John 18:33-37 – Worship Christ the King

14th century painting of Jesus standing before Pilate by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (New International Version)

In Christianity, to worship God means we praise the person and work of Christ and are also spiritually formed through that adoration. Christ the King Sunday focuses our worship on Jesus Christ’s reign over the entire world. It is a proclamation that everything and everyone in all creation is subservient to King Jesus. Furthermore, it is an invitation to actively enjoy Christ’s gracious and benevolent rule over us.

Jesus came to this earth to bring connection and intimacy to God and humanity. We all have relationships in which we want to be closer.

  • A parent might be dissatisfied, and sad, that one of their children is estranged from them, because they want intimacy.
  • A spouse may want to have a more relationally intimate marriage, having been distant for too many years.
  • A teenagers or twenty-something might want to get closer to that special someone. 
  • A friend might be keeping their distance. And although you have conversations with them, they only let you in so far.

We want to go deeper, and it isn’t happening because the other party is not willing.

In this we reflect the image of God within us because God feels that same longing and desire to move deeper and closer to us. The Lord desires intimacy, yet we might keep treating him like he is some untouchable monarch like Queen Elizabeth – as if there is no chance of really getting close, and we wonder if there is any real power there to make a difference. 

However, God is not a ruling figurehead, and does not want a casual superficial relationship with us. Christ’s kingship moves closer to people, not further away. Everything Jesus did on this earth was to bring people closer to God because God wants a personal and familiar relationship with us. 

Jesus does not want us estranged from God, and he has gone to the greatest lengths possible to make that close relationship possible and real through the cross, resurrection, ascension, and a kingly reign which is near to us. The kingdom of God, with Jesus as King, is a kingdom of closeness and fellowship with the divine.

Christ the King Sunday appropriately challenges us to consider what it means to say that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our life. Jesus Christ, as our Lord and King, means much more than God calling the shots and issuing commands; it means Christ uses his lordship to satisfy his longing to be with us.

Our Gospel lesson for today plunges us into an event we associate with Holy Week. Christ has been arrested by the conniving of his enemies. Since the religious authorities could not put anyone to death, they bring Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, in the hope he will do their dirty work for them. 

Jesus condemned to death, painting by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

The scene takes place early in the morning at Pilate’s palace. Pilate doesn’t like the Jewish authorities because they put a dent in his career plans through their constant complaints about him to his supervisors in Rome. For purely political reasons, Pilate decides he will satisfy their demand and interview this Jesus who they claim is an enemy of Rome.

The prisoner, Jesus of Nazareth, is brought to Pilate. He is a mess. Christ’s clothes are stained with dirt and blood. His face is bruised and haggard. He has not slept all night. Pilate has heard of Jesus, and so he’s curious to make a personal evaluation of him. Jesus looks nothing like a king to Pilate.

Pilate, in contrast, looks the image of a worldly leader with his power suit on and all the strength of Rome behind him. He hardly has time for this sideshow, this pathetic presentation of leadership in front of him. Jesus looks like nothing more than a kingly wannabe. There is nothing from Christ’s outward appearance that gives any impression he is qualified to be a leader of anybody. We can almost picture Pilate rolling his eyes, saying “so you are the King of the Jews?”

What follows is a strange, convoluted conversation about kingship and truth with a contrast between this world and a world to come. Repeatedly, Jesus makes it clear his kingdom is not of this world. Two thousand years have passed since that dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, yet the same issue remains.

The issue is this: Jesus is calling all of us to follow him – to put his Kingdom first in our lives. In Pilate, we have a symbol of worldly power, which is arbitrary, unprincipled, self-serving, and brutal. Pilate knows the right thing to do but chooses the path of least resistance. He caves to the political pressure, denying the truth which is right under his prominent Roman nose.

Earthly power seeks its own ends. It wants to hold onto control and call the shots. Conversely, Christ’s kingly power is used to serve, to wash feet and meet needs, to move closer to people. Earthly kingdoms use violence to conquer and maintain order and control its subjects. In stark contrast, Christ’s kingdom uses love to transform and unify people around Jesus so that the subjects are with the king and enjoy his rule and reign.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. It is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive to how every other leadership structure works on earth. It is an upside-down kingdom that seems like it won’t work or make sense: The way up is down; to be great is not to work for a high position, suck up to the boss, and climb the ladder of wealth and success. Rather, it is to embrace humility and be a servant.

