August 2016 – The Lord’s Prayer part 3: Your Kingdom Come

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:16-28; Matthew 6:9-10; 31-33

Sermon:

Praying for the Kingdom to come.

We’ve talked about God as Father – this heavenly Father – and what it means to make his name holy in our lives.

The focus of the prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer” thus far is about honouring and adoring this amazing God.

So close to us – yet so different and perfect – holy is the word we use.

The transition to the next concept may seem all too familiar to us. After all we can pray this prayer blindfolded and without really thinking about the words and their meaning.

  • A Father, loving and faithful
  • A holy God before whom we cry like Isaiah “woe is me” because we are unholy
  • And now a KING.

Images of royalty – singing “God save our gracious Queen” – the idea of a King Charles verses a King William – all these come to mind.

And on Wednesday the world will think again of the tragic death of Princess Diana – and at the same time thinking people will wonder why people made so much fuss, when one considers aspects of her lifestyle.

The current Queen has a much greater sense of duty and decorum – of being worthy of the role she has faithfully carried out.

But what about God as King?

  • If it’s his Kingdom we are to pray for – then he is the King.
  • How do you feel about that?

When you wander into this place on Sunday (whether on time or not) – in the presence of the King – do you think our approach is worthy of his Kingly honour?

Or are we more like people in a shopping mall or a market? Just a thought.

And so three thoughts on how we respond to this:

PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME –  

Firstly:

  1. positions us differently as his subjects.

John the Baptist, and Jesus, spoke about the Kingdom being near. For John the preparation required that people clean up their act. The axe was at the root of the tree – a symbol of judgement.

For Jesus – his ministry ushered in the Kingdom – which was effectively a declaration of war on the powers of darkness – sin, sickness, and sedition if you like. Sedition or revolution – the usurping of power – symbolised by Satan himself who rebelled and was cast out of heaven because his behaviour was not fitting for that holy place.

And Jesus spoke endlessly about this Kingdom – near us, within us, and described in the many parables as a new force with upside down qualities like the first being last, the last being first, and the greatest being servants of all.

If his Kingdom came in Christ – and we are to pray for it to come – we suddenly find ourselves with a different agenda – to line up our lives with the values and standards of this King.

And since the death and resurrection of Christ – and His exaltation – Jesus is the King – the one with the name that is above every other name – whom we worship and obey.(Philippians 2).

Praying for the Kingdom to come as Christians positions us differently – we are no longer self-serving. We serve Him. We obey Him.

And we do this until the end – whatever generation of Christians is around at the end. Paul gives us a glimpse of how this Kingdom will be wrapped up. Just as there is a succession process in the House of Windsor – there is one in heaven too.

Listen again: 1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1Co 15:23  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1Co 15:24  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

1Co 15:28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME – 

Secondly:

  1. positions us differently in the community of the Church

You have to read Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians to understand the implications of Christ being King and head of the church.

We talk about his often – how we are members of His body – that each part matters – that all gifts are valuable – that we are to build each other up in love.

All we do here – the things we reflect on today in the AGM reports and plans for the future – are actually not about a club having a meeting to pat ourselves on the back each year – they are actually because we want to glorify the King, obey Him, and see his Kingdom touch the lives of others.

As we have said before – the church is the only organisation that exists for an invisible head and for it’s not-yet-members – whom we want to see enter into the life of the Kingdom of God.

And Christ is the head of the church. We have to be connected to Him. (And not like a headless chicken running around  – they eventually fall over.)

All we do together and for each other – is to the glory of the King.

  • Our first priority is always WORSHIP. As the shorter Westminster confession says in its very first question: 

           What is the chief end of man? (What is the main purpose of people?)

           Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

  • And we have to listen to what he says. King Jesus commissioned his followers to proclaim the gospel to everyone – here at home and beyond to every nation. PROCLAMATION.
  • King Jesus commissioned us to make disciples and teach them to live by his teachings. DISCIPLESHIP.
  • King Jesus gave us the new commandment to love each other – declaring that people would know we are his followers by our love. That’s what drives our pastoral care in our FELLOWSHIP. It’s not keeping members happy like a club. It’s care that is linked to DIAKONIA – ministry or service of those in need in the community too, the hungry, homeless, lonely and depressed.

PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME – 

Thirdly:

  1. positions us differently in terms of our priorities in life.

At a basic level – He says

  • “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33)
  • When you pray say: “Your Kingdom come” (Matt 6:10)

And then we have the rest of our lives revisiting his teaching on the Kingdom.

He didn’t speak so much about the Kingdom for fun.

Just a couple of his declarations about the Kingdom for today:

  • Joh_3:3  In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” IT’S A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM TRANSCENDING ALL BARRIERS.
  • Mat_18:3  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. IT’S A KINGDOM THAT IS ENTERED THROUGH FAITH AND TRUST – LIKE THE TRUST OF A CHILD.
  • Mat_19:24  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  IT REQUIRES PAYING A PRICE WITH NEW VALUES – WE HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER STUFF MATTERS OR THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND VALUES.
  • Luk_9:62  Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  IT REQUIRES COMMITMENT AND ENDURANCE.

If we get out our bibles each week – and look for one parable or teaching on the Kingdom – perhaps we may begin to grasp the depth and width of what it’s all about.

We will surely see the difference. So will others.

For now – are we really seeking the Kingdom first?

Amen.

 

Sunday sermon 8 March 2015 – Invitations, weddings, banquets and burning cities

Reading: Matthew 22:1-14

Mat 22:1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:

Mat 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.
Mat 22:3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
Mat 22:4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
Mat 22:5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.
Mat 22:6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.
Mat 22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
Mat 22:8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.
Mat 22:9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’
Mat 22:10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
Mat 22:12 “Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
Mat 22:13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Mat 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Sermon – Invitations, weddings, banquets and burning cities

It’s a long time since we were in that process of planning our wedding. For some of you your wedding invitations are part of the dim and distance past. I had to ask my dear wife this morning about ours – I couldn’t remember how many people were at the reception – our banquet!

I remember the day – what a wonderful bride! And I sang for her! It was 31 years ago…

Very few people turned us down. The one exception was a friend whom I asked to conduct the wedding ceremony.

He wasn’t available on 19 May 1984 as there was an important football game he wanted to watch.

I’m not sure whether my friend remembers that FA cup final. The 1984 FA Cup Final was contested by Everton and Watford at Wembley. Everton won 2–0, with one goal by Graeme Sharp and a particularly memorable goal from Andy Gray. (Maybe that was the link – my friend was James Gray!). Another friend not watching the FA cup was the officiant – and I do remember him talking about marriage and comparing it to baking a chocolate cake!

The excuses people give in this parable for not showing up at the prince’s wedding (the King’s son) are interesting. (Would you have passed up an invitation to Chares and Diana’s wedding, or William and Kate’s?)

It seems that they already knew about the wedding, as the message was “ok we’re ready for you”.

Look at verse 3:

Mat 22:3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

So he has another go.

Mat 22:4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

Mat 22:5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.

In Luke’s similar parable (I tell stories and they often turn out different) the excuses were even more interesting. I remember them from the song we sang as kids in church (and adults actually) –

“I cannot come”

Here are the words:

I cannot come,
I cannot come to the banquet,
Don’t trouble me now,
I have married a wife,
I have bought me a cow,
I have fields and commitments,
That cost a pretty sum,
Pray hold me excused


I cannot come.

1- A certain man held a feast
On his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table,
He wore a wedding gown,
He sent out invitations
To his neighbours far and wide,
But when the meal was ready
Each of them replied:

I cannot come…
2- The master rose up in anger
Called his servants by name, said
Go into town, fetch the blind and the lame
Fetch the peasant and the pauper
For this I have willed:
My banquet must be crowded,
And my table must be filled.

I cannot come…

3- When all the poor had assembled
There was still room to spare,
So the master demanded:
Go search everywhere.
Search the highways and the by ways,
And tell them to come in
My table must be filled
Before the banquet can begin.

