Pastor Joel Leyrer - Christ the King Sunday - Sunday, November 21, 2021

Text: John 18:33-37

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Dear Friends in Christ, It is an early hour on the first Good Friday, perhaps first light. Jesus had been arrested the night before and subjected to a mock trial convened illegally by Jewish leaders. (According to their own strictly enforced rules, advance notice for such a meeting was required. But when you see your power and influence slipping away, apparently exceptions can be – and were – made.)

Jesus is now brought before the Roman Governor.

This was a grudging, but necessary final step due to the fact the Jewish people were under Roman rule. The leaders explain their position and ask him to legally formalize the death sentence they had already passed on Jesus. The governor’s name is Pontius Pilate.

He’d been around the block with these people many times before. Both parties disliked each other, but they had to coexist. After hearing them, Pilate probably had a pretty good idea that a railroad job was in the works. But he was called upon to govern. And govern he did.

The Jewish leaders had shrewdly concocted about the only charge that would guarantee Pilate’s attention. They accuse Jesus of setting himself up as a rival king to the Roman Emperor. So, he questions Jesus. He asks if he is a king. After a brief exchange, Jesus indicates the answer is “Yes,” but then adds: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In other words, he is a king. Just not the kind Pilate expected. And, we might add, not the kind a lot of other people in this world are looking for. But he’s the kind we need. On this final Sunday of the Church Year let’s personalize the designation and gratefully consider

CHRIST OUR KING

One of the best-known miracles of Jesus was the feeding of the five thousand. Do you remember what happened immediately after that? The Gospel of John tells us: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew to a mountain by himself.”

Everyone with a stomach full of food they hadn’t sown or grown or caught or bought thought this was a pretty good deal. If Jesus could become their permanent bread-king and meet all their earthly needs on demand, well, life would be pretty sweet.

The idea of an on-demand God is indeed very attractive, and to this day that is what many people desire in Jesus. Someone to always give them whatever they want when they want it, and conversely, to always spare them from any unpleasantries.

To be honest, we must caution ourselves from falling into that line of thinking – that membership in the Kingdom of God is kind of like Amazon Prime. You know. We put in our order to God. We pay in the currency of living life as we believe a Christian should. We expect fast delivery of the ordered items. And if one or both are not forthcoming, we feel we’re entitled to be disappointed because we’re not getting the customer service we’re deserving of.

There is only one problem: That is not the Jesus of Scripture. That is a fabricated deity. That’s a “build-a-bear” kind of God people construct according to the way they want him to look.

If there is anything Jesus made abundantly clear throughout his earthly ministry, it is that he’s not that kind of king. That’s precisely what he told Pontius Pilate when he said, “my kingdom is not of this world” and “my kingdom is from another place.”

Christ our King came for a much higher purpose than making life trouble free for his subjects. He serves us in many ways, but his primary and essential purpose was to carry out the meaning of his personal name, Jesus, which means “Savior.” So named, the angel told his foster father Joseph in a pre-Christmas dream, because “He will save his people from their sins.”

And that is exactly what Jesus did. We know how he did it. Pontius Pilate was the second last stop in the drama of our redemption. The last stop was the cross. There, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “God made him who had no sin to be sin (or a sin offering) for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is the Great Exchange. What we should have done – honor God through sinless living – Christ did in our place. The just penalty for sin we should have received – death – Christ suffered for us. And everything Christ our King did is credited to the account of those who embrace him in faith and makes them right with God. Breathtaking.

There’s more. In response to Pilate’s conclusion that Jesus was indeed a king, “Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’”

It was then Pontius Pilate asked his famously cynical question: “What is truth?”

He certainly wasn’t the first to ask this. Philosophers and thinkers routinely mulled it over for hundreds of years before Pontius Pilate arrived on the scene.

It’s still being asked today. Google “what is truth” and you’ll find there are over 12 billion entries devoted to it. It is the never-ending quest for people of any day or any age who take the time to ponder deep thoughts.

What’s the answer? The consensus of both ancient and modern thinkers is that Pilate’s cynicism was justified; that the simple question “what is truth” is just too complex and too elusive to nail down.

