Pastor Robert Fleischmann - Christ the King Sunday - Sunday, November 20, 2022

Text: Luke 23:35-43

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The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In our first reading, Jeremiah describes a king who is also called a Savior. In our second reading Paul describes this king as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Central to the Christian faith is the idea that this King is so perfect and powerful, that he can do anything. As true man and true God the Apostle Paul writes that he, “…works [all things] for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We hear those words, but they still trouble us. Let me explain:

A few weeks ago, I was asked to spend time with students attending an inner-city Christian academy. They lost a cherished classmate as the victim of a drive-by shooting. They wanted to know why God let it happen.

A few years ago, I visited with a dying WWII veteran who told me the story of being in Germany eating with his Marine buddy. He dropped his fork and when he stooped over to pick it up, a sniper fired a bullet that missed his head and killed his friend. He wanted to know why God let it happen.

About 1:30pm on Friday afternoon in March of 1969 my 38-year-old uncle was spraying asphalt on the roof of the Boston Store building at Southridge when he fell backward through an opening and fell 16’ to his death on the second floor. I was 12-years-old at the time and I wondered why God let it happen.

On a Friday afternoon on a hill outside of Jerusalem people gathered to witness an execution. These executions have been around at least since the time of Queen Esther of the Old Testament. What made this one different was the center attraction – the sign on his cross called him “King of the Jews.” Some were crushed – they thought he was a worldly redeemer. Those who doubted him cried out, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” And in the 9th hour, 3:00pm, the King died on that cross.

Throughout a year of sermons your pastors reminded you that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Scripture leaves no doubt who this Jesus really is. The Apostle Paul said he was, “in very nature, God” (Philippians 2:6). He did inexplicable things like turning water into wine, walking on water, healing the sick and lame, and raising dead people back to life. He did things that no king had done. Yet, with all that power, might, and authority, why did it happen?

For the next few minutes, we will talk about: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS KING and I want to look at four points:

  • Misperceptions about this King
  • The Nature of this King
  • The Faith that Embraces this King
  • The Results we Receive from this King

Misperceptions About this King

When I was a student at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN there was a show on WCCO TV called “Moore on Sunday.” Dave Moore was a newscaster, and he used his show to talk about hot-topic issues of the day.

At that time an effort was underway to get rid of the Blue Law in the Twin Cities. This law prevented restaurants and bars to serve alcohol on Sundays. Dave Moore decided to devote his entire show to a live broadcast Town Hall meeting, where citizens could come and give their opinions on this matter.

A former police officer had become a popular minister who devoted his life to rehabilitating alcoholics, substance abusers, prostitutes, and the homeless. He surprised many in his advocacy to lift this Blue Law. He reasoned that bars and restaurants had a legal responsibility to assure people were not “over-served” and getting drunk. In his judgment the Blue Law that kept bars and restaurants closed on Sundays meant alcoholics would drink in private, get drunk, cause problems like abusing spouses and children, and drive drunk.

One woman in the audience clearly objected and bubbled like a tea kettle of righteous anger. She stepped to the microphone, wagging her finger saying to him, “How can you, a minister of the Gospel, favor such a terrible scourge in our community. Drinking destroys families and it is evil.”

The preacher, in his defense, quickly popped back to the opposing microphone and said, “Ma’am, even Jesus changed water to wine.” To which she fired back, “That is the one thing I don’t like about him!”

Misperceptions about the King are rooted in notions formed by an imperfect consciousness. When Scripture tells us that “every heart has an evil inclination” (Genesis 8:21), “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7), that also describes our consciousness. The Apostle Paul confessed that the good he would do, he didn’t and the evil he would not do he did (Romans 8). Have you encountered times where you wished Jesus had spokem a little more directly, practically, and pertinently to your issue? Untethered by any objective source of authority, we drift and imagine a King different than the one who came.

The Nature of this King

The Apostle Paul described Jesus this way: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6–8) The disciples saw hints of his divinity. They saw the miracles. But what is especially important, is that they heard the message.

Throughout his ministry Jesus talked about a sacrificial mission. Mark wrote: He…began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31) Christ the King was on a mission, characterized by sacrifice and humility. It was a mission that would conclude with his death.

Why did Jesus have to die? The consequence for Adam and Eve’s sin was death. It is the ultimate outcome to sin. Because Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, God used death to deliver the world from sin. Because of the immense value of life, God sacrificed His own son – the King – to pay the full debt of sin. We are told, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This was not a worldly king who sent others in to fight his battle. When they came to arrest Jesus and Peter tried to put a stop to it, Jesus told him: “Put your sword back in its place…Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52–53) This King was on a mission, and he must see it through!

The Faith that Embraces this King

So now we have two criminals hanging in execution on either side of Jesus. What made them different from each other? One mocked and the other accepted his fate and accepted Jesus as the King of Kings that he is. He knew the message Jesus preached. He knew the promises that came with the message. He knew that this was no ordinary man, visibly innocent of any crime, and yet guilty of all crimes for all time. This was the Savior.

It is faith which embraces this King. Upon his resurrection Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) He is talking about faith. Faith is the ability to believe in the unbelievable.

In Hebrews we are told: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Think about that for a moment. Do you see what that is saying? Faith is the most illogical thing in your life, and it is such a challenge to the natural way we think that the moment we encounter resistance and the unexpected we see it as a challenge to our faith.

Perhaps you wonder if you really have faith. Consider this: You never met Jesus. You weren’t at his birth. You never saw his miracles. You did not see the betrayal, the trial, or the brutal nailing of his hands and feet to the cross. You did not see the open tomb or touch the places where the nails pierced his body. Yet on Christmas you sing “Joy to the World” and on Easter you will profess “I know that my Redeemer lives” and in your darkest moments you talk to God in prayer and cry out his name looking for relief. And that is because at some point, you were brought into his family by the washing of regeneration. The seed of faith was planted and nurtured in your heart.

Never doubt that faith God put there. And don’t think faith equals perfect performance. And that brings us to our last point:

The Blessings We Get from this King

The man hanging on the cross to the right of Jesus was getting “what [his] deeds deserved.” His faith in Jesus as his King and Savior did not always shine in his life like it should. He did not land on that cross because he was a Christian. He was on that cross for the unchristian things he had done that violated the mandates of Scripture and the mandates of society’s natural morals. He robbed and most likely killed one or more people.

Yet, in faith he acknowledged Jesus as the King: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The King was going home to his kingdom, and to that request, falling from the lips of a condemned criminal, the King announced, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” We learn four important points from those words:

  • The King’s kingdom is real
  • It is a paradise
  • It belongs to believers who also are sinners; and
  • The mutilation of death by crucifixion does not confound God’s determination to bring his children home.

The Kings and Queens of the world, no matter how long they live, do die, and find themselves at the mercy of a greater King. This King is different. This King brings mercy. If your death occurred today, this King brings you to Paradise - today. While we face tribulation in this life, the greater reality is that we inherit the Paradise that lies beyond. This King changed everything. He is unlike any king that has ever come. This King will take you home. You can expect that reality of eternal life because this King made it possible for you. Amen.