I cannot come…

4- Now God has written a lesson
For the rest of mankind:
If we are slow in responding
He may leave us behind.
He is preparing a banquet
For that great and glorious day,
When the Lord and Master calls
Us be certain not to say:

The details of the wife and the cow are from the Luke story. Here is the whole passage, for comparison:

Luk 14:12  Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. Luk 14:13  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, Luk 14:14  and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luk 14:15  When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luk 14:16  Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. Luk 14:17  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ Luk 14:18  “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Luk 14:19  “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Luk 14:20  “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.‘ Luk 14:21  “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’   Luk 14:22  “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Luk 14:23  “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. Luk 14:24  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

Back to Matthew… 

To return to Matthew 22: Mat 22:5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.”
In fact the NRSV translates this verse like this: But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…

And Eugene Peterson (The Message paraphrase) translates it like this: “They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop.

The parables from Matthew that precede this one focus mainly on the Jewish leaders and authorities, and the unfruitfulness of the Jewish nation. A similar thread is seen here – because the first lot that refuse and that make light of the invitation is a reference to the Jewish rejection of Jesus again.  Remember that this series of parables are taught after Jesus had entered Jerusalem before that fatal Friday. We’re not talking about teaching the disciples or correcting Peter here – rather this is in the face of the Jewish authorities.

We are reminded of the tenants in the Parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33) when in verse 6 we read: The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

This has the added angle of consequences here as the judgement in this story is swift. We assume that Matthew would have been aware of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans if the gospel was written after AD 72. If not, we certainly are aware of it now, and those who read this gospel after Jerusalem was destroyed would have made the connection.

Listen to verse 7: Mat 22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

THE NEXT ROUND OF INVITATIONS

We are pretty sure that the category of people that are found in the streets and brought in refers to us. Unless you have a Jewish lineage you are a Gentile or an outsider from God’s original plan. We are part of the “anyone you can find” intake.

In this parable the King says this: Mat 22:9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ Mat 22:10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

So it’s all good then. “Sweet as” is what young kiwis and their mates say. “Free party and we weren’t even on the original list of guests.” But no.

There is further judgement – this time of one of the people who are brought in as undeserved attendees is in trouble:

Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
Mat 22:12 “Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
Mat 22:13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Mat 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

There are suggestions that this is a separate parable. Even if it was, it is part of the whole story line here.

It’s a bit odd really – these people were dragged off the streets. Why would they be expected to be in wedding garments? How could they? There is the suggestion that wedding garments would have been provided in those days by the host. But there is little evidence for such a practice.

SPEECHLESS RECIPIENTS OF GRACE

Maybe this man was so caught up with the benefits of the banquet that he forgets that he is undeserving – a recipient of grace – and as a bit of a glutton focuses on what he can take rather than on his need for gratitude and respect of the king.

I like what a preacher wrote about this (a lady called Sharon Ring- it has a nice ring about it)”

Eschatological insight (vision again! – see last week’s message about the evil eye!)

For Matthew those purposes centre on the issue of the “worthiness” of the guests (verse 8). The criterion apparently is not an ethical one (for both “good and bad” are brought in), but rather a matter of eschatological insight–the ability to recognize the urgency of the invitation and to respond. The real issue is not whether you are of Jewish or Gentile pedigree, or whether you are a deserving Jew or Gentile ethically or morally.

I think our Sharon is onto something here – it’s about discernment of the importance of the event! The Will and Kate wedding was THE wedding of the century –surpassing that of Charles and Diana no doubt. (Am I being unfair to dear Charles?).

I guess if you are a parent with a daughter – then that wedding will be the wedding of the century for you! It’s a matter of who and what matters to you.

The image of a banquet and a wedding has eschatological connotations! Big word which means it is to do with ultimate and end time matters!

Listen to verse 12 again: Mat 22:12 “Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

The man was speechless! The point is that when you stand before the judge of all the earth I suspect you will be speechless!

And so the speechless man gets sorted in verse 13: Mat 22:13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

And the parable ends with these fascinating and challenging words: Mat 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Now let me be honest – I’m not sure here. Some of you want everything very clear and black and white, when the Bible is challenging and slippery at times.

