Christ the King Sunday
The prayer of the church throughout the ages has been “Come quickly Lord Jesus.” Today we join them and say, “Amen. Come quickly Lord Jesus.” In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, what is truth? What is something you can trust and rely on and put your faith in as something that is unmovable, unchangeable, can’t be proved wrong, and is true no matter what? What is truth? That’s the question Pilate responded to Jesus. That question is still very much alive today too, isn’t it? What is truth? So many ideas in life change, don’t they? I mean, did you know that warts are not caused by touching a toad or another kind of animal, it doesn’t take 7 years to digest a swallowed piece of gum, and it doesn’t help cure an infection or disease to bleed someone or draw their blood, I’ve heard of one medical professor who began every class period with these words: “Here are the lies which I am going to teach you today.” Human ideas change, don’t they? So, is there anything that is true that you can count on no matter what? What about with respect to God and His Word? Today is Christ the King Sunday. We celebrate Jesus being the only and ultimate King of all things. But… is it true?
Ever since the fall into sin, the devil and all his cohorts have been unsuccessfully trying to lead the whole world astray. He uses many different tactics in order to do so: sometimes he will use seductive temptations to sin in order to destroy someone’s faith, sometimes he’ll use deceitful errors and false teachings to infiltrate the Church and lead people away from Christ and to doubt His all-sufficient sacrifice for sins, and sometimes he’ll use intense persecutions to cause God’s people to suffer and to doubt God’s divine care, protection, and salvation of His people. It was true in apostle John’s day, God inspired him to write Revelation, it has been true throughout all history up to today, and it will continue to be true until the Last Day when Jesus returns.
When John first recorded Revelation it was likely during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Persecutions against Christians were increasing. Remember at this time the Church was a very small flock, numbering far less than our Wisconsin Synod. Roman authorities were beginning to enforce the cult of emperor worship and Christians were facing increasing hostility. If you were a Christian at this time you could expect to be cast into prison, we’re told that a Christian by the name of Antipas had recently suffered a martyr’s death, you could also expect to be beheaded for your faith in Christ, to be tossed to lions, and finally the apostle John himself had been exiled to the island of Patmos because of the Word of God and telling people about Jesus. It would have been easy for those Christians to wonder whether or not Christ really is King or not.
So the whole letter of Revelation was written to give encouragement to Christians facing trials and tribulations. The Church will never be free from bearing the cross, but no matter what happens, finally the gates of hell won’t be able to prevail against it, all of the evil God’s enemies try to level against Christ and His Church, in the end Christ and His Church will stand victorious above them all. No matter how bad it gets, in the end Jesus and His Church win. Period. It’s been said that the entire book of Revelation is a commentary on these words of Jesus: “The gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it.”
In order to properly understand the book of Revelation one has to know his/her bible well. Much of the imagery, the references, the content all relate to other portions of Scripture. “Grace and peace to you.” Grace, that completely undeserved love of our God that summarizes all the gifts that God has to give us. Peace is the result of having and enjoying God’s grace. Peace with God, peace for our consciences, peace for our hearts and souls. It’s this true peace that fills us no matter what troubling circumstances might be going on around us, we are safe in God’s arms.
And this greeting sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s exactly how the apostle Paul began all of his letters: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. But here, we have something slightly different. Grace and peace “from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Who is this? This is the same God the Father who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush calling Himself, “I AM THAT I AM.” God the Father is absolutely eternal and unchangeable. Next “and from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne.” Who is this? We know the Holy Spirit, but why “7”? Well, 7 is the number of completeness, of perfection. This also takes us back to the book of Isaiah 11 where Isaiah prophecies about the Savior and says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” How many? 7. And finally, “from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth.” God the Son who as our prophet faithfully witnessed to the truth by spreading the Gospel during His earthly ministry and still does so through His messengers today, who as our Priest laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins and then took it up again, and finally as our King rules over every power and authority for the good of His people. Wow! Grace and peace comes to us from that Triune God!
