Sermon by Elder Larry Plank
Jeremiah 23:1-6 Luke 23:33-43
Prayer….O, Lord our God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
Today we close out the liturgical year by celebrating “Christ the King Sunday.” The crowd that has gathered at Jesus’ crucifixion looked on with dismay as they read the sign on the cross, ”This is the King of the Jews.” So what went wrong? They had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. He would sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem and cleanse Israel of the Roman invaders. The sign is just a reminder to the people what happens to those who pose a threat to Rome. They will be brutally executed.
As Jesus is dying on the cross he prays for his executioners then the religious leaders begin to taunt him, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one.” This reminds us of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Satan tries to get Jesus to prove he is God’s Son, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread. If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written.” But Jesus does not take Satan’s bait, he will not do Satan’s will; he only does the will of his Father.
The soldiers that crucify Jesus also taunt him, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself?” One of the criminals being crucified taunts Jesus, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But there are two people at Jesus’ death who got it right. The second criminal and the centurion, both recognize Jesus’ true kingship. The second criminal requests for Jesus to remember him in his kingdom, and the centurion states at Jesus death, “truly this man was God’s Son.”
So the question today is who is the King of our lives? Is it a king that liberates by power and might (armies), a king that sits on a throne and puts his enemies under his footstool? This is a secular king and his kingdom is ruled by force. Israel was not looking for a Messiah that Jesus represented. A suffering Messiah, a Messiah who rules the heart. Isaiah described this suffering in Isaiah 53:3-5 stating, “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity…surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases…he was wounded for our transgressions.” The people and the religious leaders missed this, their thoughts were secular – that of a Messiah who would liberate by force.
The Old Testament particularly pictures a King who would come from the lineage of David and be a Shepherd King similar to David. Our text from Jeremiah today predicts this king and how he will rule. Chapter 23, verse 5 states, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land….And he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’.” Jesus Christ is and was the only righteous person to live and Jesus fulfilled this prophetic prediction. Jesus himself pictured himself as the good shepherd. He would go out and seek the lost sheep and return them to his fold.
If Jesus then was the Shepherd King I think we should look at exactly what this represents. What qualities does a shepherd represent? A shepherd looks out for the best interest of his flock. He will lead it to green pastures, not a dry and barren hillside and will protect it at any cost, even if it means putting his life in danger. He is willing to die to save his flock. Jesus states that the good Shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the flock. This is very true in the case of Jesus as the Messiah. He was willing to lay down his life for humanity. He gave his life so we may live. Why would the good Shepherd be willing to lay down his life for us? It is because of God’s unconditional love. God loved the world so much he sent his one and only (unique) Son to die for the sins of humanity.
Can you believe it? The King we serve is willing to go to any extreme to reveal his love to the world. The love of the King we serve is scandalous according to Brother Mark’s thinking. It is scandalous to think a King loves us so much he was willing to give up all the glories of heaven and be born a helpless, defenseless human baby. But this is what Jesus Christ did. If you would like to read about Jesus being born in human form read Philippians 2:5-11, it’s a great read. Jesus’ scandalous love is like a father seeing his wayward son who drew his inheritance early and blows it in a foreign land and on returning runs to meet him, welcoming him home. In this day and culture an adult male would never run…it would be humiliating. And in a culture of shame/honor it wouldn’t be done. Not only does the father run to meet him, he calls his servants to go and bring the best robe for him and to bring the signet ring. Understanding in this day this is his robe. He was head of the clan and had the best robe. The robe is a sign of his father’s approval of him returning and the signet ring gave him identity back with his community. Can you believe it; our King puts the best robe on us. What does this robe look like? This robe is the robe of righteousness. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. According to Brother Paul in writing to the Romans in Romans Chapter 3, verse 21 states “But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” According to the Westminster Confession, Christ’s righteousness is imputed (placed) upon us. We are clothed in righteousness, so when God looks at us he sees not a sinful person but a perfect person clothed in righteousness.
So who is our King? Is it a king who rules by might, and looks out for his own best interest? Or is your King the Shepherd King, who is willing to lay down his life for us. Is it the one Isaiah calls (Chapter 9, verse 8) “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:8)?” The one who rules from the heart and loves you so much he is willing to go to any extreme to comfort, protect, rescue, and offer life everlasting with him in heaven. To me it’s a no brainer! My King is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the creator of all that is and the sustainer of life.
This King did something greater than overthrowing the Romans; He would deal fully and finally with more ancient enemies; the ones that have lurked and prowled and devoured since the Garden of Eden- -the enemies of sin and death.
Jesus Christ did indeed defeat our greatest enemies, not principalities, nations and the like – but Jesus defeated sin and death forever.
Thanks be to God.