King – when you hear this word what images/thoughts come to your mind?
Our Psalm today reflects these images –
Clothed with Majesty
Girded with Strength
Creator of the world/life – power
Heralded – loud waters – flood of waters
Hurricane Sandy in New York/New Jersey – older couple who were rescued; stayed due to wife’s Alzheimer’s – never heard anything like this
Holiness befits thy house
Today is CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY –
The Psalmist presents us with the image of God as King – everything we expect in our King, our God.
But the Gospel lesson takes us to the unexpected – to the cross. Why is this? We are looking for Christ the King; not Jesus the crucified man.
The Scripture today is taken from John 18: 33-37
When I realized that this was the Gospel lesson of today – I thought what are they thinking? This is a scene in an entire story, a play if you will. Why only focus on a few verses, one scene?
Imagine if you will with me for a moment a great stage. The play takes place inside and outside of the Governor’s home. Outside of the home are the Jewish leaders and the crowd who dare not go into the house of the governor as they would defile themselves before the Passover feast. Inside the house, a man, Jesus, is turned over to the Governor and his guards to be sentenced for his crime.
Scene one: Jewish leaders bring Jesus before Pilate – interestingly enough, a wannabe king: Pilate wants to know what the accusation is and why the Jewish leaders do not judge Jesus by their own law.
Scene two: The scripture focus today – Jesus before Pilate – Are you the king of the Jews? What is truth?
Scene three: Pilate goes back out – “I find no guilt in Him”; offers to release a prisoner – King of the Jews or Barabbas - and crowd shouts for the release of Barabbas
Scene four: Pilate has Jesus scourged and a purple robe and a crown of thorns are placed on Him – Hail the King of the Jews
Scene five: Pilate brings Jesus before the crowd “Behold the Man” clothed as a mockery of a king - crowd shouts for Jesus to be crucified; made Himself out to the Son of God
Scene six: Pilate is concerned – Where do you come from – Pilate speaks to Jesus about his authority to crucify Jesus – Jesus indicates that His authority is from above
Scene seven: Pilate tries to release Jesus – people oppose, no friend of Caesar’s if you release someone who claims to be king – Shall I crucify your King ---- we have no king but Caesar
Scene eight: The Finale ---“Jesus the Nazarene, The King of the Jews” Branded on the cross above Jesus the man as he is nailed there to die
Do you see it...all through this play there is talk of a king...a king who is mocked, a king who is beaten, and a king who is sentenced to death. A king who fails to use his authority to save himself, a king who is not adorned in royal robes, a king who does not command respect – Behold, your King!!!! We are left saying, Surely NOT! This is not our King.
Our King is creator and ruler and reigns majestically. This is our king.
This is Christ the King Sunday but the finale leaves us with the crucified Christ. Let’s return to the focus text. The reason these few verses were chosen was to introduce us to Christ the King. Vv. 33-37
Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” – Now in my psychology classes of yore, we would call this a closed-ended question --- What are the options for the response? --- Right, either you are or you are not? Which is it?
Jesus’ response: v. 34 “Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate who was looking for a straight, simple answer becomes defensive – “I am not a Jew, am I?” – Pilate reminds Jesus that he is before him and wants to know why.
Jesus then tells him...My kingdom is NOT of this world; if it was there would be a fight
Pilate forms a conclusion --- The YES that he is looking for – Jesus speaks of His Kingdom, therefore, He must be a king. Pilate questions again “so, you are a king”?
I love Jesus’ response here - He gives Pilate the simple answer that he is looking for, and ultimately, the answer that Pilate needs to condemn him to death. “You say correctly that I AM A KING”.
For this I have been born – as a baby in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
For this I have come into this world – as a man, stripped of everything and dying on a cross.
Where is the King? The one we seek? The one who reigns? The one clothed in majesty? The one whose throne is established? Where is the King?
NOW here is the point of it all...LISTEN...”For this I have been born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My Voice.”
Pilate’s response, “What is truth?”
Do you get it? Did you hear what Jesus said? He came to the world to bear witness to the truth. If Christ is OUR KING we are of the Truth.
We live in confusing times...many around us; many of us...have questions, need answers.
We have lost direction. We have anxiety. We have depression. We know pain. We know loss. We are disappointed. We are angry. We live in hatred. We live in fear.
We are bound by the weight of these things in our lives.
The scripture tells us that the TRUTH will set us free -- John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
My father-in-law tells me that over the doorway in the CIA building John 8:32 is imprinted “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” – he never realized until he became a Christian that the first part of this phrasing was missing...the part that refers to believing in Christ and abiding in His word, being His disciple. The promise of freedom in truth is empty without the abiding in the source of truth.
You see, our King’s kingdom is NOT of this world. His authority cannot be realized in our lives without acceptance of Him and without abiding in His Word.
We do not need to be bound by the lies and confusion of this world. We have a King who has born witness in our lives to the truth and if we listen we can hear his voice. The voice of truth.
What is it that you are struggling with today? Have you looked to Christ the King for the truth? Does he reign in your life?
Remember, the finale of the play between Jesus and Pilate ---“Jesus the Nazarene, The King of the Jews” – branded on the cross
This is the finale ONLY in this world but we know that Jesus Kingdom is not of this world. We know the truth!
I invite you to close your eyes and get a glimpse of the Kingdom of Christ as I read this scripture from Revelation 19:11-16
Did you see it, did you see the branded Jesus, not overhead on a cross but on His robe and on His thigh “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”
Closing Prayer/Invitation –
Maybe, you are one of those on the outside – you have never believed, today is the day you can trust Christ to be King in your life
Maybe, you have believed but have not abided in the truth, the confusion and questions of the world have clouded out the truth – today is your day to turn back to truth, to no longer be weighed down, to be set free, to know afresh Christ as King of your life.
Maybe, you have come today in freedom, in truth – today is your day to celebrate Christ as King of your life.No matter what decision is yours today, listen to the words of the song Voice of Truth as the music team leads us – “Out of all of the voices calling out to me; I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”