Sermon Text: Luke 23:35-43
November 24, 2013
In the Name of Jesus! AMEN!
“. . . And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” With these words the Angel proclaimed to the blessed virgin the glories of the Son she is to bear. But today He appears to be defeated. Today, the one called Jesus, appears to be no king, no messiah, no savior. He cannot even save Himself. Certainly if He were the king of the Jews He would at least be able to save Himself! But the child of Mary cannot, or rather will not save Himself.
Today, not only does our Lord appear doomed, destined for suffering and death, but so also His Church. We who would lay claim to Him as Lord and Savior, must wrestle within ourselves the competing theologies of glory and cross, of majesty and peasantry, of royalty and poverty, of power and weakness, of pride and humility, of works righteousness and faith alone.
Today we hear the question asked, “If you are the King of the Jews . . .” or, If you are the Christ the chosen of God . . .” Questions asked in unbelief and rejection of a King who would give His life for the ransom of many.
Beholding our text I ask you, Where’s your King now? Is he standing afar off in Jerusalem awaiting the breaking of these men’s legs? Is he or she standing at the foot of the cross watching or sitting in the back pew listening? Or is He one of the men hanging upon the tree? We have a sure word from God today, this last Sunday in the Church, also know as Christ the King, Sunday”
A. The People stood looking on
It is the because of the folly of the cross that so many stumble and fall, so many fail to see, so many fail to hear. Who would want such a king? Certainly not these who stand beneath the cross looking on. Their unbelieving heart clangs with words of mockery. “We have no king but Caesar!” they shouted to Pilate. In other words, “we will not have this man as king. This man suffers and dies. This man is weak. This man is foolish! This man cannot even save Himself. How shall He then save us? He is no Caesar! He is no Alexander! He is no Solomon or David! He has no armies! He’s slain neither thousands nor ten thousands. No! We will not have this man as King! Crucify Him!”
Do we not find the same attitudes within our world today as Christ is mocked throughout the world by those whose King conquers rather than suffers. The Pope, the Jews, all of Islam and whatever religion you can think of all would have Jesus be their kind of king, the kind He has not come to be, or no King at all! They and their followers want Jesus clothed in the Imperial standards reigning on High with power and might, or they want Him dead and buried. With those of our Lord’s day, they stand looking on, unwilling to hear, unwilling to see, unwilling to believe in a crucified King.
B. If you are the King
This theology of glory is not limited to those outside of Christianity or of Heterodox denominations, but it is part of humanity’s sinful nature; a part which the cross attacks and seeks to put to death. You see, we also, would like to have a king who is more “kingly.” We would like to have a king who doesn’t suffer. Therefore we try to protect our king from suffering so that we can justify our avoiding suffering. Our heart echoes that of the wicked thief saying, “If you are the king of the Jews save yourself and us.” Its the “and us” that our sinful nature is really concerned about.
We never seem to get over ourselves do we? Looking out for number one we strive to do what’s best for us first, then maybe our spouse, then our children, then our parents, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances, and maybe somewhere down the line some one we don’t really like. For the most part that is the order in which our sinful nature serves. But no matter what order, “Me, myself and I” always come first. And if I come first, then I make myself to be King. If I am king then I don’t have to suffer with Christ! I don’t have to sacrifice for my neighbor! I don’t have to love and serve my fellow man, least of all my enemies!
If I am king and Christ is not, then I can choose to avoid suffering at all costs. If the wife and kids cause me trouble I can leave. If my boss is overbearing and dictatorial, I can quit. If my school teacher is a real jerk I can ignore my homework. If I become pregnant I can choose an abortion. If the doctor gives me bad news I can find another doctor. If I don’t like this church, I can shop for one which suits me better.
And then the words put to Jesus are easily turned on us. “If you are the King, then save yourself.” The truth is, Beloved, such a king cannot save you. So long as you cleave to the strength and merits of yourself, no matter how much you love others, no matter how good you are to your neighbor, no matter how faithful you were to one or more of your spouses, no matter how much you try to avoid suffering in this life, without Christ crucified as your king you will die in hell and you will suffer eternally.
