CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY
Christ the King Sunday marks the end of the church year. We examine Holy Scripture knowing that Jesus is our Messiah-king. Next Sunday will be the first Sunday in Advent, which is the beginning of a new church year.
For thousands of years, people were very aware of what a king was—they lived their lives under one for their entire lives. We Americans have been freed from the burdens of a ruling king for about 250 years. We know what one is, and find it easy to say that Jesus is our king. But do we really know what that means? Before we begin our study, let’s reflect on this whole concept of kings and kingdoms.
- Is an absolute monarch
- He is not chosen—it is a birthright
- He does what he wants, and asks no one for permission
- Obedience to the king is not an option, it is obligatory
A good king:
- Is just, and cares for his subjects
- He can be trusted to look out for his subjects’ best interests
- Is a comfort and a treasure to his subjects
- Loyalty and obedience come easily
A bad king:
- Is selfish and cares little for justice or fairness
- Is an awful tyrant—a dictator
- Life is a misery under the rule of a bad king
- Loyalty is expected from all, and it is enforced with a heavy hand
Jeremiah lived during a very troubled time. He lived during a time when a series of bad kings ruled in Israel and Judah. He witnessed the wealthy and powerful neglecting or abusing the poor and powerless for their own gain. He also saw the strength of the Babylonian army building, and knocking at Judah’s door. He realized that God was about to take corrective action, and upset Judah’s apple cart. God sent him to proclaim this message. He was the bearer of some bad news.
- The proclamation begins with the word “woe”. This is not going to be good! But this message is not directed at the agricultural community. No. It is directed at the spiritual and political “shepherds” of Judah. Judah was a theocracy—the leaders were supposed to execute God’s will to His chosen people. Theoretically, the court prophets were there to advise the king on God’s will for the people. But the king had his own agenda, and if a prophet wanted to remain in his court, he told the king what he wanted to hear. The transgressions of these “shepherds” are detailed in chapter 22. Suffice it to say that they took advantage of the poor and powerless to line their own pockets with gold. God has had enough! (vv. 1-2)
- God is going to take matters into His own hands, and shepherd his flock Himself. He will gather them up, and care for them. He will give them a Good Shepherd, who will care for them. (vv. 3-4)
- God then promises to restore the reign of the Davidic line, raising up a king who will rule righteously over everyone. (vv. 5-6)
Here begins the promise of a Messiah to God’s people. They are about to experience much anguish at the hands of the Babylonians. But God’s promise is that this is not the end, but a new beginning. That all the corrupt and unjust kings that have been ruling their land are going to be replaced by one chosen by God himself.
Christians have long seen Jesus as this promised one, the Messiah; our king.
Immediately after Paul’s letter of greeting to the church in Colossae, he jumps into some heavy statements about the essence of Jesus. Paul paints a very clear picture of who Jesus really was.
- This section begins by Paul wishing them to be made strong—ready to endure the hardship that they will surely faced because of their faith. (v. 11)
- They should “joyfully give thanks” to God for the inheritance [of life and faith] they received. He calls them all “saints of the light”. “The Light” is a reference to their devotion to Jesus as their savior-king. (v. 12)
- He goes on to say that God has rescued us from “The Power of Darkness”, and transferred them to the kingdom of his Son. The darkness here refers either to the Roman Empire or to the religious order of the day. Either way, this is a strong statement. If Paul is referring to Roman Empire, this is a treasonous statement. If it refers to the Jewish authorities, it is “merely” blasphemy, which is punishable by death. (v. 13)
- Next comes a description of Jesus and life in his kingdom:
- We have redemption and forgiveness of sins (v. 14)
- He was present at the creation of our world (vv. 15-16a)
- Jesus actually created the kings and lords of our world, and they are all subject to him. (v. 16b)
- Everything is subject to him. Not only that, but he is the glue that holds it all together. (v. 17)
- Now, we switch from politics to the church. He is not only the head of our church, but the first human to be raised from the dead to eternal life. (v. 18)
- And God really likes the end result. Through His son, He has reconciled our checking account—there is no longer a discrepancy between His expectations of us and our sinful actions. (vv. 19-20)
This not only clearly describes our Jesus, but it describes the ideal righteous king promised in Jeremiah 23.
In today’s gospel, we fast-forward to the crucifixion, and focus on the verbal exchange between the three men hanging on their crosses. Earlier this year, we studied his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. Today, we will focus on the words which relate to Jesus’ kingship.
- The first verse sets the scene. Three are being crucified, with Jesus in the middle. (v. 33)
- True to the nature of Jesus and his Father, he prays for his Father to forgive his perpetrators for crucifying him. [This alone could be a whole sermon!] Then, the soldiers cast lots for the clothes they had stripped off those being crucified. See Psalm 22:18. (v. 34)
- He is mocked by the crowd and by the soldiers. The soldiers unwittingly call him “The King of the Jews”, which is what Pilate had written on the sign hung above his head. (vv. 35-38)
- One of the criminals even joined the crowd with his mocking Jesus. (v. 39)
- The other criminal, however, recognized Jesus for who he really was. He asks Jesus to remember him when he reigns in his kingdom. Jesus, of course, recognizes the man’s faith, and assures him of his salvation. (vv. 40-43)
Many on that day either recognized Jesus as their true king, or proclaimed him as such through their ignorant mocking. Let us also proclaim Jesus as our king!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In the passage from Jeremiah, God promises us a king who is righteous—one whose actions are just and right. We are promised a good king.
In Colossians, we see the attributes of Jesus. He truly is our right-acting king.
Shall we join the second criminal being crucified with Jesus, and put our trust, faith, and loyalty with him? Jesus truly is our king!