i preached at St John’s on Sunday about Jesus as king.
The passage was Luke 23.33-43 – Jesus on the cross.
It was Christ the King Sunday in the Anglican church, also known as The Feats of our Lord Jesus Christ the King. So i decided to look at Jesus as King.
The feast was initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and was connected to an increasing denial of Christ as King as well as the rise of secularism in Europe. A time when many Christians were beginning to doubt Christ’s authority and existence as well as the churches power to continue Christ’s authority. And a time when respect for Christ and the church was waning, when the feast was needed the most.
Although in 2016 it doesn’t seem like we’re too far away from some of those things.
THE SCENE IS SET
You have this picture of Jesus on the cross which i used as the backdrop for the message. The fact that He has been afflicted in a number of different ways:
PHYSICALLY – Flogged, spat upon, mocked, forced to carry His own cross
EMOTIONALLY – betrayed, denied, sentenced to death [with the very crowd following Him and hanging on His every word now calling for His head and choosing a convicted felon to be released instead of Him]
SPIRITUALLY – we are heading to the moment where Jesus cries out: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
And even the pitiful idea [from a human perspective of what manliness is all about] of Jesus not being able to carry His own cross – how weak, how pitiful – not like the Bravehearts and Gladiators and John Mcleane’s we are used to…
HOW’D YOU BECOME KING?
This all reminds me of one of my favourite scenes from Monty Python’s ‘Quest for the Holy Grail’ movie.
This scene sees King Arthur coming across some peasants and ending up having a political conversation about his kingship:
For those of you who can’t watch the clip, this part in particular:
Arthur: I am your king!
Peasant: Well I didn’t vote for you.
Arthur: You don’t vote for kings.
Peasant: Well, ‘ow did you become king then?
Arthur: The lady of the lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is what I am your king!
Peasant: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony…
And so on.
The thing about Jesus is this: If He looks and sounds like God, maybe He is God.
So we catch sight of Him on the cross, bruised, broken, battered, life slipping away and yet we hear Him speak:
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And then a little later in a more personal one on one moment:
“I tell you the truth, today you will be in Paradise with Me.”
IF HE LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE GOD, MAYBE HE IS GOD
The converse of this statement would be something like:
If it doesn’t look or sound like Jesus is King… maybe He’s not King!
In Shane Claiborne’s book ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ he conducts a survey with people who claim to be strong followers of Jesus, with these results:
“I asked participants who claimed to be “strong followers of Jesus” whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time wit the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”
In Luke 9.23 we read: “Then He [Jesus] said to them all, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
‘We can admire and worship Jesus… without doing what He did.’
‘We can applaud what He preached and stood for… without caring about the same things.’
‘We can adore His cross… without taking up ours.’
The biggest problem with statements like these is that they describe a Jesus WHO IS NOT KING!
As we head to the end of the year, it becomes a good time to stock take – tbV and i like to head out to a restaurant or coffee shop with a bunch of pieces of paper and look back at the year and evaluate:
How did we do with our money? Where are areas where it looks like Jesus was king? Where are some areas where we spent our money in a way that didn’t suggest that?
How did we spend our time?
What things did we give energy to?
Who are the people who brought us life? What people did we bring life to? Who are we mentoring or walking alongsides? What younger couples are we mentoring in their marriages?
If Jesus is king then we will start to be moved by the things that move Him. So while we are justifying million pound salaries for sports stars, entertainers, business leaders or politicians, there are 2.5 billion people without access to decent sanitation in the world… if we can say with belief that the people with the big piles of money deserve that, can we say that those with no sanitation are equally deserving? What does it look like when Jesus is King of our mindsets?
My friend Mugabe [no relation] used to say this:
If Jesus is sitting on the throne of your life, then you have to be on the cross.
But if you are on the throne of your life, then it’s as if you have put Jesus back on the cross.
i finished off by praying a prayer which i started by saying: Let’s celebrate Christ the King Sunday by reflecting on our lives and the space that Jesus inhabits in them.
If it looks and sounds like Jesus is not King, then perhaps He is not.