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Sunday Sermon 9 April 2017 – Coat Sunday, or the day of the King’s visitation

READING: Luke 19:28-44

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE:

Did you bring a coat today? What kind, you say. It doesn’t matter. Rain coat. Warm coat. Wind breaker coat. Trench coat. Detective’s coat.

If you read the bible reading today – people had coats when Jesus came riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey. O wait – let’s watch the little guys’ story about the donkey. Then we’ll go back to the coats.

Cool story. Three famous donkey’s hey. Yes. Dave. Dave’s grandad. And the other one. What? Two? Okay but the third one could really speak. (verse Numbers 22:28-31  Balaam’s donkey)

Okay no Palms. A donkey and coats. Coats are good. You could put them on the donkey of you didn’t have a saddle. You could lay them on the floor – if you didn’t have a red carpet. Like that famous man, Sir Walter Raleigh. He put his cloak over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. Cool hey!

I reckon you have to do that for Kings and queens. And Jesus was and is a King. Best listen to him when he speaks!

Or just be a donkey carrying Jesus around. So people can see how great he is.

(Prayer for children as they leave)

ADULT MESSAGE:

Talking about coats, I remember very clearly the picture of Sir Walter Raleigh laying his cloak down over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. There it was in our history notes – that picture has stuck with me.

Trouble is it probably never happened. Blame Historian Thomas Fuller who liked to embellish facts. Walter Raleigh did get his head chopped off after his second holiday in the tower of London. During his first stay in the tower he wrote his first volume of his “History of the world” which was 776 pages long. On the grisly side, his head was embalmed and his widow carried it around with her for the rest of her life.

Now you’re wondering if that’s true. The coat and puddle story sounds more believable.

So, if we didn’t have John’s gospel, we wouldn’t have Palm Sunday. Only coat Sunday at best.

The point is that the genuineness of the accounts of Easter by the four gospel writers supports the historicity of the event. There is no attempt like witnesses protecting each other to line up their versions of the story with each other.

Only Matthew mentions the fulfilment of the prophecy from Zechariah: This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Matthew 21:4-5)

Only Matthew has this dramatic line like a Greek chorus calling out:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:10-11)

Only Luke seems to hint that there were Pharisees in the crowd of disciples. It changes we see the way they try to tone things down. Perhaps they were really concerned that this procession declaring Jesus as King could have dangerous repercussions. Remember in Acts 15:5 that there were Pharisees who became Christians. (It would have been like Christians today belonging to the Green Party or New Zealand first!)

The two things that really stand out in the reading from Luke today are FIRSTLY the words of those calling out:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v38)

And then the warning to Jerusalem that Jesus gives after weeping over the city:

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

  1. The first one links the proclamation on Palm Sunday with the words of the angels at Jesus’ birth. We are reminded that this is all the same story of Jesus (God Saves) Emmanuel (God with us) Messiah (anointed one) who comes to rescue us. Luke alone spells it out here:

“Blessed is the KING who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

His readers would make the connection. Remember how Herod the Great responded to the wise men’s news about the birth of a king?

Infanticide. The murder of the innocents. Boys up to two years of age.

This time round, we can’t expect anything different. Herod’s descendants are ruling a carved up holy land. Pilate has replaced one of them in Judea.

The power play will unfold. The authorities do not approve. Like Walter Raleigh in the tower of London waiting for his execution for treason, Jesus would be a threat to the rulers of the day once more.

A new king could only mean civil unrest, and Pilate could not allow it if he wanted to keep his job. Yes, he sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, but Antipas has his own agenda. This encounter is portrayed very simply in the film “Jesus”. And in the Passion of the Christ we see a better portrayal of Antipas in my view. You’ll have to read the subtitles as they are speaking in Aramaic. Or Latin.

Perhaps you’d like to watch this extract. It’s actually quite well done.

The Passion of Christ – the events of holy week – are deeply political.

  1. The second unique passage in Luke about this Coat Day is his response to the city of Jerusalem and his prophetic word about its destruction:

We pick it up in verse 43:

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

Again, its deeply political. The Romans would always put down revolts. You only had the peace of Rome as a privilege – safety, good roads, aqueducts, protection – if you towed the line.

It’s the rejection of the visitation that is fascinating. (v44) Jesus says this:

They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

The original text does not have the word “God” in it. It’s simply a visitation.

Of course, its Jesus who is visiting. Messiah has come.

And they reject him.

The Jewish historian Josephus blamed the nationalists, the Zealots for the demise of the Jewish nation.

Jesus gives another reason of course. By rejecting him, Israel has chosen the way of judgment. It has missed the day and the moment.

What was true of the Jewish nation can also be true of individuals. To miss Jesus is to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God.

So – consider this. Jesus comes marching into your life today.

  • Riding on a donkey.
  • Or on a bus for that matter. He visits you either way.

What are you going to do?

