Last Sunday after Pentecost - Christ the King Sunday
November 26, 2006
The Gospel: John 18:33-37
Sermon: "The King of Kings"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
The King of Kings
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King Sunday -November 26, 2006
As a general rule we don't like the idea of monarchs in this country. We know the history of various monarchs in the history of the world. Most of these histories leave a bad taste in our mouths. For example we know the story of Marie Antoinette. She was the queen of France married to Louis XVI. Legend has it there was a bread shortage in France and the poor had no bread to eat. When she was made aware of their plight she supposedly said, "Let them eat cake." Today, there is doubt as to whether she actually said those words. However, in her day those supposed words along with other actions or inactions cost her, her life.
Of course, we all know the story of King George III of England. He was the king when America gained its independence. One of the mottos of the day was, "No taxation without representation." Who could love a king who was taxing his subjects around the world to death?
Finally, we have all seen pictures of the recent ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. While some claim he was a president he certainly acted like a king, a despot. We all saw the pictures years ago of the gassing of his own people. It is this event, along with others, for which he is being tried of crimes against humanity.
With such an array of examples before us, is it any wonder that we have a dislike for monarchies in general? Our own church has a disliking for the idea of kingship. Prior to our own revolution in 1776, we prayed every Sunday for the king of England. It was a prayer in the Morning Prayer office of the 1662 prayer book. After the revolution the prayer was revised in 1789. One of the first revisions was to remove that prayer completely. The idea of kings ruling our thoughts and actions is not something we warm up to easily.
Yet, today is Christ the King Sunday. We acknowledge our loyalty to the King of kings and Lord of lords. We recognize that Jesus is King. How do we feel about admitting that Jesus is our King? Before we answer that question let's see how a few others responded to that question.
In the lesson, Jesus is standing before Pilate. Jesus was not arrested by the Romans for proclaiming himself a king. Jesus was brought to Pilate by the religious and political leaders of his own people. The members of the Sanhedrin, Pharisees and Sadducees, brought him to Pilate. They believed he was committing blasphemy. They believed he was placing himself in some exalted relationship with God, Yahweh. If Jesus is right, then their days of being in control or power would be over. They were not willing to believe that he could be over them in some way. So, they take him to Pilate. In front of Pilate, they do not accuse him of blasphemy. After all why would Pilate care about a Jewish man blaspheming a God in which Pilate did not believe personally? So, they accused Jesus of sedition. They accused him of trying to be a king before Caesar. Now, Pilate has to question Jesus. In the end, he doesn't believe Jesus is a king either.
After all Jesus doesn't have an army. He doesn't dress like royalty. He doesn't sound like royalty. He doesn't act like royalty. Jesus has twelve close disciples with him. That is hardly an army. There are no fancy robes of purple or red colors. There is no silk on his person. He is dressed simply in clothes his mother probably made for him. They are the clothes a carpenter would wear. When he speaks, he talks about a coming kingdom of God. He encourages people to give up their possessions and follow him. He doesn't ask people to give him those possessions. He tells them to give it all to the poor. Instead of blessing the rich and the mighty, Jesus blesses the poor, the merciful, the peacemakers, and those who suffer for God. What strange words for a king? Finally, Jesus doesn't stay away from the sinners and the sick. He doesn't believe they can contaminate him or make God turn against him. Instead, Jesus has dinner with them. He goes with sinners to their homes and as a result their lives are changed. He goes to the places where the sick can be found. He rubs mud on their eyes and they can see. He puts spit on their tongues and they can speak. He tells the leper with his own words that they are clean and they are clean. He calls out to the dead and they come back to life. He really doesn't act much like a king, or does he?
It is difficult to follow a king that is a despot and is cruel and out only for themselves. We know how to act to that kind of king. We overthrow them. We kill them or we put them away forever. It appears sometimes it is more difficult to follow a king who is a servant. We know how to treat despots. What do we do with a king who is willing to heal the sick, to offer hope to the poor and the oppressed, to offer life where there once was death?
There are three ways we can respond. We can put him away as a maniac. He must be out of his mind. No king in his right mind would offer these things. Therefore, he must be crazy. So, we can wrap in a long armed coat and place him where he can not harm himself or others. We can kill him. He is just a despot in disguise. His true colors would come out in the end. He is no different than the others. It is better to get rid of him now. Our final option is that we can fall on our knees and worship him. We can admit that his words and actions defy human convention. They are the ancient teachings and actions of the God who loves us and cares for us with great compassion.
These are the three options before us. Today, we have to ask ourselves the hard question, "How will we respond?" Will we lock him up as a madman, or kill him as the most dangerous man alive? Will we bow humbly before him and accept him as our Lord and Savior, our God and our king?
It truly is amazing we know how to respond to the kings of the world, the ones who hurt and take from their own people. We don't know how to respond to the one king who offers us compassion, care, love, and hope. We don't know how to respond to the one who gives us life. I pray God will help us and lead us to the decision that offers us all life everlasting.