For many are called, but few chosen – is a reasonable translation. The invitation – the call – comes to us to be at this wedding banquet – to be part of a great celebration – pointing to a banquet at the end of time – but in the meantime as we experience this grace now – invited or called to be in this new community – by grace alone (dragged off the messy streets of our lives) – the warning is that there is more!

Accountability? Yes. Obedience? Yes. Gratitude and humility? O yes.

What, then, is the symbol of the wedding garment?

John Calvin in his commentary asks whether the wedding garment refers to faith or a holy life?

He goes on to say:

This is a useless controversy; for faith cannot be separated from good works, nor do good works proceed from any other source than from faith. But Christ intended only to state, that the Lord calls us on the express condition of our being renewed by the Spirit after his image; and that, in order to our remaining permanently in his house, we must put off the old man with his pollutions, (Col_3:9; Eph_4:22) and lead a new life, that the garment may correspond to so honourable a calling.

The verses Calvin refers to help us here:

Col 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
Col 3:10 and have put on the new self
, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Eph 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

Eph 4:23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Eph 4:24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Calvin goes on to say:

We know also, that there is no other way in which we are formed anew after the image of God, but by putting on Christ, (Rom_13:14; Gal_3:27) It is not, therefore, the declaration of Christ, that the sentence of casting them into outer darkness will be executed on wretched men who did not bring a costly garment taken from their own wardrobe, but on those who shall be found in their pollution, when God shall come to make a scrutiny of his guests.

The verses he refers to are these:

Rom 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Gal 3:27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is an invitation to come to the wedding banquet. There are clothes to be worn. We are to respond. How do we respond today?

Oh it’s just a story, you may say. Don’t take it too literally. The problem is that our biblical literacy is poor and we want easy solutions.

This invitation to put on Christ as your wedding garment is radical – counter-cultural – and morally and ethically challenging. Like the man who said to the preacher: “I don’t like the Bible – it interferes with my work”. It turns out he was a pick pocket.

If you think that once a week will transform your life in this Christian journey – then think again. If you think a cursory daily prayer muttered on the bus will do it – think again.

We don’t put on a wedding garment that is fashionable and expensive. We put on Christ – who died to get us into this relationship and journey with God. There is no cheap grace! It is a radical transformation of our minds, hearts and lives.

Going back to our commentator Sharon Ring again – we find this perspective on this passage: He affirms the boundless generosity and inclusive reach of God’s grace, but he also affirms that for us to be “worthy” of God’s gift requires nothing less than our whole life. There are songs that try to capture that today. But one hymn wins the prize – When I survey the wondrous cross. We’ll sing this one on Tuesday at Tuesday Church.

Listen to this verse of response in the hymn:
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

I don’t lie the modern version – it used to say “That were an offering far too small”. Better, don you think?

But look at these verses of the hymn we don’t see often: His dying crimson, like a robe, Spreads o’er His body on the tree; Then I am dead to all the globe, And all the globe is dead to me. Are we dead to the globe – the world?

And our response: To Christ, who won for sinners grace, By bitter grief and anguish sore, Be praise from all the ransomed race, Forever and forevermore.
Amen.

Sunday Sermon 7 December 2014 – Living under Christ, the Good Shepherd and King

Readings: Ezekiel 34:1-6, 11-16; Matthew 2:4-6    (Following the Narrative Lectionary)

Video: Part 2 of “Te Rongopai – 200 years of the Gospel in New Zealand, 1814- 2014” with Dr Stuart Lange

Available here: http://nzchristiannetwork.org.nz/te-rongopai-dvd/

SERMON

So what is so attractive about Jesus?

  • For New Zealand
  • For Maori
  • For us today

As the 200th year of the gospel in NZ approaches, what can we say about the heart of the message?

Samuel Marsden writes in his journal: After reading the service, during which the natives stood up and sat down at the signal given by the motion of Korokoro’s switch which was regulated by the movements of the Europeans, it being Christmas Day, I preached from the Second Chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, and tenth verse: “Behold! I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

And then he says this: In this manner the Gospel has been introduced into New Zealand; and I fervently pray that the glory of it may never depart from its inhabitants, till time shall be no more.

What made this message so attractive for the Maori who were part of the first generation who heard it?

