Christ the King Sunday November 10, 2019
341:1-4, 657, 367, 341:5
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
Dear fellow subjects of the King of kings who lives and reigns through all eternity,
It is a rather peculiar situation we find in our text. Here we find two rulers confronting one another. One ruler is the Roman governor of Judea, appointed by Tiberus, emperor of the Roman Empire. Pilate was a very powerful man. He had scores of well-armed and trained Roman soldiers and had to answer only to Caesar.
The other Man present in the governor’s headquarters early on that Friday morning, was also a Ruler. However, this second Man doesn’t look very powerful. His hands are bound. His face is swollen, bruised, and bloodied from the abuse He had received at the hand of His captors overnight. No one is fighting to defend Him or free Him. His own people want Him dead. No wonder Pilate asked Him in almost disbelief, “Are YOU the King of the Jews?” Pilate had met kings before (like Herod and Caesar), but never one like this.
Which ruler would you want to follow? One with the backing of a large super power government, a huge and well-trained military, and protected by Roman centurions—or one beaten and bound, rejected by His own people, wearing a crown of thorns, and handed over to be killed like the worst of all criminals?
On this Christ the King Sunday, let us look closer at the King on trial in our text. As we do, we will find a King who loves His enemies, a King whose kingdom is spiritual and eternal, and a King whose rule is truth. Yes, we wish to see Jesus, our King. May the Holy Spirit bless our study of His holy Word.
“France will be merciless in her response to these barbarians.” So said France’s president François Hollande after an Islamic terrorist attack in Paris four years ago. This is what we expect to hear from our rulers after an enemy has attacked them. We expect our leaders merciless to their enemies. In most cases, we want them to thoroughly destroy their enemies.
Yet, what do we find when we see King Jesus? We know He had the power to raise the dead and cast out demon spirits, certainly He could easily do away with a Roman governor. Yet, that’s not what we find Jesus doing with His captor. Instead, we see a King that loves even His enemies. While Pilate thought he was in control of this trial, Jesus is reaching out to Pilate because He loves the souls of lost sinners and wants to save him. When Pilate asks if Jesus is the King of the Jews, Jesus replies, “Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?” Jesus is probing Pilate’s heart, trying to get Pilate to really think about the motivation for asking his question. Was Pilate just repeating something he had heard about Jesus, or did Pilate really want to know if Jesus was the promised King of the Jews?
Jesus is trying to capture Pilate’s heart that He might make this governor in the Roman empire a member of His kingdom of grace. As with all souls, King Jesus wants to lead Pilate into all truth—the truth about his own lost condition, the truth about the one true God, and the truth that the bound and bruised King standing before him is suffering to win heaven for him.
This is who King Jesus is. He is the Shepherd King that loves souls—even the soul of Pilate. King Jesus wept for Jerusalem, not because they were about to crucify Him, but because they were unwilling to be brought under His caring wings. When our King was nailed to the cross, what was the first words out of His mouth? It wasn’t like that of France’s President Hollande, “I will be merciless to these barbarians!” But rather it was words of mercy, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
THIS is why we wish to see Jesus our King, because He loves even His enemies. For myself, I can think of any number of times I’ve acted more like one opposed to the will of King Jesus than a loyal subject. He calls on me to love my fellow believer and pray for my enemies, even as He loved me, but I feel like I should be my own king and decide who I want to love and who I’ll pray for. How loyal of a subject have you been to King Jesus?
Rejoice in the grace of King Jesus. He loved us even when we were His enemies. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10) The suffering King who stands before Pilate in our text, is suffering to fix what we had ruined by our sin. He is there to make right the relationship with God our sin had ruined. Yes, we wish to see Jesus who loved Pilate, those who crucified Him, and me—and was willing to lay down His life to save us. Behold your King!
When we think of a king, we usually think of castles, knights, crowns, thrones, and a territory—a kingdom—to rule over. After all, if someone claims to be a king, but has no kingdom to rule, is he really a king? A king has to defend his kingdom from his enemies, so we expect to hear of sword and chariots, or today, tanks and missiles.
When the Jews of Jesus’ day looked for a king, they looked for some of the same things. They wanted a king who would free them from the hated Roman government and restore Israel to it’s former glory—as it was in the days of King Solomon. They wanted a king who would take care of their physical needs. After Jesus fed the 5,000 and filled their bellies with food, John reports that they wanted “to come and take Him by force to make Him king.” (John 6:15) That is the kind of king people want. Someone who will display great power and fill their bellies.
As King Jesus stands before Pilate, He sure doesn’t look like much of a king. So listen as He tells us about the nature of His kingdom in verse 36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Jesus does not rule over a piece of real estate like Palestine, Jerusalem, or Rome. No, the nature of Jesus kingdom is much different—and better!
Through His death on the cross and victorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus has established a kingdom that is not of this world, but one that is spiritual and eternal. Paul writes that the Kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) The Kingdom of King Jesus is Him ruling in our hearts by faith, giving us His own righteousness in place of our sin. He gives peace as He assures us that all is well between us and God because of His death on the cross. It is the joy of knowing we have been reconciled unto God through King Jesus and because He rose from the dead, so too we will rise. This is the King we wish to see as we rejoice to be a part of His kingdom.
Finally, let’s talk about how King Jesus establishes His kingdom and rule our heart. The times we are living in is sometimes referred to as the “information age.” And when you think about all the information that is available to us through our smartphones or computers, it is astounding. All you have to do is say “Ok Google,” ask your question, and within seconds you can have an answer.
How sadly ironic it is, then, that with all the information available to us, that more and more people are confused about what the truth is. “Fake news” confuses us about what the real story is. While federal law protects the eggs of bald eagles, politicians can’t seem to decide whether the baby in the womb of his or her mother is an actual life. While marriage had been between a man and a woman for the last 6,000 years, suddenly society is not sure if it should remain that way. And some struggle with confusion about something as clear as the gender they were born with. Though we have so much access to information, the world is crying out with Pilate, “What is truth?”
THIS is why we want to see Jesus our King. He is the King of truth and His rule is truth. “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Jesus says, “I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” (John 14:6) If you want to know the truth about yourself, the truth about sin and morality, about God, and about the way to heaven, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
King Jesus is the Truth and He rules with the Truth. Through the truth of His Word He removes all confusion about God, about His will for us and His plan for us. If you are confused about marriage and gender, Jesus tells you the truth in Matthew 19. “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Are you confused about when life begins? The truth of Scripture declares that it is God who “formed (your) inward parts” and “covered (you) in (your) mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) And if you are struggling with any of these questions, King Jesus invites you to come to His throne for strength and peace. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
King Jesus is Truth and He rules by the truth of His Word. He speaks the truth about any and all sin that disobeys His Father’s will. He also speaks the truth that He alone is the Way to the Father, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Through the preaching of His truth King Jesus has brought you into His kingdom and through the truth of His Word He continues rules your heart and life. As members of His kingdom let us keep digging into His Word to remind us of the truth in this confusing world and continue to hold to His teachings that we may know the truth. And through His Word may we ever behold our King! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.