In God’s kingdom, the way to pursue truth is not in forming original ideas and expressing opinions but is found in a person. Truth-seeking disciples will listen to this one voice of Jesus, and filter-out all others. It is a voice calling for submission to his lordship, and to do so because it brings us into an intimate relationship with God.

The Light of the World, by English artist William Holman Hunt, 1852

The message of our crucified Savior reigning as King in our lives is not that, having suffered for us, Jesus will somehow keep us from facing difficult times. Instead, Jesus faced a horrible death so that our own tough times can triumph with God’s power to save us and move deeper into our lives. God’s presence and promise is what sustains us, not the avoidance of suffering. Christ as our King means God is with us.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us. This season demonstrates a contrast between two kingdoms. The kingdom of this world calls on us to demonstrate our worth and gain meaningful relationship through grabbing control and obtaining stuff. The pressure in seeking the perfect gift at the perfect price in the hope that if we can bag it, wrap it, and get it under the tree, then we will be perfect, and the perfect family Christmas will happen, and relationships will be great, and everyone will act like I want. Right!?

In contrast, the kingdom Jesus describes assures us we don’t have to prove our worth through endless accomplishments and generous gifts. We don’t need to have the perfect Christmas experience to gain our deepest relational needs. Because, in our baptism, we have been accepted; we are sons and daughters of the living God; and we do not need to achieve greatness through financially and emotionally bleeding ourselves.

In his conversation with Pilate, Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” When Christians say Jesus Christ is our King, we acknowledge we are his subjects and that we march to the beat of a different drum. The heart of this relationship is our dependence on Jesus who came that we might have life and have it in abundance.

On this Sunday, followers of Jesus Christ boldly state our confidence that, at the end of time, Jesus will come again as King and Ruler of all. 

Blessed are those who see the truth by faith and not by sight. Blessed are those who say “Jesus is the King and the Lord of Life” without rolling their eyes or with a selfish agenda but with a sincere conviction that they belong to Jesus and want to be ever closer to him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Almighty God, everlasting heavenly Father, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. Our confidence is firmly in you, Lord Jesus, knowing you will redeem all things and make all things new. 

We affirm that our security is not in personal abilities, clever plans, or lucrative jobs; our security is in you alone. Your creation still groans with the pain of living in a fallen world. But you have conquered sin through your love, and it is to your love we rely upon. May all things in heaven and on earth recognize the glory of your kingly rule and never cease to praise you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Our Authority in Christ

Hello, friends! Welcome to Christ the King Sunday, a day which reminds us that in the coming Advent season, we look for both a baby and a king. Click the video below and let us acknowledge and worship King Jesus…

There is perhaps no better hymn for this day than Crown Him with Many Crowns:

For a contemporary song, it is appropriate today and every day to Sing to the King:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.

Christ the King Sunday

Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Church in Roslindale, Massachusetts

Christ the King Sunday is intended to help us see the cosmic reality that Jesus reigns over all creation as the only rightful Sovereign of the universe.  This Sunday always comes just before Advent so that we remember to anticipate both a baby and a king.

Christ as Lord of all exposes three problems humanity faces:

  1. Building our own petty kingdoms and setting ourselves up as masters over our own small worlds.  People who have been hurt (all of us) often attempt to seize power for themselves in order to avoid ever being hurt again, or in the belief that wielding power could have prevented others from being hurt.  The classic villains of movies and literature are ones who seek to destroy the earth so that they rebuild it in their own idea of how the world should operate.  It is protection of self and loved ones from pain. The irony is that much hurt is inflicted to alleviate such pain.
  2. Bowing to other kings besides King Jesus.  When we are distressed, we might rely on alternative authorities to address our hard circumstances.  We might expect other people to give us only what Jesus can.  Instead of repentance and faith in Christ, we may run to the politicians or pastors we have set up in his place to cope with whatever is going on in our lives.
  3. Lacking awareness of the power we possess as subjects of King Jesus.  Christians possess authority in Jesus Christ.  As believers in Jesus, we reign with him and can exercise authority over every dominion that exists, especially the dominion of darkness.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers provides God’s design for the church.  It is a plan for believers in Jesus to know their spiritual blessings and exercise the power they have as Christians united to Christ. God wants us to understand this power and authority, and to actively use it.  We will know King Jesus better by availing ourselves of his authority given to us as believers. (Ephesians 1:15-23)

We have a clear understanding from Ephesians of how to pray: To know Jesus better.  There is probably no higher prayer.  Paul prayed that believers in Jesus would know the hope to which we have been called and the incomparably great power accessible to us.

