Christ the King and the Glorious Reign of Humility: Unveiling the Paradox:
Last Sunday of the Church Year – 11/20/2022 | Luke 23:27-48
The Last Sunday of the Church Year: Reflecting on the Paradox
The Last Sunday of the Church Year is a time of deep reflection and eager anticipation. It signifies both an end and a new beginning. As we bid farewell to another year in the church calendar, we are confronted with a profound paradox. On this sacred day, the future reveals itself as the genesis of a new era. Our attention shifts towards the second coming of Jesus Christ, the exalted King of Heaven and Earth. In His majestic return, He will fulfill His divine promises, dismantling the familiar order of our physical existence and ushering in an unparalleled epoch.
The Glorious Return: Majestic Descent of Christ
Anticipating the Majestic Descent of Christ
The monumental arrival of our Lord will be announced by celestial beings, their resounding proclamation echoing throughout the heavens: "Behold Your King!" Every eye, even those who once persecuted and crucified Him, will bear witness to His magnificent descent. Jesus, the Christ, the supreme sovereign of Heaven and Earth, will visibly reign among His people, emanating resplendent glory. The apostle John provides vivid imagery of this awe-inspiring vision, declaring, "And I heard a resounding voice from the throne, proclaiming, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, wiping away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have passed away.' And the One who sits on the throne declared, 'Behold, I am making all things new'" (Revelation 21:3-5).
The Humble King: A Paradoxical Image
Contrasting Portrayal: The Humility of Christ the King
However, today's Gospel reading presents us with a contrasting portrayal of Christ the King. Instead of perceiving Him in His glorious splendor, we are presented with a King whose appearance defies regality. Rather than being praised and honored by His subjects, He is derided by His enemies and ridiculed by His people. Instead of a golden crown adorning His head, His weary brow bears a crown woven from thorns. Instead of a triumphant procession, He endures the arduous path leading to His crucifixion.
Today, the Cry Resounds, "Behold Your King!"
Revisiting the Cry: Beholding the Crucified King
Today, the cry resounds, "Behold your King!" The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, ensures that everyone gazes upon Jesus as the crucified King. Above Jesus' battered and bloodied head, Pilate places a sign written in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic, proclaiming, "The King of the Jews." Yet, this inscription is not intended to honor Jesus; rather, it serves as a means to humiliate both Him and the Jewish people. It stands as a taunting reminder: "Look at the type of king you have! What a disgrace to your entire nation!"
The Mockery and the Prophetic Fulfillment
Fulfillment of Prophecy: The Mockery of Christ the King
Pilate's inscription is not the end of the mockery faced by Christ the King. Onlookers jeer at Him and hurl insults. Soldiers revel in tormenting Jesus, daring Him, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!" Even the religious leaders of the Jews taunt Him with disdain, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." Luke fittingly describes their scornful behavior as they "turned up their noses."
The Prophetic Fulfillment: A Harsh Reality
Such abhorrent treatment of God's chosen one was not unforeseen. The prophets of old had long prophesied that when God revealed His anointed king, the people would despise and dishonor Him. The Psalms, for instance, anticipate the King's lament: "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 'He trusts in the LORD; let Him deliver Him; let Him rescue Him, for He delights in Him'" (Psalm 22:6-8).
The Disparagement Within and Outside the Church
Mockery Within and Beyond: Disparagement of Christ the King
It is deeply troubling to witness the cruel treatment that Jesus endured. Even if people were not yet ready to accept Him as their Messiah and King, one would expect that His acts of goodness—His merciful healings, His compassion towards the marginalized, His teachings on loving one's neighbor—would have earned Him some measure of respect. Yet, despite His righteousness and love, Jesus was treated worse than the most heinous criminals in Pilate's prison.
