See the King of Kings…
A sermon based on Matthew 27:27-31
Sunday, November 20, 2011 – Christ the King Sunday A
What comes to mind when I mention "The King"? Do you picture a man sitting on a throne wearing a crown? Or maybe you think of sequined suits, big sideburns, and blue suede shoes? Or maybe it's visions of Whoppers and French fries that fill your mind? Or maybe some of you noticed that this is Christ the King Sunday and you didn't even think of those other kings at all. Hopefully.
But what image of Christ do you get when you think of Christ the King? Do think of a man robed in white, shining as bright as the sun, sitting on a throne of gold, ready to judge the nations? Or do you picture a man dressed in colorful robes sitting at a banquet table, laughing in joy as he feasts with his friends? Or maybe you see a man in full armor riding out to meet the enemy in battle? How about this one… do you picture a man stripped of his clothes, severely beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, barely able to stand, taunted, ridiculed, and scorned?
Well, if that's a picture of a king, that's one very sorry king, isn't it? It's a weak, defeated king, right? No. It's not. It's actually a picture of a conquering king taking his throne…
Jesus didn't seem to be a very impressive king as he was mocked, tortured and killed. But his kingdom was and is not of this world—it's a spiritual kingdom. And by those very things that made him seem like he was weak, he defeated his enemies, took his throne and became the King above all kings, ruling the heavens and the earth, ruling in our hearts.
Today I invite you to see the King of Kings. See him suffer in humility and through it see him enter his kingdom. Listen again to the Gospel lesson for Christ the King Sunday recorded in Matthew 27:27-31…
27 Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
I. Suffer in Humility
Jesus was and is the King of all things. He demonstrated his power over sickness when he cured every disease and over death when he brought people back to life. He showed his power to care for his subjects by miraculously providing food from a few fish and a few loaves of bread. And when he did the crowds tried to make him their king by physical force. On Palm Sunday they hailed him as their King as he rode into Jerusalem amid their songs of praise. But now, what a different picture we see.
Now Jesus is in custody with a company of soldiers surrounding him. He had just been scourged, whipped with those leather straps embedded with shards of metal or glass. He was hurting, bloodied, in extreme pain, all in a desperate attempt by Pilate to save Jesus' life by moving the crowd to sympathy (for it was obvious to Pilate that Jesus was innocent). But the physical abuse and pain wasn't enough. Pilate would do a very thorough job. With Pilate's full consent, the soldiers made a mockery of him. And the King of the universe wasn't treated with much nobility.
While Jesus, the one who simply spoke and caused the soldiers to fall to the ground, the one who had the power to end their lives in an instant if he would so choose, the one who created the very universe, should be treated with the utmost awe and respect, while he should be bowed to and worshiped, they didn't recognize that he was a king. Instead they mocked him with a gruesome parody, this "King of the Jews."
They took an old faded cloak and threw it on Jesus to mimic the rich purple robes of royalty. They fashioned a mock crown out of a thorn bush and pushed it on his head. They laughed at how weak this king was that anyone could hit him in the head with his own "scepter" after they pulled it from his hands. They pretended to give him honor by kneeling and saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and they replaced the kissing him in homage with spitting in his face.
But even when they were done with their fun, even this degradation was not enough to inspire sympathy in the Jews and Pilate finally gave in. Jesus was led out to Mount Calvary and was tortured to death with a sign overhead reading, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."
Pretty inhumane treatment right? Even for a convict, let alone the King of the universe! But before we're too quick to judge the vicious soldiers or the cowardly Pilate, let's take a look at our own lives.
Jesus is still the King of all things. He still has power over sickness and death. He still has power to provide for our every need even. And while we do often hail him as our King that's not always how we treat him, is it? We at times still treat him as the soldiers did.
"Now, wait a second," you say, "I've never denied Jesus authority like that. I've never hit him with a staff, never forced a crown of thorns on his head! I've never mocked or taunted him like those soldiers. I wouldn't dream of spitting in Jesus' face or forcing him to the cross." Yet, dear friends, that's exactly what we do.
When we choose to serve ourselves instead of our Savior, we deny his authority and reject his kingship over us. Look at the evidence, how many hours per week do you spend with Jesus in Bible study and how many watching TV? How many dollars do you put in the offering plate each month and how much you spend eating out?
And it's worse than our bad priorities, mistreating our king by negligence. When you talk down a co-worker, you hit Jesus, for "whatever you do to the least of these," he says, "you do to me." When you use your lips to curse others, when you fail to speak up and defend someone, you spit in Jesus face. It was our sins, yours and mine, that nailed Jesus to the cross when we rebelled and dethroned him putting ourselves in his place.
