Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Christ the King Sunday

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

Jesus Christ, our leader, our savior, the one to whom we pledge our allegiance, the reason for the upcoming Advent season, died. Died this horrendous death - crucified and humiliated on a cross. On top of that cross was a sign that said, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. It was Ponticus Pilate who had this sign made and was the sign not so much for him a statement of fact In the early years of the church, but as a slam to the Jews who had insisted Jesus be put to death. To drive home the point Ponticus Pilate had the sign written in Aramaic - the common language of the Jews, in Greek and in Latin - the two languages spoken by everyone else who lived in that area during that time period. Little did Ponticus Pilate know that the words on that sign did define who Jesus was - Jesus Christ was the King, not only of the Jews, but of everyone! Ponticus Pilate actually got it right when he wrote Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, in all the languages, because that is who Jesus was - the King of everyone! Today we gather to celebrate Jesus the Christ, who is our King!
It is an interesting historical fact that this juxtaposition of Jesus as the King of all people and the stigma of Jesus being hung on a cross to die in shame was one of the main sticking points people gave for not wanting to believe in Jesus as the savior of the world. People of Jesus’ day knew what a King was like - a problem for us because we have never lived under the rule of a King. We don’t have that experience of someone who reigns over us, who has complete power over our lives. Under a king there is no true judicial system. The King has the power to charge you double taxes and someone else no taxes. The King has the power to remove you from your job or to send you to jail or exile for no reason or to take your son and put him in the army or to take your daughter and make her part of his harem. And the King doesn’t have to answer to anyone for any of these decisions. Complete and total control….
But more importantly Kings in the days of Jesus looked like we would think of a King. They were powerful men. They just had that stature and that demeanor you would expect from a King. All they had to do was say something with their powerful voice and it happened. Remember the words from The Ten Commandments when Yul Brenner who, although he was called Pharaoh was for all intents and purposes the King of Egypt, and his words “Let it be written, let it be done”. His decisions, his alone, and it happened. He didn’t need legislatures or courts or committees. His words were all that were needed. And because you feared Kings, Kings were given your ultimate respect, you bowed in the presence of the King. Remember Yul Brenner again as the King of Siam in the King and I who required everyone in his presence to be lower than him so people bowed and sometimes crawled on their stomach so they were always lower than the King. The image of King just meant ultimate power.
So as the followers of Jesus as the Messiah began to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, people found it hard to put their faith behind someone who was called a King, yet allowed himself to be humiliated on a Roman cross. How could anyone who promoted himself as the savior of the world, as King of all people, not have the power to prevent himself from experiencing this terrible, public death?
Of course they were missing the point - it is specifically because our King willingly gave himself on the cross that we are to believe he is the savior of the world. It is because he, as a benevolent king, allowed himself to be arrested and killed that he is our savior. What Jesus did as our King allows us a relationship with God - both his death as well as his ascension - that image we are given in the Apostles Creed - “He ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father”…. is a picture of God the Father on this throne and Jesus on the throne beside of God the Father - our image of a King - because Kings sit on thrones. The very image that our church fathers wanted us to have when they put together the Apostle’s Creed is that image of Jesus as our King….. And we are to remember Jesus as a Powerful King but also as a Loving, Giving, Sacrificial King.
On our church calendar, today has a dual purpose. It is Christ the King Sunday - a Sunday for us to think about our relationship with Jesus as we understand him as our King. It is a relatively new celebration in the church - it began in 1925 by a declaration by Pope Pius XI and was originally called the Feast of Christ the King. When the protestant churches picked up this designated Sunday to add to their church calendars, the Feast part was dropped because they thought it sounded too Catholic! Pope Pius wanted this designation of Christ the King to be on the last Sunday of the church year because he felt it was important for us as we end our year as our last picture of Jesus to be him as our King. To remind us that even though we remember Jesus as a benevolent, loving, giving King - We also need to remember that as a King, Jesus has complete control over our lives; that Jesus really is the truly powerful King that people in Jesus’ time understood a king to be.
But Jesus as our King had a unique message for a King and that is what Jesus would want us to get out of this picture. Jesus is a King who instead of taking from his subjects as most kings did, Jesus was a King who gave to his people and who taught his people the importance of personal sacrifice - of giving of our time and talent and resources for the good of those around them. What Jesus taught as our king is that what we gain from personal sacrifice; what we gain from giving far outweighs anything we may give up or give away.
The way the bible works is that Jesus teaches us something in the New Testament and then we find examples of that teaching through the people presented to us in the Old Testament. While there are many examples of the personal gain from actions of giving, King Hezekiah represents this principle of a good King, a loving King and a King who taught his people what it really meant to give of themselves as he, the King, did and as Jesus would later in Israel’s history.
King Hezekiah took over rule of God’s people at a time of great religious stagnation. His father, King Ahaz had been very evil and had led God’s people into heathen, idol worship that was all about selfish and hedonistic living. The nation of God’s people was at an all time low. Then Ahaz died and Hezekiah became king. Hezekiah is presented to us as the King who was more zealous for God than any other King had been. Hezekiah not only brought people back into the true worship of God - King Hezekiah modeled and taught the people the value of giving. As the passage we read from Chronicles said, Hezekiah led the people into giving of their harvest, their flocks, their ‘holy things’ to the temple - to the church. And what we read is that this brought a time of great prosperity - not only in real ‘things’ but also in the spiritual lives of the people. The whole attitude of the nation turned around and the people learned that is was through giving that they gained their lives back and cemented their relationship with their God. What a powerful message for us - you receive more from giving than from keeping and getting…..
Christ our King - a powerful King certainly; the most powerful King. But more important a King who showed us the value of giving. As a powerful King who could have done anything he wanted, Jesus chose to give up everything for us - everything he had, his very life. His message for us on this last day of the church year is to consider for ourselves how we will choose to live as subjects to our King in this new church year to come.

Amen!