However, all who think that are wrong. There is an answer. Jesus Christ provided it for us the day before our text took place. In the upper room with his disciples and in reply to an inquiry about the way to heaven, he said: “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except though me…” Later that night, as a part of what we refer to as his High Priestly prayer, Jesus prays for his followers and asks our Heavenly Father to “sanctify them by the truth; YOUR WORD is truth.”

Put those statements together and this is our conclusion: Jesus Christ is the embodiment of TRUTH. All of God’s Word is the written expression of TRUTH. So, what Christ our King provides us in himself and in his Word is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Do you know what truth does? It liberates. In John chapter 8 this is what Christ our King spoke to those who believed in him: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Again, ours is a King who liberates. From what? First of all, from our sins. Let us make no mistake about it, freedom from (or forgiveness of) sin is mankind’s greatest need. Putting it personally, it is our greatest need.

We live in a world that jettisoned the concept of sin long ago and has made a cottage industry of redefining even the clearest violations of God’s standards into something respectable, even enlightened. That may be, but God in his Word sets the standards. And sin against a holy God is serious business. The Bible tells us just how serious: sin damns.

Practically speaking, this means without forgiveness, nothing else in our lives really matters; with forgiveness, everything else in our lives becomes secondary. Thanks be to God; we have full and free forgiveness of our sins. This basic Gospel truth is the headwater of many other glorious freedoms that branch out of it into our daily lives, such as…

#1 – Freedom from worry and fear of the future. Based purely on the number of times in the Bible God tells his people to “fear not” or “don’t be afraid,” we must be pretty fearful creatures. We find ourselves worrying about our health, our jobs, our relationships, our loved ones.

We worry about the direction of our country and the things that are happening in the world. We worry about our children and grandchildren and pray they will be able to stand firm on the solid foundation of God’s Word in a society that is in a constant state of erosion and an accelerated state of decay when it comes to Christian morals and values.

But the constant reassurance God gives us in his Word – and we could cite several passages at this point – is that he will take care of us in the future just as he has in the past. Because, in the words of the old campfire song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

#2 – Freedom from a meaningless, unfulfilled life. Those who have no spiritual foundation for their lives also have no clue as to why they are here on this earth, or how they got here in the first place. If you think about it (and if they think about it), it must be very unsettling to go through life essentially adrift.

It’s interesting to note that all of the attempts to answer life’s questions without God as the starting point always end up reducing life to a cosmic accident with no real meaning or purpose. Not very empowering, is it? Also, a little bit confusing. Thanksgiving is coming up this week. There is always much talk about blessings. Who do they thank for them?

We are freed from such a pessimistic and confusing outlook. As Christians we know that we are here on this earth at this particular point in time and space because this is what God has planned for us. We also know that our reason for existence is to glorify God in whatever we do and to help spread the Gospel message in whatever ways are open to us.

#3 – Freedom from the fear of death. Christians may not be immune from a natural fear of facing the dying process; nevertheless, it is accurate for Christians to say along with the Apostle Paul, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We know that death is but the door to eternal life. We know where we are going and that “heaven is our home.”

Sadly, in the mind of the unbeliever death is the “grim reaper,” the end of the road. For us, it’s the beginning of a never-ending journey in a place where “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Finally, until the day of our homegoing, we are freed from a false concept of God. Because we understand the Gospel message and that we have been liberated from the onus of a performance-based salvation, we also understand God not as a tyrant or demanding taskmaster, but as a loving Heavenly Father.

Do we mess up? Yes. We still sin. Daily. And sometimes we have to deal with the sad consequences of our sin. But like the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son, God is there for us. Not to humiliate us, but to forgive us.

And all of this is tied up to the person and work of Christ the King. A spiritual King who conquered the enemies of sin and death and leads us, his people, to eternal victory.

A liberating King who provides us not only with freedom from the condemnation of sin, but freedom from worry. Freedom from a meaningless existence. Freedom from the fear of death. Freedom to flourish spiritually under the gracious leadership of Christ the King – Christ our King. Amen.