November 20, 2011: Proclaim Christ Your King!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we celebrate Your kingship over all things, remind us that You are a loving Ruler. You are a compassionate King Who laid down His life for His subjects. Lord, we humans are a proud, arrogant lot who often think we’re equal with You. We often think of Your Church as a democracy instead of a kingdom of grace ruled by the King of forgiveness. Today we ask You to remind us of all those things and to give us a heart which isn’t ashamed to confess them to the world. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE KING OF GLORY, JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT: Ephesians 4: 15: “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners, Subjects Of Christ’s Love:

This morning you’ll have to bear with me. After all, I am almost 2000 years old! That’s right, almost 2000 years old, you heard correctly! I may be old but I’m not senile and you’re not deaf! My name is Lucius Gracchus. And I helped crucify Christ. That happened way back in the year 29—by your modern calendar. At the time I was an 18 year old boy fresh from Rome. I had arrived in Jerusalem just 2 weeks before that terrible day. I was the “fresh blood” in the Praetorium, the Roman barracks. Pilate, that spineless idiot of a governor, was a social climber who let those silly, pompous zealots from the Jewish Sanhedrin push him into a corner. He let them rig Jesus’ trial so that he had to crucify Christ in order to save face. O, Pilate tried to outmaneuver them. The Apostle Matthew records that sorry tale of which I was a leading member. “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then wove a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

I, Lucius Gracchus, was one of those soldiers. I mocked Jesus. I spit on Jesus. I was the one who actually hit him on the head with that stick. And I helped the others lead Jesus away to Golgotha. Why did I do it? I suppose I could say I didn’t know any better, but that would be a lie. My mother taught me that you don’t treat human beings with that kind of unjustified hatred. Ah, I was young, new to the platoon, (we called them cohorts in those days) and just went along with the rest and tried to fit in. But winning the approval of the other soldiers, winning the approval of men was a high price to pay for the sleepless nights, the haunted days, and the years of depression that followed. You see, I knew this wasn’t right. I knew this man was innocent. And when I listened to his words of kindness while hanging on the cross, watched as the darkness came and went, and later talked to those soldiers who were at the tomb when an angel scared them off, well, fear and loathing gripped my very soul.

Within a few weeks after Jesus’ arose from the dead, I knew in my heart of hearts that He really was the Son of God, the King of kings, or Caesar of caesars. There was no other explanation for what I saw and heard. But, He was an odd King. I served under Tiberius Caesar who was very cruel; followed by Caligula who was worse; followed by Claudius who I actually got to see when stationed in Rome; followed by Nero who was an incompetent fool. But none of those kings welcomed death like this man named Jesus. None of them rose from the dead, either. And if they had, the people would have revolted and killed them again—that’s how happy we were to be rid of them. But not this Jesus. For over those years His followers multiplied. His invisible army grew. I, Lucius Gracchus, know of all this because I became a part of that army, of the Holy Christian Church.

When I was stationed in Rome I was befriended by another soldier who was a Christian. He attended the local underground church. When he heard my story at first he was mortified, but then something strange occurred, one day he said to me: “Christ forgives you, too, Lucius.” I was dumbstruck! Christ could forgive me after what I had done to Him? Christ died for my sins of mocking Him, hitting Him, and watching Him nailed to the cross? Well, I started to go to church with my friend. After all, I had to learn more. I had to know whether this was really meant for the likes of me. And then, one day we were read a letter from the famous Apostle Paul which he had written to the church in Ephesus from his house prison in another district of Rome. I heard those words: “Speak the truth in love” and my heart finally broke. The year was 64 A.D. I had been carrying around all this guilt for over 35 years! I was now an old man by Roman standards. 35 years before I had spoken the truth about Christ in mockery. I had hailed Him as “The King of the Jews” meaning it to be a put-down, ridicule fueled by blind hate. Only that one time over all those years had I proclaimed Christ as King, and because it wasn’t done in love I suffered for it all those long years. But now, now, I could do something about it!

The Holy Spirit filled my soul. I came to faith that day after hearing St. Paul’s letter. I told my story to countless souls until the day I died. I spent the next 10 years “speaking the truth” about Jesus—but now I did it with love.

Jesus Himself welcomed me to heaven when I died. I cried when He said to me, Lucius Gracchus, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I didn’t deserve those words. But that’s what Christ’s love will do—make sinners into saints.

For the first 53 years of my life I lived a lie. I followed but one king named Caesar and I was miserable. But for the next 10 years of my life I lived the truth and proclaimed the truth: “Christ is the King! My King!” During those last 10 years on earth my Christian friends gave me a new name. It’s true! They called me Lucius Pius, Lucius the one who God has made holy. Today I have come to tell you and I told them: PROCLAIM CHRIST YOUR KING! Don’t be afraid of ridicule or scorn. Don’t be afraid if others mock you for it or call you names on account of your confession. Yes, speak His truth in love and live His truth in love. Because when you get to heaven I’ll be waiting to hear all about it. Amen