And what do kings do? People in power show it and use it, right? When royalty comes to a city there’s a big fanfare and parade. When the president is sworn into office there’s a big festival and ceremony. When the prince of England was married it was broadcast internationally. But what about Christ the King? What did He do to show His glory? “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father- to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” What did Jesus do? He did what a King is supposed to do. He went into battle. He went into the greatest battle of all time with sin, death, and the devil. And did so on the cross and He won! And the result? Right now He loves us, we are freed, we are a kingdom, we are priests!
Let’s stop there for a second. Here God assures us that we have grace and peace from THE Triune God, the eternal Father, the sevenfold Spirit, and Jesus Christ – resurrected from the dead and ruler of all. Not only that but He loves us and has all glory and power and has made us part of His kingdom, sons and daughters of the King! Wow!!
But…is it true? Or is this just another one of those things that can be disproved? I mean, if we are sons and daughters of the King, then we should be treated with royalty, right? We should have whatever we want, when we want, free of trouble, pain, sorrow, danger, disaster. Right? But the problem is we focus so much on earthly things. We want glory now. We want great things now. We don’t want suffering, we don’t want struggles, we don’t want persecution. So, when we don’t get what we want or things don’t turn out the way that we want, we’re filled with worry and wonder. And the devil is right there whispering in our ears, “SEE! Maybe Jesus isn’t in control, maybe He isn’t the all-powerful, almighty ruler of the kings of the earth!” Then he’ll try to focus our attention on all the garbage that we see in the world around us: riots, protests, uprisings, wars, terrorism, injustice, financial trouble, etc, etc. So, is Christ really King? Or not?
But God’s ways are so much different than our ways or the ways of this sinful world. His ways are ways our sinful world could never have dreamt of. God’s kingdom operates totally different and separate from the kingdoms of this world. Our world’s idea of a great kingdom includes power and pomp, thriving economy, materially prosperous. But in God’s kingdom the King was born in a lowly stable, owned no earthly possessions but the clothes on His back, was pierced, suffered, wore a crown of thorns, and reigned from an instrument of torture, the cross, and then rose from the dead. Why? Not for His benefit, but totally for the benefit of sinful people. And His kingdom is spread not with wars or boundaries, but in the hearts of people, not with weapons or ammunition but with the Word and Sacraments and people are led to trust in Jesus their Savior. To all appearances it may seem like not that much. But our King rules with far greater purposes than earthly power and glory, He rules to guide all things in order to bring His people to His eternal kingdom in heaven where they will rule as kings and priests forever. And so often He uses hardship and trouble in our lives to refocus us back on what’s most important: his kingdom. So often He also uses danger and disaster in our world to bring people to their knees in repentance that they might turn to Him their Savior and live.
And in the end? “Look, he is coming in the clouds.” Finally on the Last Day everyone is going to see Him, even those who rejected Him and everyone acknowledge whether in joy or mourning that He really is the King. Jesus is the beginning and the end, eternal, and almighty. On that Last Day our faith in Christ will be made sight as everyone acknowledges to their joy or sorrow that Jesus really is King. Right now we live by faith in God’s sure promises and trust that Christ rules all things for the good of His church. And knowing this helps us in 3 ways:
- It tells us what life is all about. Life isn’t all about the foolish, little humans who strut along their moment in history thinking everything is about them. It’s not. Life also isn’t all about me and me making my paradise here on this earth. It’s not. Life IS all about Christ. About me being brought into His kingdom through Word and Sacrament. It’s about worshipping and serving Him in my life as my King. And that gives true purpose and focus to our lives.
- Second, since Christ is King I live in confidence. There’s no need for me to worry about the future, God remains in control. There’s no need for me to fret and worry myself about the injustices of this life, or the injustices done to me, because in the end Christ the King will have the final say and settle all accounts.
- Third, in the end Jesus wins. All Jesus’ enemies, be it false teachers, be it those who hate His people, governments and rulers opposed to Christ, the devil and all his evil angels, all these enemies will come, but Christ and His Church will prevail against them all. Jesus promises it. Jesus wins.
With so much change in the world, with so many new ideas floating around, with so much trouble and disaster and danger in the world, there is one thing you can always count on, no matter what, Christ is your King and He reigns forever with his almighty power and His infinite love… always. Amen.