Perhaps the answer is muddled – yes there were benefits of having these settlers and their missionary message – a written language, education and skills development, and tools and guns.

The truth is that many people come to Christ seeking other things while at the same time seeking Him! Look at these examples:

  • The so called “Rice Christians” are a good example – people who come to faith while being helped in poverty or other practical needs.
  • Young people who go to church to meet the girls or boys (marriages ensue – they did in the past anyway and still do).
  • Immigrants come to make friends. And to learn English!
  • People are served in Mission (for example mainly music and Messy Church families) who may come along at first because of their children and a programme – and God willing, they may come to believe.
  • And we are not exempt. We sometimes focus on what we need or can get. Sometimes our prayer lists are like shopping lists!

We go straight into prayers of supplication – praying for God to meet needs, heal people, and bless our programmes and services.

The acronym about prayer that has been around a long time is A C T S           

  1. Adoration 2. Confession 3. Thanksgiving 4. Supplication Asking for needs to be met and programmes to be blessed, (supplication) or praying for others, is at the end.  Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving are sometimes conspicuously absent!
  • And people come to church because they’re lonely – and they find family and community.

AN ATTRACTIVE COMMUNITY

I think it was the change in COMMUNITY that made the message so attractive when the gospel was first preached in New Zealand. Just as it does today.

And at the heart of that community is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for his sheep! The Good Shepherd who forgives those who kill him because “they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34 – And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.)

This Jesus the shepherd King is a very attractive person.

What, then, was the impact of Christianity on life in NZ? How did things change?

  • It ended the ceremonial eating of enemies – because the Gospel values the life of all people – as does the Old Testament. We are all created in the image of God.
  • It presented forgiveness – which ended the revenge killing or UTU that they saw as a form of justice. The story we heard today about the man whose daughter was killed and he sought forgiveness rather than revenge is a powerful case in point. The results of that one incident were remarkable.
  • It offered a relationship with Jesus, the good shepherd, who lays down his life for His sheep, and who ultimately is also the judge of all. It’s a different kind of accountability.
  • God ultimately would be their shepherd king. It’s a different kind of kingship.

We’re strong on the shepherd today – and sometimes weak in our understanding of Christ as King or Ruler.

Ezekiel 34 today speaks of a coming Messiah who will rule. He is the shepherd King. The New Testament passage today – when the wise men as Herod where to find Jesus – this is what they say.

Mat 2:4  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

Mat 2:5  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

Mat 2:6  “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”

We need the shepherding part – we get that – but we also need to do things right! We need justice – fairness – discipline and accountability.

Over the past weeks we have looked at the mess of the Old Testament and the kings that looked after God’s people, under Saul, David and Solomon – and then those various kings of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.

Douglas Stuart, an OT specialist who writes a commentary on Ezekiel, has this to say:

Throughout the Israelites are referred to as God’s flock, and the special focus of the allegory is on the kingship (here “shepherds”) in Israel. The history of the monarchy was not a proud one. Of forty-three kings from 1051 B.C. to 586 B.C., only David, Hezekiah, and Josiah were solidly, consistently loyal to God in their leadership of the nation. Eight or nine of the other forty did some good, while the majority were rascals.

In order for the new age to come, one absolutely necessary development had to be the abolition of the monarchy as it had functioned historically and the establishment of a new kingship that would truly carry out the Lord’s wishes.

This passage, then, is antimonarchical—not in the sense of being against kingship per se, but in the sense of being a rejection of the kingship that Israel had known for so much of its history. A new age was coming. The old monarchy had to go. A new Davidic kingship would characterize the restoration.

In verses Ezekiel 34:1-2 it is evident that the problem with kings in the past is that they were selfish. In the allegory of the passage, they “fed themselves” as opposed to the flocks (the people of God). Living off the people’s productivity and wealth (Eze 34:3), they did not seek to help the nation, but rather ruled as despots for their own advantage (Eze 34:4).

Well that was quite a long quote! In short – It’s not surprizing that the prophet Ezekiel’s words condemn the leaders of the nations of Israel and Judah. They were in it for themselves often.

Christians today are also accountable when they don’t live out the Gospel message.

