A Sermon Delivered by The Reverend Titus D. Clarke
Christ The King Sunday – “Markings Of A King”
November 24, 2019
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church – Carlisle, PA
I propose to show that Jesus is a different kind of king whose power is found in weakness, his kingdom is established by unmerited love and forgiveness; evident in his sacrificial death on the cross.
O God, how your salvation so undeserved fills my soul with joy.
Help me to proclaim you; Savior, Lord and King.
So that like the dying thief, we may be able to see, now and in our darkest hour; that which was difficult for others to see; your reign that extends to all who helplessly call to you.
Open my mouth that we may see you and only you. Amen.
Today is Christ the King Sunday; the last day of the church’s calendar year.
I think that it is the goal that we end the Christian year with an exclamation point; that Christ is Lord and king therefore we should come in his presence with thanksgiving, worship him with songs; and in the beauty of holiness we exalt our king and declare his majesty.
Except that I am confounded by the Gospel reading selected for today. The reading place Jesus on the cross between two criminals. At the foot of the cross are the multitude, shouting insults at him. There seem to be no one present to speak on his behalf, no soldiers to defend him not even those whom he had healed and restored on his way to Jerusalem. Not even the multitude he had fed with five loaves and two fish.
Above his head, they had placed a sign which read “King of the Jews” as a reminder of the claims he made in his, hay day; while he was surrounded by the crowd and walking about in the temple.
The dignity and power with which he walked and taught in the temple. The miracles and healings he performed; the profound words he spoke that challenged the religious authority the alternate kingdom of which he spoke the salvation he declared had rouse the hope and imagination of the people. Now here he was hanging on the cross between two criminals as a deterrent to those who would dare to challenge the status quo. The question on the lips of the multitude witnessing all this, was a testament to the depth to which he had sung; it pointed to his ultimate failure, at least as the people saw it. He was a king who could not save himself, a savior who could not save himself. After all, how can you be a Messiah who does not act like a Messiah? How can you see salvation when no one is being saved? So, let me pause and ask a question: Of what value is a life of faith that do not impact, or inspire another, or; of what value is a life of worship that do not inspire change?
The people yelled and scream they mocked and ridiculed him, if you are the king of the Jews save yourself. The leaders scoffed saying he saved others, but he cannot save himself. In this moment, in this place – Jesus bore no resemblance to a king, at least not a king as the crowd around Jesus knew it to be, and definitely not, a king of our modern imagination or experience. While the question of the crowd remains; In conversation with the text this week I pose my own question: What kind of king is this?
Then I realized that Jesus’ life was one of contradictions and questions. There was always question of his identity, his purpose, his authority, his display of power, the company he kept, the act he performed. There seems to be an insatiable desire for Jesus to prove himself; or a need to bend Jesus to the will and expectation of the crowd. Today, there are those who would like to personalize Jesus and make God after their image. But Jesus, it seems, is always moving opposite to our notion and expectations of him, because Jesus is not propel by power or ambition but by the will and purpose of God because “in him” St. Paul tells us “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell;” and do you know what? God is sovereign. I invite you to join me on this brief tour of the questionable life as we seek to answer the question what kind of king is this?
The Life of Jesus As Contradictions and Questions
He was conceived by an unmarried young maiden.
He was born as a homeless king; but at his birth the heavenly choir sang.
His birth announcement came to shepherds in the field; and the stars declared to all nations that a king was born.
So, at a very early age, Jesus knew what it meant to be homeless, he knew what it meant to be a refugee; he also knew, because he learned from his mother, that God’s activity in the world is not defined by appearances nor do the purposes of God align with human calculation. From infancy as he nursed in his mother’s arms, then as a toddler, as he sat on his mother’s lap, she taught him what she knew. What did she know, she knew a God who looks with favor on the lowly, who shows strength in his arms, who scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, a God that lift up the lowly and feeds the hungry who cares for the downtrodden and the outcast a God whose kingdom is inclusive.
So, when he was thirty years old, after his baptism he went into the wilderness for a time of discernment – there again he was confronted by the question, wrapped in the condition “If you are the son of God…?” If you are the Son of God, be like Moses and cause these stones to be bread. If you are the son of God, align yourself with the powers of the world by compromising with me. If you are the son of God, then demonstrate your power; throw yourself to the ground and let angels scope you up so the world can know who you are. Jesus faithful to God’s purpose overcame the temptation to follow the way of the world.
The Kings of the World
Jesus was not trying to follow the ways of the world, nor was he trying to imitate the kings of the world. Kings of the world crave power, wealth and control. They are driven by a desire to Lord over people. They use their power, wealth and authority to make people obey their demands, they kill to have their way. They will do anything for power. They will lie, cheat and scheme to have their way and will certainly not subject themselves to any condition that will make them uncomfortable. The people’s expectation was for Jesus to fit this mode of kingship. For Jesus to fit the values of the world. In the world we are driven by the desire to be successful or to help ourselves because we have been taught that self-preservation is the first law of nature.
But you see, Jesus was not trying to be a typical King. He did not fit the mode of a typical king. By his example, we should not try to be typical people. That is why we are called a “peculiar people” a “Royal Priesthood” a people defined by the grace of God and inspired by the love of God to do the will of God. Therefore, we do not live by sight; but by faith.
The Jesus Kind of Kingship
As they are hanging on the cross. One of the criminals said to him; “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us! Once again, the question around avoiding or abandoning God’s will and taking the easy way out is put before Jesus. But it is in the request of the second criminal that the kingship of Jesus finds its fullest expression with far reaching implications for us who read the text and the generations that will come after us.
The other criminal rebuked the first and said, “don’t you fear God since we are under the same sentence, we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then says to him “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus is the king who sets up his throne on the cross, the king born in a manger and not a palace. He is the Rabbi who ate with sinners and tax collector and redefined their relationship with God. Jesus is the Rabbi who publicly affirmed women and childred. He is the same Jesus who chooses not to save himself, as hard as it was for him; he chose not to avoid the cross; but dies that we may live and to the thief who dies with him. He offers the hope of paradise.
Jesus is the king who redefines everything. He says my strength is made perfect in your weakness. This is the King who sacrifices his life for his subjects. This is a king who forgives. He is a king who loves.
God’s Kingdom is a rescue for common people. In this kingdom they are no longer forgotten. This kingdom will not come in a remote future it dawns already now, this is true because the ruler of the kingdom of God is already with you in your life and in your dying; he is close with you even in your distance to God.
The Life of Jesus
- His Birth – A life of contradiction and questions
- His Temptation – A life of Expectations and determination
- His Teachings – A paradoxical life
The Kings of This World
- Power thirsting
- Glory seeking
The Jesus Kingship
How Does This Apply
- He identifies with us in our darkest moments
- When we have nowhere else to turn, we turn to him and he offers us his word
This king God hangs on a cross! Jesus clearly identified in death as he had in life with the regular folk of his time. He hung on the cross and in that suffering he did in death what he did in life. Born homeless, for a short time a refugee in Egypt, and then, a brief ministry, a rabbi who socialized with the outcasts of his day. Jesus forever stands as the servant of the poor and the downtrodden. But, just as clearly, he stands as Christ the King who welcomes all into his kingdom, even those who would kill him!by