Christ the King Sunday November 8, 2020
341, 367, 575 (Worship Supplement 2000 Alternative: #757), 657
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
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.”
It would be quite an understatement to say that these days it seems like truth is not at a premium. Personal preference, opinions, and feelings seem to rule the day. Truth seems to be an outdated, irrelevant idea in our world. For example, the networks reporting the news seem less interested in reporting what is actually happening, than in getting viewers to watch, or pushing some kind of agenda, or catering to their particular viewer base. Over the past few years we have seen much of what is called “revisionist” history reported in text books and in the media, in which it is more important that certain people, countries, and cultures are not offended rather than reporting the cold, hard truth of what actually happened in history. Being “politically correct” and inoffensive is seen as much more important than the actual truth.
Even in the area of religion—or should I say especially in the area of religion—people are not very interested in the truth anymore, but rather in what “fits” them. People search for religious beliefs like they are shopping for clothes: Does this fit me? Do I like the way this looks and feels? Is this “me”? Very little thought, if any, is given to whether or not these beliefs are actually true. You would think that it would seem to make sense that even in a world that calls truth “relative”—that is, your idea of truth is as good as mine or anyone else’s—that an exception would at least be made when it comes to answering the most important questions, such as “What is the true meaning and purpose of life?” It seems like that should be a more important question when one is searching for “religion” than “Do I like it?” “Is the pastor a dynamic speaker?” “Is the church building beautiful?” or, “Are there plenty of activities for the kids?”
To the world, then, it may seem strange that we still put a premium on the truth and consider everything else to be secondary. But we are committed to preaching and teaching the truth, because that is what Jesus has called us to do! That truth comes to us from the one who is the originator and very embodiment of truth itself: Jesus, the King of Truth.
Jesus told Pontius Pilate in our text that the truth was the very reason He had come to this earth, “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.” (v. 37) Jesus did not just come to this earth to tell the truth in some general way. We know that because He was the sinless Son of God His words were always true and that He never told a lie or deceived people with half-truths. He came to bring the world the specific truth that all mankind needs to hear for their salvation. In other words, He came to bring the world the truth about Himself. As Jesus said to His disciples earlier in the Gospel of John, “I am the Truth.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the embodiment of truth itself, and therefore He is also the embodiment of Salvation itself. For in that same verse Jesus also calls Himself “the Way…and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Why is truth and the Truth so unpopular? Because so often “The truth hurts!” People don’t want to hear that Jesus is the only way to salvation and eternal life in heaven. People don’t want to think that the countless millions who have turned to other “gods” or other “truths” of other religions will be eternally condemned. But the Bible doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the truth. Jesus Himself attested that “[God’s] Word is truth.” (John 17:17) As the truth it is unconcerned with how it might make people feel or what their opinions are, it simply tells things like they really are. The Bible clearly tells us the hurtful truth about our human nature: It is sinful since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is lost and condemned; dead from birth. The Bible tells us that we have sinned against God’s perfect Law in our thoughts, words, and actions, and that we are not able to keep that Law perfectly, and therefore we deserve eternal death in hell. The Bible is also perfectly clear that the countless millions who have followed after other “gods,” or other “truths,” or methods in order to gain salvation are headed for eternal condemnation in hell. These are not things that we want to hear—or even like to think about—but they are the truth. The LORD Jehovah Himself tells us in Isaiah chapter 43, “Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11) Regardless of what you and I might or might not believe, “truth is truth,” and sometimes “The truth hurts!”
More importantly, “The Truth heals!” The truth that Jesus, the King of Truth came to bring is not about condemnation and death, but about forgiveness and life! It is not about rules, regulations, and slavery, but of grace, love, and freedom in Him!
Like Pontius Pilate, the world wonders and even scoffs at Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (v. 33) “This is your King?” the world might ask. “He doesn’t look very powerful. In fact, He looks pretty pathetic with that crown of thorns on His head. And the way this world is going it looks like your King Jesus is weak!” When the world looks at Jesus and doesn’t see the powerful earthly king they were expecting they are right: Jesus is unlike any other earthly king. Now, make no mistake Jesus is in fact ruling over all things in heaven and on earth for the good of His believers, but often His ways are unseen and beyond our ways. In His infinite power and wisdom He continues to work the best of things out of the worst situations and events. But as Jesus Himself said to Pilate, His kingship and His kingdom are unlike any earthly king or kingdom, “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.” (v. 36) Jesus doesn’t have an earthly nation; He doesn’t have an army of soldiers at His disposal like secular kings and rulers do. No, Jesus’ kingship is in a class by itself—and by its very nature is infinitely superior to that of any and all secular kings.
Earthly kings are made kings by their subjects, however, Jesus’ kingship is independent of any subjects, He is King! His kingship inevitably creates subjects! His kingdom is not just one nation, but followers from every nation! He does not have an army of destructive warriors, but rather an army of soul-saving witnesses adding more subjects to His kingdom. Besides all that, what other king in history has ever done what Jesus did for His people? What king ever served His people with the self-less, sin-less, life that Jesus lived for us? What king ever won his greatest victory by giving up his life to save his people like Jesus did? What other king has given his people eternal life and the hope of an eternal kingdom of heaven, a kingdom “not of this world” (v. 36), as Jesus has done for His followers by His resurrection from the dead (which no other king has done either by the way!). It is obvious: Jesus is not an earthly king. He is a far greater king than that; Jesus is the King of Truth!
How are we made citizens of His kingdom? Jesus says in our text, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (v. 37) To be “of the truth” simply means to hear and believe the voice of Jesus, the King of Truth. It means to reject all other voices that claim to be truth but are contrary to the voice of Jesus. Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel, “Yet they [Jesus’ sheep] will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers… My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:5, 27-28) That is the kingdom that our Good Shepherd, our King of Truth, has given each one of us! A kingdom of eternal peace and life with Him!
Yet, how often haven’t we settled for less? How often haven’t we longed for Jesus to be more like an earthly king and give us what we desire in this life, instead of what He knows we truly need the most and what’s really best for us?
Perhaps we have been unhappy with our King because He hasn’t given us the good health that we’ve desired, while we ignore the truth that He has already cured for us our terminal sickness of sin by His death on the cross.
Perhaps we’ve begged our King for more earthly wealth, while we ignore the truth that He has already given us the unlimited, priceless spiritual riches of forgiveness and a clean conscience, faith, and fellowship with other Christians.
Perhaps we’ve been longing for more earthly glory, prestige, or popularity from our King, while we ignore the truth that He has given us the very awesome distinction of being children of God Almighty and has laid up for us the unimaginable glory of heaven for all eternity!
Isn’t that the kingdom we truly want? Isn’t Jesus the King we need? Isn’t He the King we want to serve; the One who so willingly served us and sacrificed Himself for us? Yes! The world may not put much value on the truth or the Truth of Jesus Christ. When the world scoffs at us and asks us, “This is your King?” tell them the truth: Jesus is my King—the King of Truth! He is “the Way, the Truth and the life” (John 14:6). 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.