Disparagement Within the Church
Beyond the broader culture, it is disheartening to acknowledge that even among His followers, some blaspheme Christ the King. In many parts of the Church, the message of the cross is silenced. Consider the example of Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, renowned for its large Christian congregation. Instead of proclaiming the cross of Jesus as the sole means of salvation and emphasizing His reign, Osteen has achieved success and wealth by teaching self-improvement and personal achievement. His motto, "Discover the champion within you," resonates with many, but it deviates from the central message of the cross.
The Church's Compromises
Compromising the Authentic Message of Christ the King
Osteen is not alone in this departure from the truth. Many preachers and movements have compromised the authentic message of Christ the King. They dilute orthodox doctrine to accommodate post-modern sensibilities, seeking to make Christianity more appealing and comfortable. But in doing so, they often lose sight of the true crucified King, neglecting the exclusivity of the Gospel, the divine-human nature of Jesus, the authority of Scripture, and clear teachings on moral issues.
Our Role as Believers
Upholding the Glory of Our King
Furthermore, as believers, we can unintentionally diminish the glory of our King. When we remain silent in the face of defamation or false statements about Jesus, we participate in mockery against Him. Similarly, when we persist in sin, disregarding what is right, or when we trivialize His sacrifice by neglecting His Church in favor of worldly pursuits, we profane our King. The author of Hebrews warns, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins... How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26, 29).
The Cross: Symbolizing Jesus' Kingship
The Cross: Emblem of Jesus' Reign
The cross stands as the emblem of Jesus' reign as King. However, do we long for a king molded after the world's image? The world's concept of a king revolves around power and affluence. Such a king's reign often entails imposing sacrifices upon the people rather than personally sacrificing for their well-being. The ostentation and grandeur of worldly kings often rest upon the shoulders of impoverished subjects.
God's Paradigm: The Humble King
God's paradigm for His King is entirely different. His King is characterized by humility and self-sacrifice, exhibited for the sake of His subjects. Jesus, despite being God, did not cling to His divine status but emptied Himself, assuming the form of a servant and becoming fully human. He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He declared, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
The Power of the Word
The Word: Jesus' Sword
Jesus, the King, does not rely on sophisticated weaponry to wage war against evil and protect His people. He governs with the sword of His mouth, the word of the Gospel. The Book of Revelation portrays Jesus as wielding a two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth. The word of Christ holds the power of God, offering salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16). Those who reject this word will experience the convicting edge of Jesus' sword.
Jesus' Judgment and Justice
Jesus' Judgment: Righteousness and Equity
The prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus' judgment: "But with righteousness, He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips, He shall kill the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4).
The King Worth Beholding
Behold Your King: Jesus' Unparalleled Worth
Truly, Jesus the King surpasses all comparisons. He invites us to place our trust in Him rather than in ourselves. He willingly endured humiliation, spitting, torture, and death to save us from the humiliation and punishment we deserved for our sins. Even amidst His agony, He cried out for the forgiveness of His enemies, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And as He breathed His last, He assured the repentant sinner crucified beside Him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The Restored Paradise
Restored Paradise: A Glorious Hope
The word "paradise" holds profound significance and eschatological hope. It is the Greek word for "garden," evoking memories of the idyllic existence Adam and Eve once enjoyed. Jesus, as the King, leads us back to the garden—His paradise. Just as a tree caused the loss of paradise, our King restores it through another tree—the cross of Jesus. (The Greek word for "cross" can also be translated as "wood" or "tree.") Jesus, the King, has transformed His tree into the Tree of Life for all who repent of their blasphemies against Him and believe.
Fixing Our Gaze upon the King
Fix Your Gaze: Behold Your King
Therefore, people of Miles City, fix your gaze upon your King! Jesus may not conform to the world's preconceived notion of a king, but we thank God for that. He extends absolution through His servant, opening the gates of heaven to all. He serves us through the sacred Table, where His Body and Blood are given, providing a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. And when He returns at the culmination of time, He will continue to serve us. Today, dear friends, behold your King—the humble, sacrificial, and compassionate ruler who offers forgiveness, peace, and eternal paradise to all who place their trust in Him