  • Shout Hosanna?
  • Hail Him as king?
  • Try to go for a softer option – don’t shout too loudly, you might upset the authorities. Hush!
  • Or will you miss his visitation altogether?

The consequences of ignoring who he is and what that means for our lives, our priorities, our decisions, our relationships, our finances, are all challenging. This is a great time to reflect on where Jesus is in our list of priorities.

There are a whole series of opportunities this Holy Week to gather and reflect on what it means for us now, and in eternity.

  • We call it holy week. It must grab our attention.
  • Our Korean friends who pray every morning up in the lounge have asked to move to the church at 5.30am each morning this Easter week. They take it seriously.
  • We have options to reflect on Jesus’ coming on Tuesday morning, Thursday night, Friday morning, and Sunday at Sunrise.

I’m not a prophet, but each year I can predict who will be at which service.

His is my 7th Easter. Go on. Surprise me. Come to something different.

This is about Jesus’ visitation – riding into our lives and being welcomed as King.

How about it? How do we welcome Him? Or are we just not too fussed about it all.

Amen.

Sunday story 20 March 2016 – Passion Sunday – The Day Jesus died

Family Service story – “The day Jesus died.” by Robin Palmer. (A story for children of all ages – with a kiwi flavour and idiom).

So they were having Passover supper – Jesus and his friends – remembering how Moses got their families way back in the day out of Egypt.
And they were eating away – and wondering when Jesus would become a real soldier kind of king and beat up the Romans who had just taken over their country…
And Jesus said – “this is the last time I will have this party with you – until the end of the world as we know it..”
“That’s no good” they said.
And then he told them that one of his friends would rat on him and get him arrested by those same horrible Romans.
“That’s no good” they said.
And they were looking at each other thinking: “I wonder who it is who is going to spill the beans and get Jesus into trouble…” What a rat.
The next thing they were arguing about who was more important in their group.
“That’s no good” he said.
“You have to be the ones who do the dirty work and slave away for others – not be their boss.” Said Jesus.
“That’s no good” they said.
And then Jesus had a little word with their leader, Peter – warning him to be strong – that things would be difficult – and that he would pretend not to know Jesus when he was arrested and locked up.
“That’s no good” said Peter. You know me. I’m not like that.
‘Yeah right” said Jesus. Let’s wait and see…

THE GARDEN
So they went out to the garden – because Jesus wanted to pray as he knew things were going to get tricky. “Please keep an eye out here” he said to them “and pray too that you will be strong”.
They fell asleep.
And when he came back and found them sleeping he said:
“That’s no good.”
Well then the one he said would rat on him came down the path leading a crowd of people – and kissed him like a brother.
Peter got mad and pulled out his sword and chopped off a man’s ear – actually he probably missed his head but you know Peter.
“That’s no good” said Jesus. And he fixed the man’s ear.
And they took Jesus away.
“That’s no good” they said.
And Peter was warming himself by a fire outside the jail – and some people said – “you’re with that Jesus in jail. You should be there too!”
“That’s no good” thought Peter.
“Jesus who?” he said to the people.
So they left him alone. Very alone. And a rooster crowed and he felt really bad. Extremely bad.
“That’s no good” said Peter.

PILATE
So they brought him before the Roman chief called Pilate. They lied about him, saying that he did heaps of bad things. And that he was a king. And that he was causing trouble. And trying to overthrow the government.
“That’s no good” said people who knew the truth. He’s actually a good guy who makes people better.
Pilate heard he was from the area called Galilee.
“That’s no good” he said.
Herod looks after those people. He’s the king there. I’ll send him there and see if Herod can make this go away.
He did. He sent Jesus to king Herod. Herod was pretty pleased about this as he’d wanted to see Jesus and find out more about what people said he could do. Like magic stuff.
Jesus said nothing when Herod asked him heaps of questions.
“That’s no good” said Herod in an angry voice. Who do you think you are?
The soldiers dressed Jesus in fancy dress like a king and teased him badly.
Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.
Pilate was fed-up. He didn’t think Jesus deserved to be killed. But he knew that if he didn’t sort this out there would be riots as the people had turned ugly. He would then be in trouble with his boss in Italy.
The mob kept crying for Jesus’ blood.
“That’s no good” he said.
So he set another evil man free – Abbas’ boy – who was a terrorist – he set HIM free to please the crowds – which he liked to do at Passover.
And Pilate sent Jesus to be killed. And his friends and family said;
‘That’s no good!”