And let’s face it. Jesus – the shepherd king – descendant of David – models a self-sacrificing kingship. A servant leadership.

We need to model our lives on his humility (see Philippians 2) and his servant-hood (Mark 10:45).

We are not part of a physical Israel today.

But the church is the NEW ISRAEL – not with a promised land but a Kingdom that we are to usher in through our lives, message, and example, living under the shepherd-king Jesus.

And as leaders we too are accountable – we need to do what is right! Otherwise we are no better than those abusive shepherds of Ezekiel 34.

Our leaders are to be the right kind of shepherds of God’s people today. (One can understand the rage of people against abuse by religious leaders who carry a shepherd’s crook as a symbol of their role of protection.)

It’s important to remember that elders in our church tradition also have a shepherding role as co-shepherds with me as the pastor.

I know that people refer to me as a teaching elder here. It’s quite a dated model really. The biblical model in Ephesians 4 is that of pastor/teacher. And if you were here at my induction, you would know that I was inducted into a pastoral charge. It’s a challenging role. I am pastor first. The feeding and care of the flock is my responsibility, with others to share the load.

As an aside – sheep can sometimes be quite difficult.

ACC figures early this year give an indication of claims by people who work with animals in New Zealand.

Guess where most injuries to farmers come from? Cattle first. Sheep second!

BY THE NUMBERS:

 

❏ Cattle: 2262

❏ Sheep: 1612

❏ Deer: 86

❏ Horses: 1285

❏ Other: 721

❏ Animal Carcasses: 52

So when we meet later today to nominate new elders – let’s remember the calling to be like the shepherd king Jesus. We are his co-shepherds.

Not only should the gospel be good news to us – but we need to be good news to others as we care for them. As we seek to protect them too. And most importantly as we help them to allow the Word of God to be fruitful in the lives of those we care for.

Paul’s most challenging line to elders in the New Testament is when he leaves the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.

Act 20:25  And now, behold, I know that you all will see my face no more, among whom I went proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Act 20:26  Therefore I testify to you on this day that I am pure from the blood of all.

Act 20:27  For I did not keep back from declaring to you all the counsel of God.

Act 20:28  Therefore take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood.

Act 20:29  For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Act 20:30  Also men shall arise from your own selves, speaking perverse things in order to draw disciples away after them. (MKJV)

The NIV translates verse 28 as follows:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

As we move closer towards the celebration of the arrival of the Gospel in New Zealand 200 years ago on Christmas Day 1814, let’s give thanks for those missionaries who taught, nurtured and shepherded those early converts to Christianity.

We thank God that the story of the Good Shepherd impacted their lives and brought about communities of harmony and restoration, of forgiveness and mercy. We also give thanks to those many Maori in the early years who shared the good news throughout this country.

May our lives continue to reflect the love of Christ, the ruler and shepherd of His people.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 24 November 2013 – Christ the King

churchReadings:  Colossians 1: 11-20;   Luke 23:33-43

Sermon

All this church stuff. Meetings. Emails. Music and prayers. Discussions and disagreements. Questions and objections. A long hard year with all kinds of drama comes to an end this week. It’s had its joys and its tragedies. Its blessings and its pains.

The year has been interesting. Here’s a good visual aid to describe it:

plans and reality

Yes – it’s a new beginning – the start of the Christian year. It begins with Advent. The celebration of expectation and hope – looking forward to the coming of a solution – a rescuer – some come kind of hero to save the day.

·        For the people of the day – Israel – they expected a rescuer who would solve their political needs – and set them free from foreign powers.

·        For us today – well I’m not so sure what we are looking for.

Our preferred option is probably this:

reality of plan

New Year:

So at new year we usually focus on the most important things. The fundamentals

The fundamentals of the Christian life? The most important things that God has shown us:

You can guess I suppose:

Loving-God-With-All-Your-Heart-copy-1024x1024

·        Love the Lord your God with all your heart – would be one

work.1285554.4.flat550x550075f.seek-ye-first-the-kingdom-of-god

       Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God – has to be up the list too

The best prayers for the year – and every year:

Probably –

help me

·        Help me – and

your-kingdom-come-your-will-be-done

          Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

This thing of the King – and the Kingdom – it’s always there.

