Based on: Luke 23:35-43
Today is Christ the King Sunday. “Christ the King” – just the words conjure up images out of the book of Revelation – a rider on a white horse, many crowns on his head as proof of his many victories, robes stained with the blood of fallen enemies, an iron scepter in his hand as the symbol of his authority. That is the king in all his glory and certainly a good picture for us to keep in mind.
One day everyone will see him as the victorious king, but as Christians we want to look at another picture of Christ the King. Christ the King on a white horse would be a terrifying sight for us as sinful human beings if it were not for Christ the King on the cross. We need to see him on the cross where the world makes fun of him and considers him anything but a king. Yet through the eyes of faith we see him as he truly is, a king through whom we have paradise. There on the cross the signs of his kingship are not a golden crown, fine clothes, and a scepter, but a crown of thorns, his own blood flowing down his body, and the cross upon which he paid for our sins. This is Christ our King. Now let’s consider what it means to have Christ as a our King and why it is a good thing to have Christ as our King.
It’s not so easy any more to understand what it is like to have a king. Our democratic form of government, as good as it is, has robbed us of a better understanding of this Biblical picture. Instead, the very form of our government encourages us to think that we are the ones in control and so we don’t have to answer or submit to some greater authority. That is one of Satan’s greatest lies. In fact, we each submit to some authority – either sin and Satan or God. Either way we must admit that someone else has control over us and not the other way around.
It goes against our sinful nature to submit to God as king. Maybe you’ve had thoughts like, “You know, I ask God for stuff and he doesn’t do what I ask. He he doesn’t seem to listen to what I want. He lets me suffer way too much and he expects things of me. He wants me to study his Word, come to church, he wants me to help out at church. I can’t do that I’m way too busy, doesn’t he understand that?”
Do you understand how messed up those thoughts are? Sometimes we expect our King to serve us in our own way. So instead of submitting to the forgiveness and salvation of Christ our King, perhaps we yawn when absolution is pronounced or we tire of hearing of this cross where Christ established his kingdom of grace. Really, what we are saying is that we don’t want him to be our king. We want to be king. We are just like the first criminal who said “save yourself and us.” Jesus was not a king who would follow his orders. If only Jesus had saved him from the cross, then I am sure that criminal would have believed that Jesus was a king, but Jesus was not that kind of King.
But what kind of King is Jesus? Christ does not create his kingdom in worldly power, but in weakness. He does not come to you or me and make us his subjects by force, but he gains subjects for his kingdom with a simple plea, “Believe in me!” To gain our humble and willing submission to him in his kingdom is not something he does by force. He simply shows us what he has done for us on the cross and calls us to respond to this wonderful good news. You see, for all the times that we have rebelled against God and have not submitted to the almighty God and his authority, we are the criminals, the malefactors, the evil doers who deserve to hang on the cross. We are the ones who deserve God’s eternal punishment, but Jesus took our place. That is the type of king he is. He serves us first in our greatest need and then brings us into his kingdom to serve him with willing hearts.
But the only way that we can see what he has done for us and recognize him as our King is through faith. Think about that second criminal on the cross. The second criminal saw the exact same thing that the first criminal saw – a man hanging on a cross and slowly dying. There was no evidence that this man was a king except for a crown of thorns and a sign over his head calling him the King of the Jews. Yet, the Holy Spirit worked through the gospel as it was carried out right there in front of this criminal’s eyes and produced faith, a faith that saw Jesus as he truly is, Christ the King. This criminal knew that he did not deserve anything from this mighty King. He was not so bold as to ask for a place in this kingdom, but simply asked, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It was a simple prayer of a dying sinner to his dying savior and the Lord answered in the most magnificent way, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The same is true for us. In baptism he made us subjects in his kingdom. Through faith he shows us who he is and what he has done for us. Through faith we see what the second criminal saw – Christ the King. Paradise is ours because in Christ’s kingdom we have forgiveness. With forgiveness we have rest from a guilty conscience, protection from Satan, power against the world, comfort in times of suffering. The blessings we have under this King go on for eternity. It certainly is good to have Christ as our King.
Having Christ as King means that you understand that his commands are for your good. As you follow them, you will be blessed. So, seeing his love for us on the cross, as followers of Christ and members of his kingdom we strive to obey his commands and we do that willingly.
Look at the second criminal. God called him to faith. He saw Christ as his King and he responded by speaking out for Christ, defending him against the first criminal, and with a simple prayer to his King.
If Jesus is your King it will show in what you say and do. When you hear Jesus say love your enemies, you want to help even those who try to hurt you. Or when you hear Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more,” you know that you are forgiven and you can’t wait to leave whatever sin you are caught in and follow your King, Jesus.
I said earlier that his kingdom is not a kingdom of forced submission. This King wants your heart and if you are not willing that he have it, you don’t have to remain a part of the kingdom. You are free to leave! Being part of the kingdom means you respond to his love for you by submitting to his word and following his commands. If you are not willing to do that then you don’t have to remain in his kingdom. Just be clear that to claim to follow Christ and yet not live like it is hypocrisy. God knows the difference and you will not be part of the kingdom. If you find that you are straying from the kingdom in this way, look again to Christ, the King on the cross, and find the forgiveness he gives in his kingdom.
As for me, I want Christ as my king. He has brought me to faith and made me a part of his kingdom. He has shown me the blessings of having him as King. I will follow him. I will submit to his will for my life because my King knows what is best for me. I pray that God give me strength of faith to speak up for Christ, to defend him until my dying day. I ask you to join me.