Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the Kingi

The Lord Is Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79 or Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate Jesus as Christ the King. The psalmist wrote about kingship:

Why do the nations conspire,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
    and cast their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”   (Psalm 2:1-6)

The Children of Israel wanted a king like other nations and God reluctantly gave them one. Their first king Saul wasted little time before attempting to rule by his own authority rather than under God’s authority.

John Dalberg-Acton was a member of the British House of Commons. He took a great interest in the United States, considering its federal structure the perfect guarantor of individual liberties. He famously wrote:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Even today, we have no shortages of people who want to rule nations, or even the world. God has other plans. He had prepared for these eventualities in advance. In today’s Old Testament reading, God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

God would raise up his chosen king for Israel, and not only for Israel, but for the entire world. Who is this king and what were his origins? The Apostle Paul wrote:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.   (Colossians 1:15-20)

How do we relate to such a king? This king is the Second Person of the Godhead. He is the agent of creation. He was with God the Father from the beginning of the earth. Do we fully grasp who he is and understand his mission?

In today’s Gospel reading there is a discussion concerning Jesus as king of the Jews:

The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”   (Luke 23:35-38)

How do we relate to a king who is very God of very God, yet is giving up himself to a cruel cross? This is not like any other kingship that we know of.

There were two criminals hanging on crosses to either side pf Jesus:

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   (Luke 23:39-43)

How did the one thief on the cross relate to Jesus? He did not say the sinners prayer. He was not a member of a church. He was not even baptized. But Jesus read his heart.

The mystery of the cross is more about how Jesus related to this criminal than the other way around. Jesus identified with this criminal. He identifies with all of us. He came to give himself to us as a ransom for many.

Jesus is called the King if kings and Lord of lords. But he has another name as well. From the Book of Jeremiah:

And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 23:6)

Satan will do everything in his power to stop the kingship of Jesus. In fact, in the last days he will bring his own king on the scene. This king will serve under the authority of the beast, that is to say Satan himself. Many people will bow down to this king, even professing Christians. We are rapidly heading in that direction. In Revelation we read:

These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”   (Revelation 17:13-14)

We need to hold on to the king who relates to us. We need to embrace the king who died for us to save our souls, and rose again from the dead that we, too, may be raised up to newness of life. The Apostle Paul wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

The kingship of Jesus is not of this present world. His kingship is for the world to come. Will we serve him as our king? He serves us always. He has come to move us out of darkness into his most glorious light.

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Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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