In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All of us believers are children of God, our heavenly Father, by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, given to us by the Holy Spirit in our baptism, fed and grown by Him through His Word. And for the first part of today’s sermon, I would like the help of some of the children; however, I’m asking for those who are children in body and by age to come up here. Unless you’re bringing up small children, you bigger children of God please stay in your seats.
[Bring chair over near center of chancel.] Okay, children, what is this? [Chair.] It’s an ordinary chair from the Memorial Lounge. Yes, there are some other things here on this chair. What do we call the special chair in which a king (or queen) sits? [Throne.] The throne is the seat of a king’s authority, the special place from which he rules over his kingdom. How do we know that the man on the throne is the king? What else does he have? What is he wearing? [Crown, royal robe.] This king’s robe is red; others may be purple or blue. The reason those colors were used only for royalty, for kings and queens, is that those colors were very expensive and difficult to make, to dye cloth. So only royalty could afford to pay for robes of those colors. A king’s crown might be made of gold, with jewels, precious stones. So the crown was also very costly, something only a wealthy king or queen could afford to have.
Now Jesus is a king, too, right? I said earlier that today is sometimes called “Christ the King Sunday.” In fact, the Bible calls Jesus “the King of kings.” He is The King who rules over all nations, over all other kings and kingdoms. Think about what we just heard in the Gospel reading, about Jesus being crucified. When Jesus was on earth, what kind of a crown did He wear? [Crown of thorns] Roman soldiers put that crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, and they put a purple robe on Him. They didn’t do it because they really believed that He was King, but they were mocking Jesus, making fun of Him. But we know that Jesus really is the true King. What kind of a throne did Jesus have on earth? It was the Cross. The robe that God gave to Jesus was His body, His flesh and blood that He wore on the cross. Jesus is a different kind of king from other kings. There have been good kings, and there have been bad kings on earth. All ordinary human kings (and queens) are sinners. Jesus is our King who has no sin. He is the King who takes away the sin of the world. While He was on the Cross, He said to God the Father, the Great King, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus our King serves us, His people. He blesses us. He forgives our sins. No other king could ever do that for us. One of the ways that Jesus our King served His disciples was on the night before He hung on the Cross. So listen for that later in the sermon, and I have some pages for you that you can color, showing Jesus our King. Get the pages, and you may return to your seats.
Jesus Christ is indeed a king, our King. In the Revelation, John the Apostle and Evangelist hears and sees this truth, first as an angel tells him that various enemies of Christ and His Church “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” (Rev 17:14), and then when John sees a Rider on a white horse, he says, “The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True … and the name by which He is called is The Word of God … On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:11–16). This name written on His robe signifies that this is Jesus’ office by God the Father’s appointment, while this same name written on His thigh signifies that Jesus is King and Lord over all by nature. As true God, He rules over all because He is the Creator of all. As true Man, He rules over all as Redeemer, the Lamb who took on human flesh and blood in order to suffer and die, to offer Himself as the final, full, and perfect Sacrifice, to redeem the fallen Creation from its bondage, its slavery, its captivity, to sin and death. Jesus has redeemed us, has bought us, purchased us, paying for us with His innocent life and His holy, precious blood.
The Apostle Paul agrees with the Apostle John that Jesus is just such a King. Paul says in today’s Epistle reading that the Father “has delivered us from the domain (authority) of the Darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13–14). In closing his First Epistle to Timothy, Paul also uses this name, this title, for the Triune God: “the blessed and only Potentate (Powerful One), the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality (deathlessness), who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see, to whom be honor and eternal power, Amen” (1 Tim 6:15–16). Such a grand doxology in praise of the Holy Trinity’s majesty in no way detracts from recognizing Jesus’ deity and glory. Paul actually highlights Jesus’ deity, that He is God, one in glory and power with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He does just that all through today’s Epistle, for he confesses Jesus as Creator, “the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation,” or rather, “the First-begotten” or “the One begotten before all creation” (Col 1:15), “by [whom] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,” and all powers—the very same truths we get to confess in the Creeds!
On a day when we focus on Jesus as King, it may seem strange to have a Gospel reading that shows Jesus’ being crucified and His kingship mocked. As has already been said, Jesus is a different kind of king. We cannot rely on our earthly expectations of what a king should be like in order to make a proper assessment of King Jesus. Nor dare we rely on our limited senses and limited experiences. That was the sin being committed against the LORD by some of the people, as recorded by the Prophet Malachi, our Old Testament Reading. They were saying, “It is vain (emptiness, meaningless) to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge (observances, teachings) or of walking mournfully before the LORD of hosts?” (Mal 3:14). What good does it do to follow God’s ways, or to “walk as in mourning,” to mourn over sin, to be repentant, [to sorrow over sin]? Evildoers prosper, and more than that, they put God to the test, try His patience, and they get away with it! Based on what we can see, those folks must be God’s favorites! How is that fair or right?
