Christ the King Sunday November 7, 2021
Worship Supplement 2000: #701 (TLH alt. #162), 160, 657, 262
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
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.” (NKJV)
In the name of Jesus Christ who instructs us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom God,” dear fellow redeemed;
In the Old Testament Scriptures, it had been foretold that a Messiah would be sent to this earth to establish the kingdom of God. Prophecies concerning this kingdom reveal that it would be reigned in perfect righteousness, justice and equity. The dominion of the kingdom of God would encompass people of every race and nation. Subjects in this kingdom would lead godly lives and experience a life of peace and joy. And this kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom which no enemy could prevail against or overthrow.
Given the current conditions in the world about us, the description of this special kind of kingdom sounds very inviting. For in these present times, we find many ruling forces that are not so righteous or just, and vast numbers of people who are not living godly and upright lives. Considering those Old Testament prophecies that foretold the coming of the kingdom of God and what took place in New Testament times, can it be said that this special kingdom has already come and continues to come even in our day?
When Jesus of Nazareth began His ministry in Galilee, He came, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:14-15) Later, when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about His casting out of demons from those who were possessed, He said to them, “if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” (Matthew 12:28-29) With these and other words like them, Jesus was revealing that He was the Messiah and that He had come to establish the kingdom of God.
As Jesus became widely known as a great prophet and miracle worker, large numbers of Jews flocked after Him and hailed Him as the long-awaited Messiah. But there were those who became disillusioned with Jesus and forsook Him when they learned that He had no intention of setting up the kind of messianic kingdom that they had envisioned. For they had hoped that the Messiah would revive the once glorious kingdom of Israel, making it into a military and economic superpower among the nations of the world. They were looking for the creation of a kingdom of this world that would bring temporal peace and prosperity.
Most of the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus and they sought to kill Him, because He was gaining a large following which threatened their position among the Jews. On account of this fear and jealousy of Jesus, they handed Him over to Pontius Pilate in order that Jesus might be put to death. So then, as far as these people were concerned the messianic kingdom of God was not to come through Jesus Christ.
Working under this same misguided assumption, many Jews to this day are still waiting for the coming of the kingdom of God. From time to time they have thought of this or that Jewish leader as the Messiah—only to be disappointed. Some Jews have come to believe that the Jewish State is the fulfillment of the messianic kingdom. Still others believe the Messiah is still to come at some future time.
Did the kingdom of God come through Jesus? Or is it still to come in the future? When Jesus was being questioned by Pontius Pilate about this subject, the Lord Jesus acknowledged that He was indeed a king who had come to build a kingdom. But Jesus said, “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.” Jesus had not come to create a kingdom that held military sway over other nations or to set up a one world government by means of peace treaties. Neither was it His intent to establish a kingdom with a global economy in which material wealth and prosperity was widespread and prevalent. For if this would have been the kind of kingdom He had come to usher in, then His servants, even the mighty hosts of heaven would have prevented His arrest.
Jesus alluded to the true nature of the kingdom of God that He would create when He responded to the Jews’ question of ‘when the kingdom of God would come’ by saying, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20) The kingdom of God was not to be a political rule of nations, places or material things, but rather a gracious rule of the Lord in human hearts. The apostle Paul further differentiates and clarifies the nature of God’s kingdom when he declares, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) When the Lord Jesus comes to live and reign in our hearts by His Spirit, we possess the great blessings of His kingdom, namely righteousness, peace, and joy. Through faith in Jesus, we receive the righteousness of God, which includes being forgiven of all sins and standing approved before God as His holy children; and we have peace with God, being reconciled unto Him through the merits of Jesus and we experience the great joy of eternal salvation.
Jesus tells of another wonderful blessing of His rule in the hearts of Christians when He says, “He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.” (John 15:5) Where Jesus reigns with His word of love there will be people who will bring forth fruits of showing reverence and devotion to God, willing obedience to His commandments and showing love and concern for those around them.
Finally, the fulness of the kingdom of God, which Jesus came to establish, would be realized and experienced when believers would be translated into what is known as the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of glory is the blessed, never-ending existence of a glorified and perfected life in God’s heavenly home which follows this earthly existence.
In order to establish such a kingdom Jesus had to bind up and overpower that strong one known as the devil. In doing so, Jesus would plunder and remove all those who from their birth were being held under his power by reason of their sin. The battlefield where this fight would be fought would not be out on the plains, but on the cross of Calvary. The means of combat was not with the usual military arsenal, but with the shedding of Jesus’ precious blood in payment for the sins of the world. Through this atoning sacrifice sinners could be redeemed unto God and set free from the dominion of their fleshly nature and from the power of the devil.
The Lord Jesus enables and empowers us to enter into and become members of His kingdom through His Word of grace and truth. Jesus pointed to this in His testimony before Pontius Pilate when He spoke of establishing His kingdom, saying, “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 is through that Word of truth that Jesus offers and gives the blessed gift of redemption that He worked out on the cross. And it is through that Word of truth that Jesus would live and reign in our hearts so that we believe in Him and live in His kingdom here on earth as God’s faithful children and finally enter into the eternal kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was near, He came preaching His Word of truth, declaring to sinners, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Herein lies the key to the coming of the kingdom of God into human hearts, as well as the continuance of that kingdom coming to believers. Whichever heart Jesus enters into and reigns there with His grace, mercy, and truth, there will ever be a spirit of repentance—a spirit of mind that renounces and turns away from the ways of the sinful flesh, of the unbelieving world, and of the devil. While the spirit of the believer turns away from these, it then also turns to the gospel of Jesus in faith, laying hold of and embracing God’s gift of mercy, love, forgiveness, and salvation.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus invites us to pray, “Thy kingdom come”. Even as Jesus made it possible for the kingdom of God to come to people in His day, so also He has graciously done the same for us in our day. But as can be seen by the wicked and adulterous conditions in the world about us there are vast numbers of folks who are still outside of the kingdom of God. And Jesus would have us pray for them in order that His saving truths might be extended to them and that the Spirit of God might work mightily in their hearts so that they too might enter into His gracious kingdom and become partakers of its great spiritual and eternal blessings.
Yet not only are we praying for others when we beseech God, saying, “Thy kingdom come,” but we are also praying for ourselves. We are praying that the Lord Jesus continue to rule in our hearts with His Word so that the devil cannot wrest this kingdom away from us, but rather that the Lord grant us increased knowledge, faith, and love. This we want for ourselves and others so that remaining in the faith we might glorify God by leading a godly life and finally by God’s grace enter into the glorified and perfect life of heaven in the world to come.
Praise Jesus that He made it possible for the kingdom of God to come by laying down His life on the cross and by sending His Spirit into the hearts of many to believe in Him. May the Lord enable His wonderful kingdom to continue to come to us and many others in order that God might be glorified through His dear children and that we might be permanent members of His eternal kingdom, for Jesus’ sake. 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.