The word for “power” in the New Testament (Greek dunamis, pronounced “doon-a-miss”) is where we get our English word “dynamite.”  When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who had a fondness for playing with dynamite, especially when he drank too much.  Even though he lived a mile down the road, when he blew up a tree stump or anything else on his property, it would shake our house and feel like the windows were going to break.  One stick of dynamite is nothing compared to God’s power, an incredible might without equal.

This divine power is for us who believe in Jesus the King.  It is the same power used to raise Jesus from the dead and which exalted Christ as Lord of the universe.  The rule and reign of Jesus is far above any other existing authority – including powers and authorities of the dark domain.

When it comes to dealing with the powers of darkness, we have the authority of Jesus Christ.  We have a vital and inseparable union with Jesus Christ, because of his resurrection and exaltation.  Jesus redeemed us and we belong to him.  We are adopted children of God.  Since all earthly and spiritual powers are subject to Christ, they are also subject to us.  The imagery of Jesus as Head, and believers in Jesus as the Body of Christ means we have an inseparable union together.  Since we are united with Christ, we share his authority over all spiritual powers.

It is one thing to know this information; it is quite another thing to use it.  God wants us to experience Christ’s power through exercising our authority as believers.  We are to pray in a way which links faith and knowledge together in a confident use of spiritual authority.  We have unimaginable rights as blood-bought children of God.

The 118 feet high Christ the King statue in Świebodzin, Poland

Tackling the forces of darkness needs to be a communal activity; going it alone is dangerous. So, let us pray the following prayer together, united in Christ and with one another in spiritual bond a million times stronger than superglue. This is a prayer that boldly exercises authority in Jesus Christ. So, let us come confidently before the throne of God’s grace.

God Almighty, we bow in worship and praise before You.  We thank you that the Lord Jesus Christ is King over all creation, and that he is the rightful Sovereign of the universe.  We thank you that because of this truth, we have power together with Jesus.  Since Jesus is King, we surrender ourselves completely in every area of our lives to You.  Since Christ’s authority extends over every dominion, including the dominion of darkness, we now take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder us now in prayer.  We address ourselves only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in our prayers.

Therefore, Satan, we command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave our presence with all your demons.  We bring the blood of Jesus Christ between us.

Sovereign God, we recognize You are worthy to receive all glory, honor, and praise.  We renew our allegiance to You and ask that the Holy Spirit will enable us to pray.  We are thankful, Lord God, that You have loved us from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as our substitute.  We are thankful that Christ has completely forgiven us; You have adopted us into Your family; You have given us eternal life; You have offered Yourself to us to be our daily help and strength.

Glorious God open our eyes so that we will see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for today.  We are thankful the victory Jesus Christ won for us on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to us and that we are seated with the Lord Jesus in heaven.  We take our place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under our feet.  We declare that Satan and his demons are subject to us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are thankful for the spiritual armor You have provided.  We put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  We lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and we take in our hands the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  We choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in our lives.  We live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit.

We are grateful the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  We claim all victory for our lives today.  We reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  We affirm that the Word of God is true, and we choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Almighty God, we choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open our eyes and show us the areas of our lives that do not please You.  Cleanse us from anything that would give Satan a foothold against us.  We stand into all that it means to be Your adopted children and we welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.

By faith and in complete dependence upon You we now put off the old sinful person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  We put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision Christ has made for us to live above sin.

Today we put off the old sinful nature with its selfishness and put on the new nature with its love.  We put off the old nature with its fear and put on the new nature with its courage.  We put off the old nature with its deceitful lusts and put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty.

