March 6, 2013: Names of Wondrous Love—King

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR KING!
TEXT: John 18: 33-37

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Recall the Wise Men asking Herod: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” From the moment of His birth and on to the present day, Jesus is a King! Recall also Palm Sunday where the prophesy of Zechariah was fulfilled: “See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.” Likewise, throughout the Gospels on numerous occasions, Jesus is called a king.

In our day, the word: King probably doesn’t mean much. That’s because we don’t live under a king. At least not an earthly one. But historically the title: King meant everything. It meant a male leader who by birth and heredity was the absolute ruler over his subjects. He had absolute power when it came to life and death and commanded absolute loyalty. So, on Good Friday when the Jews accused Jesus of being a king, Pilate had to ask whether it was true. And Jesus didn’t sidestep or deny the question. He confirmed it. And in the process He also confirmed His wondrous love for sinners like us. So tonight we examine:

NAMES OF WONDROUS LOVE—KING!

I

“Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” That was the placard Pilate had affixed to Christ’s cross. The Jews didn’t like it one bit. “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,” but that man claimed to be the king of the Jews.” But Pilate wanted to tweak them so it remained. They didn’t object to having a “King” per se. That is, they longed for a Messiah King Who would pat them on the back and tell them how religious they were. They wanted a Bread King, One who would remove Rome’s heel on their necks and make them into a worldly powerhouse once more. They wanted a King who would reward them with earthly riches, honor, and power. But this Jesus had labeled them, “A brood of vipers.” He had called them hypocrites. So, on Good Friday they exacted their revenge with their trumped-up charges against Him.
“We have no king but Caesar,” they told Pilate. What hypocrisy! They hated Caesar. They seethed against Roman rule. When Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” when it came to paying their taxes, they plugged their ears and plotted his execution. They wanted only a king who would conform to their preconceived notions of greatness.

Likewise, the common people had some novel ideas about what a king should be. After filling their stomachs with the loaves and fishes, they lobbied Jesus to make Him their Bread King. This Jesus could be their permanent social security, welfare state, EBT card giver, and health safety net all rolled into one! They totally missed the point. He was really about life for hungry sinners.

So, what kind of king do we want Jesus to be? Obviously we want Him to watch over us, protect us from danger, provide for our daily needs and the like. But sometimes, don’t we also desire His kingship to include: total freedom from all worry, financial security, dreams that are always fulfilled, and never a harsh word or unkind look extended our way by any other human being? Are you sometimes disappointed in Christ the King because you think He’s too far removed from your daily grind, too spiritually oriented, and perhaps sets standards of behavior a little too high?

II

I suppose it’s just human nature to question any leader, even Jesus the King. But that’s the amazing thing about His Kingship!—He has come to forgive our questioning nature, provide love to our unloving attitude, and extend His reign over our hearts despite our sometimes treasonous attitude! Listen to what He tells Pilate: “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.” Earthly rulers map out their kingdom in terms of territory, amount of subjects, how many coins they can mint, how large an army they can field, and how many enemies they can terrorize. Pilate, of course, knew all of that. But here Jesus is basically saying: “I map out my kingdom in terms of love, wondrous love for lost, hurting souls. I define it in terms of forgiveness for sins.”

As we heard last week, Jesus responds to Pilate by saying: 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.” What is Jesus telling us today? In wondrous love He wants us to citizens of Divine truth, recipients of Divine love. He isn’t saying: “I want your taxes, your sweat, your land, or your goods. No, I want your heart. And to prove how much I want it I’m going to give you my heart and my life by willingly going to the cross. Moreover, when you possess this truth by faith, you have it all.”

Pilate asked: “Are you a King?” Pilate heard Jesus’ amazing answer. But he didn’t really listen. Instead of kneeling before such wondrous Love, Pilate agreed to the death sentence. Well, thank God Almighty that you and I know differently and have done differently! As the hymn says: “Crown him the Lord of love—behold his hands and side, rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight, but downward bends his wond’ring eye at mysteries so bright!” Yes, thank God we can confess this Lenten season: “Jesus is my King!”

What is more, our King is still waiting for us. His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is in and is about the hereafter. He’s waiting in heaven to welcome us with peace and joy. Thus St. Paul writes to Timothy: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.” And to that we all say: Amen! This is most certainly true! Amen