That’s the problem with that kind of judgment against God. It’s based on what we can see. Based on what could be seen at the place called The Skull—in Latin, Calvary; in Aramaic, Golgotha—Jesus was a rebel, not the King of kings; He was a criminal, a convicted, not the righteous Judge of all; He was rejected by God, not God’s Chosen One, not the Christ, not the Messiah, not the Anointed One. Do the “eyes” have it? Is that a right assessment of the situation on Calvary, of what was taking place on that central Cross of three? It has been widely noted, and I have mentioned it here before in sermons and Bible studies, that John’s Gospel clearly pictures Jesus’ crucifixion not as His shame and humiliation, but rather as His glory. The Cross is even the highest point of Christ’s glory, of God’s glory, in His love toward us sinners. On the other hand, the other Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, show the crucifixion of Jesus as His suffering and shame. At first glance, our Gospel reading from Luke does seem to show that. Yet Luke records Jesus’ authoritative, kingly words, spoken even as He goes to His cross and death, and Luke does show some people recognizing Jesus for who and what He truly is. Here, it’s one of the criminals, one of the rebels, being crucified with Jesus. He knows that he and his fellow rebel are getting what they deserve; Jesus, though, is innocent. At Jesus’ death, seeing all that had taken place, a centurion will proclaim just that: “Certainly this Man was innocent” (Lk 23:47). The repentant rebel, daring to hope, hoping against all reasonable hope, pleads, “Jesus, remember me whenever You may come into Your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). We know that we were conceived and born equally rebellious against God as that man, equally guilty, just as deserving of a horrible death. Thank Jesus! He says just what that rebel needed to hear, just what we need to hear in the hour of our death: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43). If you’re thinking that you don’t need to think about the hour of your death, think again. Do you know when that will be? God doesn’t speak to us about that in order to make us afraid of the future or of doing anything. In Christ He has won and secured for you a sure and certain future and hope, eternal life with Him, because God forgives you for the sake of Christ Jesus, through whom God “reconcile[d] to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). God has made peace between you and Himself. Jesus is that kind of king for you, the King of Peace.
Right now, we don’t always see the peace that Jesus brings. Certainly not in the world, and too often we don’t see it in the Church, among Christians. The same may be said of the love, the blessing, the life, and the forgiveness that Jesus came to bring. We don’t always see them. We might be tempted to fall back into that mode of thinking described by Malachi. We need to repent of such thinking, of such fearful worry, and instead by the grace of God be “those who fear the LORD and esteem His name” (Mal 3:16). We know the power of the name of the LORD, the name of Jesus, the name that means “Salvation” and “the LORD saves.” On the night when He was betrayed, the night before His crucifixion, the night He gave His holy Supper of His body and blood, He stood up, put a towel around His waist, poured water in a basin, and washed His disciples’ feet. It was the lowest job of the lowliest servant or slave in a household. And Jesus did it. That’s the kind of king we have in Jesus. Our King washes feet. He did this to show them their need to forgive each other and serve one another humbly. When Jesus does something like that, it looks like He’s degrading Himself. No, when Jesus does something, whatever it is, as long as it’s not a sin, He raises that work to a place of honor. Jesus has even touched death—more than that, He has battled death—for you. Touching the dead made people unclean; but not Jesus. As the “Firstborn” or rather “First-begotten from the dead,” Jesus has conquered death for you, and He has forced death to submit, so that death can hold no terror for you. He is coming soon and coming quickly, to judge the living and the dead. We don’t know when, but He has told us to be ready. You don’t need to fear that Last Day, Judgment Day, any more than you need to fear death, because in Christ, God has already declared you innocent. Judgment Day will be the public proclamation in front of everyone of that good judgment in your favor. At the cross, God has already judged you, punishing Jesus in your place. In your baptism, the Triune God has already put you to death once, and He has raised you to new life in Christ, and He calls you to walk, to act, to work, in the newness of that life. As His brother, His sister—His royal sibling—be eagerly waiting and ready for His return, busy with both the works and words of His mercy and love He has given you to do and say in loving service to your neighbor, in loving service to Him. He reigns as your King for you at the font, at the altar, in His Word, and so many other places. As you wait for Him, look in wonder and awe for the many places where He reigns as King.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds by His Spirit in ✠ Christ Jesus. Amen.