I hurt Jesus. I mock him. I taunt him. I push that crown into his head and hit him with his own staff. I spit in his face and show my utter contempt with each and every sin. And I am ashamed at how I've treated my King. And for the way I've treated him, I deserve to be humiliated like he was. I deserve to be shamed. I deserve to spit on, to be scourged, to suffer the hell that he endured, to die forever.
But dear friends, I won't get what I deserve. Because it is for my sin that he endure it all. For by this abuse, Jesus conquered his enemies and mine, he entered into his kingdom, and brought me into the same…
II. Enter Into His Kingdom
As the soldiers laughed at their parody of this "king," as they made sport of him, giving him all symbols of royalty, they really made a true statement. When Pilate ordered that the sign above Jesus' head read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" he too made a true statement, unawares. Though he didn't seem to be, Jesus was and is a true king. When Pilate asked him flat out, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "Yes, it is as you say." (Matthew 27:11) The truth is that Jesus was and is the King of the Jews, and not just of the Jews, but of the Gentiles, of every nation. He is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords to whom is due all honor and glory.
But his kingdom is not of this world as Pilate and his soldiers thought. It's a spiritual kingdom. And he didn't win his kingdom by force, but by sacrifice. Though he could have easily silenced those who mocked him and though he could have easily destroyed those who hurt him, all without lifting a finger or saying a word, yet, in order to win his kingdom, he willingly endured this abuse. He silently suffered this unjust treatment. He voluntarily experienced hell on the cross and in so doing defeated his and our spiritual enemies, sin, death, Satan. He conquered them all and his rule began.
This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied would happen in Isaiah 53. Go home and reread that chapter to see how the Christ would win a portion among the great because he poured out his life unto death. And that's exactly what happened. And he did it all for us. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) He endured such humiliation and shame so I won't be humiliated or put to shame before God. He was hurt by sinful men, so I won't be hurt by a righteous God. He was unjustly condemned that I might be unjustly pardoned.
He was humiliated, hurt and abused to take away every time I've abused Jesus, every time I've spit in his face, and every time I've tried to remove him and put myself in Jesus' throne by my sinful selfish actions. Now, with every sin removed, he makes me perfectly righteous and fit to be in his kingdom.
And in that sacrifice, he won his kingdom, that is, he won us. That kingdom of Jesus' exists in us. He rules in our hearts today. He made you a member of his kingdom at your baptism, when he took your stony heart and softened it, and created the very faith that trusts in him. He continues to rule in your heart today as he moves you to thank him in every act of service and love you do for him. We are members of his kingdom.
In medieval times, if you were a vassal to a good king, what a joy it was. He would protect you from your enemies so you could live in peace, even taking you in to his keep when the enemies attacked. He would ride out to meet them and drive them away. He would provide for your needs when you were unable, giving you food, drink and shelter. All this he did if you would work hard for him in his fields.
In a similar way, we enjoy great blessings by being members of Jesus' kingdom! We enjoy a real peace since he rode out to meet the enemy and defeated Satan and removed all our sins. He gives us perfect protection from every enemy that might harm us. He provides for our every need when we're unable—giving us the robes of righteousness we could never get ourselves, by wearing the scarlet robe of shame, giving us the crown of victory because he wore the crown of thorns. But while a medieval king would demand that you work in the fields to earn his protection and care, Christ gives us all this without asking for a thing in return, as a good and perfect gift.
And not only does Christ rule in the hearts of believers, but he rules all things for our eternal good. "The kings of the earth belong to him" (Psalm 47:9) and he arranges all the events of our lives to be a blessing to us. He not only protects us from our spiritual enemies, but from physical harm only allowing it to serve our greater spiritual good. He showers us with countless physical blessings and makes it a joy to serve every day of our lives.
And finally, he's not just the King of believers, but of all people. One day very soon even unbelievers will have to acknowledge the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of all the earth. As Paul points out, because "He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11)
Though the kingship of Jesus' first coming was marked by humiliation, it won't be that way at his return. In Matthew 25:31 he describes what that return will be like, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." He will be an exalted King, seated on his throne, no longer the one who is judged, but the one who dispense his perfect judgment, ends all wickedness and takes us to the festive celebration of heaven to live in his palace with him for all of eternity.
Dear friends in Christ, see the King of kings and rejoice that you're a part of his kingdom! Don't reject him as your king and don't just pretend to pay him homage, but treat him with the respect and honor he deserves. Treat him as your Savior King! Willingly submit to his authority to thank him for his protecting care. Honor him. Worship him. And give to him your unending thanks and praise as you serve him with your wealth, your talents, your very lives. And to him who sits on the throne, to the Lamb, be praise and thanks and honor and glory for ever and ever! Amen!