C. This is the King of the Jews!
That is the purpose of our text this morning. Your eyes are to be opened, your ears unplugged as you see and hear of a King who does not seek to save Himself, who does not avoid suffering, who does not use might to make right. Instead, all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your soul, and all of your mind ought to be drawn to this one sentence hanging over the man in the middle written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
These words tell you of a king whose love for you is greater than love for Himself, whose love for you is greater than your sins, whose love for you is greater than suffering and death! Here on the cross the King assumes the throne of His father David as He reigns over all creation. In Him is put to death all sin: all greed, all anger, all lusts, all weakness, all false ambition, all arrogance, pride, self righteousness, works righteousness, worldly majesty, earthly pomp, devilish securities, all death of all people now and forever more!
It is as though God Himself through those words were answering the world and even my sinful nature saying: “Dear child forsake those kings who rule you with an iron fist, who render you hopeless and full of despair. Behold the This King of the Jews. He, and He alone, though hidden under flesh and blood, though covered with sin and death, is truly my Son, is truly your brother, is truly Savior and Messiah of the world. In Him you find a gracious King, a tender Shepherd, a kind and merciful Lord. He and His suffering and death are for you and your salvation. Therefore cast down your pride and lift up your eyes. Remove from your heart the rags of unbelief and be clothed with the garment of salvation by grace through faith. THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS! He does save others! He will save you!”
B’. Lord, remember Me when You come into Your Kingdom
And so, with the faithful thief we ought to confess that we indeed “suffer justly the due reward of our deeds.” If we are to be embraced by a suffering king, we ought not be afraid to suffer with Him. Though He is innocent, has done nothing wrong. We are quite the opposite. Our sins condemn us. Our struggle with unbelief, worldly glory, works righteousness, self love etc. all tear at our hearts and strive to pull us away from the cross, to avoid the cross. However, we Christians are to recognize that in the Kingdom of God “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out upon us.”
The faithful thief believed praying; “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom” He believed and called upon the name of the Lord, trusting that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. He did not seek to avoid this suffering Christ. He did not petition Him to be delivered from the cross he bears, but rather confident of this Man’s kingly stature he refused to stumble on account of the cross. He gladly and willingly confessed Christ as King hoping in his own deliverance. He got it!
A’. Today You will be with Me in Paradise!
The thief got it, and he serves as a wonderful example for us. He got it! and He got it today, Jesus says. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” What great and comforting words spoken to a man who today is being put to death on account of sin. Today! He is delivered from those sins. And today you also are delivered from your sins, if by faith you call upon this crucified King. For He is a Savior bent on saving today. Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as did your forefathers in the wilderness. Rather, with eyes that see, and ears that hear receive your king by faith and faith alone. The thief could do nothing for His salvation and neither can you. The cross prevents it. The cross crucifies it! Thus for you Christ is King as He suffers and dies on the cross. Christ is King as He pleads before the Father for your forgiveness. Christ is King as in holy baptism He unites you to His death, gives you His cross, clothes you with His righteousness, and certainly also raises you to newness of life with His resurrection.
For the Christian every day lived in baptism is a day lived in the Cross of Christ, a day lived in the resurrection, a day lived in the midst of suffering and death, a day lived in the salvation of our God. Today, Jesus says, “you will be with me in paradise.” Truly, wherever Christ is, even on the cross, even in my own death, there is paradise! For He is my King!
Beloved, where is your king now? Today, Christ is with you, not so that you may stand afar off longing for a king to conquer as did the people then and those of unbelief now. Rather He is with you, that you may be drawn near to Him as He is lifted up on your behalf. Truly He does not avoid suffering and death to save Himself, rather He enters into suffering and death to save you eternally. God grant that Christ your King rules your hearts and your lives by the power of His cross! God grant this to you and to me, Today. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!