THE GOOD NEWS/THE JOYS

 This must be one of them – those great gems in the Bible:

Have a look at verses 11 and 12 of Colossians 1:

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

from-darkness-to-light04

This is a new place to be – a new existence – the Kingdom of light – and of his Son is way better than the dominion of darkness.

Good word – dominion. New Zealand is a dominion. It has heaps of darkness too – and I’m not talking about long winter nights.

As a church – we’re pretty good at celebrating this redemption and forgiveness theme. I don’t think a Sunday goes by when we don’t pray prayers of thanksgiving and recognition that we’ve been rescued and forgiven through the cross.

But there are implications greater than personal forgiveness. There is community forgiveness – there God is calling us to account in terms of relationships – respect – kindness – the fruits of the Spirit. We need to see those.

If you are a source of joy here – then well done. If you haven’t read James 3 yet and the power of the tongue (as we did at home group this week) – if you can’t translate God’s grace to you into grace and kindness to others here – then be warned. I am going to challenge you and take you on. In the name of Jesus I implore you to be kind!

You see if we pray this stuff we have to live it! We can’t stay in the dominion of darkness. Listen to what John writes:

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1Jn 1:6  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

We have to live as children of the light. The bible is very clear about the things done in the dark – they will be exposed.

Listen to Paul again: 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Gospel reading today reminds us again of the price Jesus paid for our rescue and redemption. It’s just before Advent – and Easter lurks in the background.

Luke’s words are direct and stark:

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

So who are the people that Jesus forgives?

They are listed quite quickly – they watch, mock and jeer. Listen again. It’s not a long passage today:

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”                                                                                                                 

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

Jesus visual journey1

This terrible end to a wonderful life of service and healing is stark and horrible.

Yes the life was good – the years of affirmation, teaching, community, healing, reteaching – touching lives – preaching – fighting off of temptation

But look where it ends.

 Jesus outcome

It’s very easy to end up in a lament for the power of sin and it’s consequences for this innocent and well-loved eternally begotten son of God.

Listen again to this terrible account: About this King!

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[b]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There is this voice of hope. “But this man has done nothing wrong”.

And his prayer for dummies (like my prayer earlier – “help me”):

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom…

Your Kingdom! Take me:

Where will your future take you?

our future

·        From the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of life.

·        From hopelessness to a future.

·        From pain to health

·        From isolation to community

·        From hell to heaven

·       From the cross –to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”.

 Rescue me  from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son” – your Kingdom! 

Did he have a clue as to what he was asking?

Do we – really – when we trust in him and open our hearts to him? Really?

And Jesus’ gracious word to this man deserving of punishment – according to human justice.

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Richard Swanson comments on this in a poignant way.

Everywhere you look in Luke’s gospel, Jesus finds himself surrounded by faithful, courageous Jews. At the Jordan when John is baptizing, even the tax collectors reveal themselves to be looking for God’s Kingdom and longing for Roman departure. Later in the story, Zacchaeus makes it clear that those tax collectors at the river were not alone in being faithful, and Luke’s Jesus calls him a “son of Abraham” in response.

And now on the hill of crucifixion, Jesus finds another faithful Jew, one who is crucified with him. To be sure, the other two victims are bandits, not messiahs, and to be sure, one of them taunts him with the same words used by Roman soldiers and hired collaborators: Messiah, King of the Jews. The other victim, however, knows that Jesus is a king and has a kingdom. These are things that, in Luke’s story, only faithful, expectant Jews know.

If the Romans are paying attention, they should commence worrying at this point. Crucifixion was torture intended to teach a political lesson: Rome can crush the humanity out of you. Remember that. But this crucifixion scene is loaded with Jews who cannot be crushed. This is trouble for oppressors. Rome should worry.  The centurion who observes the death seems to have figured this out.

 I think the Jesus – the King who speaks on the cross – is still speaking to us today. We have His invitation to enter into this Kingdom of a loving, serving and forgiving King who on the cross said: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

May we invite Him – call on Him – believe in Him. This very different King.

 Amen.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below:

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.