King of Kings: Our King

reign

The Pas Christ the King / Reign of Christ
Year B
25 November 2018

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-19
Revelation 1:4-8
John 18:33-37

You who are,
who were,
who are to come,
before whose judgement
all that is not love fades away:
save us from the violence
that seeks to claim our hearts,
so that we may hear a different voice
and belong to you in truth;
through Jesus Christ, the wounded king of all. Amen.
__________________________________

“33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”” (Jn 18:33)

Now, we who hear this text read at least two to three times per year know, from this context what is happening. What’s taking place, in the passage.

We can see in our minds eye a bound and beaten Jesus. There’s blood on his face, bruises coming up beautifully purple on face, arms, legs. His clothing is torn, and he’s in chains. He’s been up all night being ‘examined,’ and the dark circles under his eyes aren’t all bruises from the beating.

Can you see him? This is our king, taking our punishment, dying for our sins.

Yet, he is considered a threat to the Jewish temple authorities. He’s considered a problem to their neatly ordered society that tells them how many of which animal to sacrifice, accompanied by specified amounts of oil and grain to achieve what amount of forgiveness, or atonement, what is appropriate for thanksgiving or benediction in our lives.

And so we find ourselves, just after sunrise, in the palace of Pontius Pilate, and he’s been handed the expectation of the Temple Authorities that Jesus is to be condemned to death for claiming to be a king, over and above any role of leadership provided by Rome.

And this brings to mind, for me, that we don’t really know what to do with kings, these days.

We don’t really know what a king looks like, or acts like. How will a king lead us?

After all, we live in a democratic society where we elect our representatives to government. We place our trust in them, that they’ll provide leadership that will see us into the next few years supported and provided with opportunities to improve the regions in which we live.

So, what is a king?

Now if we look at the other readings assigned for today, we see the dying remarks of King David, who has ruled Israel for over 40 years, and did his apprenticeship under Saul, the first king of the Jews.

So, how does Jesus differ from them?

The Jews asked for a king to make their nation like the others around them. Sort of a ‘grass is greener’ situation, in their minds. Perhaps they thought they were being laughed at by their neighbour states because they were led by prophets, and by judges, and by God, directly though those prophets and judges.

And on such a train of thought, perhaps the role of Deborah, the most famous of those judges might be the one to have the macho neighbours laughing behind the back of the Jewish people.

A woman! Can you imagine it? God appointed a woman to lead, to direct troops, to win battles!

So, they asked for a king. They wanted to be like their neighbours, keeping faith, religion, and its influence far from the role of national leadership.

But that was long ago, now. Since then, they have been a conquered people. They’ve experienced division within the nation. They’ve experienced exile, and domination by more powerful neighbours, until we reach the situation we see today where Israel is a nation state under the Roman empire. They’re a conquered people. They’re struggling to maintain national identity as a nation under a governing leadership that doesn’t understand their faith, their way of doing things, their ideas of Sabbath, or the fact that they acknowledge only one ruler – God.

So, here we are. Moreover, the Jewish temple authorities have bestowed the accusation of ‘king’ so that it would catch Pilate’s attention, and action to defend Rome’s position over the conquered nation of Israel.

In Jesus actions, they find a problem. He’s leading the people to believe that all they have to do to earn the love of God is to love each other, to be kind to each other, to do for others as they would have done for themselves.

Heck, he summarized the laws, not expanded and expounded upon them!

He invited all to call Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, the God of gods “Father”, for crying out loud!

He is a threat to what they’re trying to hold together under the dominance of the Roman authorities, and he’s doing it with love!

So, from our perspective, what does a king mean for us? Do for us?

Really, what is a king?

On the stages of world politics, the roles of sovereign leaders, kings, queens, is diminishing in favour of elected leaders.

But at the same time we acclaim ourselves a Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, who today stands before Pilate being questioned because his methods of teaching us of God’s love have left others with night sweats, and concerns of rebellions on their doorstep.

“Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.” (Jn 18:35b-36)

For each of us, the king is the one who lays down his life for his people.

The king is the one who leads and sets the example of leadership that we see in the world around us, that we are to emulate for others.

The king is the one who loves all of his people equally, no matter who they are, or what their history.

And all of this is a blessing to each one of us. It’s a promise that through Christ, our King, through the promises made, the teachings taught that we can emulate him, even to death on the cross, should that be our end.

But with God, with Christ we see this go one step further, because his reign doesn’t end on the cross, rather it carries on before the throne of God.

Jesus opens, for each one of us, the ability to stand before the throne of God, fully forgiven, fully restored to the creations that God envisioned from the creation of the world.

Freed from the burden of sin, freed from the need to offer sacrifice, or to earn our placement in God’s, in Christ’s kingdom.

So, today we see Christ bloody and bound, bruised and in pain standing before Pilate, being questioned because Pilate needs to understand what bowing to the demands of the Temple Authorities will cost him, in his ability to govern Israel for Rome.

“37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”” (Jn 18:37)

But Jesus kingship is so much different than David’s.

David is able to die in his own bed. And we can see David’s deathbed remarks. Jesus however, convinces Pilate that he is indeed innocent, that he is indeed the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

He is the one to break the bonds of sin and death, not for his own sake, but for all who believe.

Jesus testifies to the truth.

He testifies to what our hearts long to hear, and to receive, to share, and to make known amongst all the world – that God loves us more than we can envision, than we can ask or imagine.

Our gospel today begins with Pilate asking ““Are you the king of the Jews?” (vs 33b) and the answer is so much greater. The answer is the truth that Jesus has been teaching amongst the Hebrew people for the last three years, but at the same time, he’s been teaching us for the whole of our lives: to love as we are loved by God.

We know this text. We know this situation. We know where it leads, and what the price for our freedom is, in God’s eyes.

At the same time, it’s only when we hear the truth that Jesus proclaims, that truth to which he testifies, that we are able to consider him to be our king.

But that truth rings in our hearts, and in our minds. That truth is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbour as we love our selves. And we are able to do this because we are equally loved by our neighbour, because we are loved by God who sent Jesus to this passage, this position, this state.

In the garden of Gethsemane, before he was arrested, Jesus prayed.

Knowing that this was to come, he prayed that God take this chalice from him, but not what he wants, but what God needs is the true prayer. That Jesus have the strength to bear up under the ‘interrogation’, that he have the strength to fulfill God’s needs to be closer to each one of us, and an active part of our lives. (Lk 22:22:39-44)

Jesus is the king of all who believe that he laid down his life so that we might live. That, after three days, he was able to take it up again, and in doing so accomplishes so much more than we can ask or imagine.

In answer to Pilates question, we can say that he is our king. He is “I AM.” (Ex 3:14)

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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