2022-11-20 Christ the King Sunday
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
As a kid, we had a great big board game version of chess. It was really nice actually. A fold up game board and plastic moulded pieces that were special because they were weighted and had green felt on the bottom. And the pieces were intricately detailed too. I remember being very young and liking to play with the knights and bishops and rooks and especially the king and queen. I didn’t know how to play the actual game, I just liked to play medieval army! It was kinda like a more scholarly and sophisticated version of Barbie for boys. To this very day, I’m still not all that great a chess player. The computer always seems to beat me! But we know it cheats! But it truly is a fascinating game. You learn pretty quick that as fun and cool as rooks and knights and bishops are, there are other pieces on the board who require more attention. Some will postulate that the Queen has all the power. To that I say “But the King is head of the house.” … To that the ladies will answer “The King may be the head, but the Queen is the neck and she turns the head any way she wants!” Ah, but in chess, it’s the all about the King. Without Him, it’s game over!!
Today, it’s all about the King too. Not in chess or in husbandly squabbles, but rather it’s all about Christ the King. The very last Sunday in the Church year is appropriately called “Christ the King Sunday”. It sounds very regal, doesn’t it? It’s a much better fit than “Christ the President” or “Christ the Prime Minister” or “Christ the Mayor of Melville”. But that’s the goofy thing. Canada, for being a Monarchy, most Canadians aren’t really all that royally minded. Sure, we sing ‘God save the King’ on Remembrance Day but in terms of day to day life, we are rather removed from His Majesty. A whole ocean away even. But there is something majestic about the title “King”. There is an air of mystique, antiquity and power with it.
If you’ve ever studied the Gospels closely, you’ll realize that being King is what got our Lord Jesus killed. It wasn’t His claims about being the Son of God or having the authority to forgive the sins of the people. The Pharisees and lesser legalists were all trying hard to get rid of Jesus. They tried as hard as they could to pin Him down with some kind of sin or false teaching, but they failed. At long last though, they could nail Him down with a kingly charge. And before our Lord was crucified, He stood before Pontius Pilate. “Are you the King of the Jews?” [Pilate asked] Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:34-37).
Jesus Christ is indeed King of the Jews, and more so, King of the Universe. But the people missed it. They were not expecting a King who would be mocked, ridiculed, mortally wounded and then die on an old rugged cross! They expected the “Schwarzenegger Savior!” with a machine gun in one hand and a chainsaw in the other! They expected a warrior King who would come in and get rid of the Romans in a massively impressive, dramatic and ‘Charlton-Heston’ devastating type way like Moses vs. the Egyptians or Judas “The Hammer” Maccabaeus! Instead, we see Jesus slowly dying between 2 criminals in a small country that had to seek permission from the occupying Roman forces to kill Him! This is totally NOT what we expected! Not like Hollywood. Not like the world. … Yet a small, wooden sign, scrawled in Aramaic, Latin and Greek and nailed above Jesus’ head bore witness: “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38).
This is the image of the invisible God! This is quite literally the Eikon - “icon” of God! To see Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, is to see God in the flesh. It’s to savour the distaste and bitterness of the crucifix. But of course, we know that He didn’t stay on the cross. Truly dead, our Lord was buried in the darkness of the tomb. But the darkness of the tomb and the darkness of the world couldn’t hold Him and it hasn’t overcome Him. Three days later on that most blessed Easter morning, light and life were brought forth in triumph! God did this so that He could deliver “us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). For “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
This took the life and blood of a King to do the unexpected. No ordinary thing would do. This is Jesus. This is God in the flesh. Crucified and Resurrected for you. This is our King of Kings who has conquered not earthly armies and powers, but rather the spiritual enemies of sin, death and the devil. Our Lord could have stayed safe and comfy and warm up in Heaven by the fireplace, listening to angel choirs. He could have simply avoided the pain and suffering of this world and the cross altogether. But He didn’t. He came here for you and your salvation. How many of us would willingly endure such grief for other people? How many earthly Kings would endure it and willingly suffer for their people, let alone their enemies?! Most Kings would readily sacrifice the pawns to save themselves! Not so with our King. Jesus saw the depth of our despair and suffering. He saw the darkness that had enshrouded His good creation. He could have simply let it go and die. But He didn’t! He would not take the easy road! He would not sacrifice His creation. He would not let it rot and succumb to death and darkness. Instead, He became one of us and united Himself to all creation in the flesh. He died and brought back to life that which was dead in sin and trespass.
This is the amazing thing about Holy Baptism! Sure, it just looks like a guy up here in a Medieval Bathrobe, splashing some water around, standing beside a wooden water tank! But here, in the water and the Word is the amazing power of God! Here He washes away our sin, cleanses us from our evil, makes us holy, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith and, even salvation! We look at Baptism and expect: “the baby’s gonna get wet.” But, in the Kingdom of God, expect the unexpected! There is awesome power here in this Divine Mystery for it fuses the baptized child to Christ! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
This is Christ the King! Your King. This is the suffering servant who lived and died and lives again for you! He is Emmanuel. He is always with you, through thick and thin, for He has made peace by the blood of His cross! In unexpected ways, our Lord continues to come to us and bless His people. Get ready to greet Him for soon He shall come to you in swaddling clothes and again in a robe of glory! Thanks be to God, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Amen! Come Lord Jesus!