In every way we stand into the victory of Jesus Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  We claim our place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of our souls.  Holy Spirit, we pray that you would fill us with the righteousness of Christ.  Break down every idol and cast out every enemy of our souls.

We are thankful, mighty God, that You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  We are grateful You have given us new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  We are thankful You have made provision for us so that today we can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  We recognize and affirm that this is Your will for us and so we reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob us of God’s will.   

We are thankful, Blessed Holy Trinity, that our spiritual weapons have divine power to demolish demonic strongholds, arguments, and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, we tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against us.  We affirm You have not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  We choose to make right decisions of faith. 

Powerful God, show us the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in our lives.  Help us to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help us to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help us to give You Your rightful place in our lives.  We now cover ourselves with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into our lives today.  We deliberately surrender ourselves to King Jesus.  We refuse to be discouraged because You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so we claim this victory over all satanic forces in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our faith communities.  We pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen.

The Reign of Christ the King

 
 
In my undergraduate college days, one of the required classes for my major was Philosophy of History taught by a crusty old professor who looked like he was one-hundred ten years old.  Professor Thompson knew that I was a Christian because I always sat in the front of his class taking notes with a Bible on my desk.  One day he came into the classroom and began his lecture by looking directly at me with those beady black eyes of his and said, as only Professor Thompson could say it, “Ehrhardt!  Can God change history?”
 
            My answer was this:  the question is only relevant if God were never in control and sovereign over history to begin with; there is no need to change history if God is actively and continually working out his purposes in and through history.  So, a more appropriate question would be:  Since God is Lord over all history, will we submit to him? 
 
            In difficult times, it is only human to wonder if God is really sovereign over all the earth.  When terrorists kill others; when natural disasters claim countless lives; when Christianity is seen as a threat to many; with such realities we might ask ourselves – Can God change history?
 
            Even though Christ’s reign is invisible and seems limited and temporary, it will ultimately be visible and is pervasive and permanent (Revelation 1:4-8).  Faithful believers in the first centuries of the church would witness to their faith and tell others about the redemptive events of Jesus and that, since Jesus is alive, others can experience new life.  They were effective enough to alter the social order of things, which brought persecution and, in some cases, death.  These men and women were killed proclaiming their devotion to Jesus, witnessing to others.  So, the term “witness” or “martyr” began to refer to those who were killed for their proclamation of the gospel.  In doing this, they saw themselves as only emulating and following in the way of their sovereign Lord Jesus, who was himself a faithful martyr.  Just as Jesus died proclaiming the kingdom of God and people’s need to submit to it, so the earliest believers needed to see their solidarity with their Lord so that they would not falter and give in to being silent.
 
Jesus is Lord of both good days and bad days.  Our faith cannot be dependent upon our circumstances because it is the blood of Jesus that has freed us to live for God no matter what the situation we have before us.  We overcome only on the ground of the blood of Christ – not because everything goes our way.  We overcome our consciences, bad tempers, defeats, lusts, fears, and pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus frees us! The goal of the church is not having a wonderful existence without any adversity; the goal is to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified, dead, risen and ascended. 
 
As believers in Jesus we have continual access and unconditional acceptance of God through his blood.  We can intercede for others directly by going straight to God.  Just as Jesus has unlimited access to the Father, so, the Christian has the ability and the privilege of coming to God at all times.  Christians are a kingdom of priests where every believer intercedes for other believers, and even for the world which persecutes them.
 
While we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus, we do not idly wait.  We intercede for the world.  We proclaim the gospel to all the earth.  We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Nothing in this world can ever deprive us of grace and peace.  No circumstance or adverse situation, no terrorist or natural disaster, no ornery people, no other person can take away Jesus from us.  So, with this security, assurance, and blessing we are free to rescue others from the coming judgment.
 

 

The reign of Jesus Christ elicits some probing questions:  Will we be faithful to Jesus by being faithful witnesses?  Will we live into the new life offered to us?  Will we submit to King Jesus?  Jesus is worthy of our praise.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  His kingdom will never end.  Since this is true, we are meant to serve God.  In life and in death, we belong to God.  We are not our own; we were bought at a price.  Therefore we are to serve God in the ways he wants us to serve.  “Can God change history?” is not really the question we should be asking.  Since God has changed history forever in the sending of the Son, what will we do with him?