THE CROSS
So they made Jesus carry this heavy cross. He was already pretty messed up because they had whipped him till be bled.
And he stumbled and fell. And the Roman soldiers in charge said:
“That’s no good.” We’ll never get home for tea.
So they found a random bloke from Africa and made him carry the cross behind Jesus.
And they banged nails into his hands and feet and raised up his cross on the hill.
And it was hard for Jesus to breath – he had to push down on his feet to keep his lungs open.
And he looked at all those people he loved – the ones who nailed him, the one who ratted on him, the one who said “Jesus who?” and the ones who yelled out “kill Jesus!”
“That’s no good” He thought.
‘Father in heaven – forgive them because they have really lost it,” – he called out as he prayed.
He saw his mum there, tears streaming down her face. And his best friend he loved so much.
“That’s no good” he thought. This is terrible for them too.
“Mom” he called out “John can be your boy! John mate – look after mum like your mum! Please John!”
And the bad guys nailed up there on their crosses next to Jesus were wondering what this was all about. This was Jesus the good guy suffering and dying with them.
The one yelled at Jesus – “hey you could fix this mess!”
But the other said:
“That’s no good.”
He shouldn’t be here with us. Please remember me when you are a real king one day!
Righto – said Jesus. You’ll be there with me!
“Sweet as” said the man, wondering a bit how that would work – but pretty pleased to be included anyway. The other bad guy said: “that’s no good.”

THE DEATH
So it got dark at midday – which was strange since the sun was usually really bright by then. Pitch dark – dark dark – for three hours.
Pretty spooky really.
And Jesus called out: “Father, I place my life into your hands!”
And he died.
And the people who loved him so, so much cried loudly: “That’s no good!”
And a kind and generous man with his friend wondered what they would do with his cold limp body. So they got permission to bury him in a new grave in the meantime. It was the day of rest as the sun went down. They could not clean him up – but they did wrap him in cloths – like his mum did when he was a baby.
So they did their best and put him in the grave – which was like a cave.
His other friends – with sore hearts – watched and waited.
This big boulder – a huge stone – was rolled in front of the door of the tomb.
And when they went home for the Sabbath celebration, he was dead and alone.

(EASTER SUNDAY)
Until the Sunday morning.
God looked down on the cemetery and said to himself:
“That’s no good.”

Tuesday Church 14th April 2015 – Testifying to the resurrection

Readings: Acts 4:31-37; John 3:7-17

Message

In the time of Jesus people lived under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. They were taxed by Rome, ruled by Rome, controlled by Rome and Roman soldiers.

It would be like having an army from another country taking over control of our lives. Imagine Australian soldiers taking over here – watching us all at every moment. Perish the thought. Especially if they could make you carry their packs for a mile at random. And if they were crucifying people outside New World Shop as a warning to us to behave.

You can imagine that someone would want to overthrow those Aussies and send them packing. And there would probably be some group who would train in the hills somewhere and plot to overthrow the oppressive occupying army. Singing “God defend New Zealand” would be banned by the oppressors, but people would sing it in secret, and honour the kiwi flag.

In Jesus’ time there were all kinds of people who took on the Romans. Lots of them were arrested and crucified. Look at Barabbas as an example.

Most of those young Jews who were regarded as Messiahs died by crucifixion. They were actually expected to wage war or terrorism against the Roman army. When they died, one of their followers would probably have taken their place, or found another messianic leader prepared for battle. Judas Iscariot was possibly a member of a group of these zealots who carried daggers. They were called dagger-men or sicarii. They carried sicae or small daggers under their cloaks and bumped people off.

Jesus is the only young Jew who was hailed as a Messiah – who was resurrected after crucifixion. The resurrection sets him apart.

If you look at the Acts reading today, the early church was a completely different community – even sharing their wealth so that everyone was looked after. They shared everything and really cared for each other.

What was their message though? Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

The resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from any other person claiming to be a Messiah.

And in addition, the reading from John shows us that Jesus is completely unique because of who he was:

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus was the Son of God. There is no other who had that position. And, uniquely, he defeated the evil of the Roman tyranny with love and sacrifice. His Kingdom is completely different from the powers of this world – as they were then and as they are today. We see this especially in his conversation with Pilate when he was arrested:

Joh 18:33  Then Pilate entered again into the governor’s residence and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:34  Jesus replied, “Do you say this from yourself, or have others said this to you about me?”

Joh 18:35  Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your people and the chief priests handed you over to me! What have you done?”

Joh 18:36  Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.”

Joh 18:37  Then Pilate said to him, “So then you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Joh 18:38  Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.

Joh 18:39  But it is your custom that I release for you one prisoner at the Passover. So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:40  Then they shouted again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

Jesus stands alone as one who was resurrected – and one who claimed to be the Son of God. He makes the most unique claims – like this spoken to doubting Thomas:

Joh 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  Joh 14:7  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.”

And to Martha when Lazarus died: Joh 11:25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, Joh 11:26  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die [forever]. Do you believe this?”

And only he speaks of eternal life. We have eternal life through him now: Joh 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The most important thing I can tell you is this – you can know God through Jesus – you won’t perish – you will have this eternal life and relationship – you can have it!

Now. Because Jesus is raised – resurrected and lives forever. He is truth. As he says to Pilate: For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37)

Joh 8:31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Joh 8:32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We too can live forever. This is the truth. He is the truth.

He is alive and is here today. And if you allow him into your life – he will be with you always!

Amen.

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.