Proper 29b “Art thou the king of the Jews?

2 Samuel 23:1-7   Psalm 132:1-13   Revelation 1:4b-8    John 18:33-37

Christ the King Sunday

“Art thou the king of the Jews?”

I have a quiz for you this morning; it is called “who is:”  …  Ready?

Who is …

The king of rock and roll?       (Elvis Presley)

The king of soul?           (James Brown)

The king of pop?           (Michael Jackson)

Elvis Presley, James Brown, Michael Jackson.  These are the kings of modern culture.  We call our music icons “kings,” and we revere their songs, their style, their flair.  We Americans really do not have a good idea of what a king, as in a king who is our ruler, our Lord, is.

A king, in the words of a particular child, “gets to tell everyone what to do.”  That is a pretty good description of a king.  However, we still do not know much about being a king.  In ancient Rome, the king did indeed “get to boss everyone around.”  To the king we owed our faithfulness, our money, our loyalty, and our service.  We owed the king our lives.  Kings in stature were above gods.  Gods?  Plural.  We had many gods, and they were good for helping us with love, beauty, wars; bringing us sunshine or rain, children or good fortune.  But a king!  — there was just one and to him we owed obeisance (obedience), and our life.  Our king could have us prosper … or have us as his servant.  The king spoke, and we did his bidding.  Not to follow the king was blasphemy; it would cost us our life.

We are in this Roman world, you and I, of one king and of many gods …

Imagine being Pilot.  Here comes the man whom others call “the King of the Jews.”  Jesus’ own people, this strange religious sect that believes in one God, are bringing him to trial.  We remember that this is a religious following within the citizenship and leadership of the Roman Empire.  So the leaders of this little religious community want Jesus tried for blasphemy.  Pilate says – try him yourself; blasphemy has nothing to do with the court of the Roman Empire.  And the punishment for blasphemy was stoning.  The people, the crowds, his own friends, want Jesus crucified.

You see, Jesus has caused suspicion in several ways:  for blasphemy and for high treason.  Something that Jesus said caused a political threat to the King, and thus to the Roman Empire.  … Jesus talks about a kingdom that is not his (of course it is not his, it is Caesar’s); but now we have a problem.  Jesus is tried for blasphemy and for high treason, and high treason is punishable by death.  There is one kingdom and one king, and it all belongs to Caesar.  To say otherwise is to commit high treason.

Pilate asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Remember:  Jesus does not claim kingship.  Jesus replies, “You say that I am a king.”  Jesus does say that he has a kingdom.  “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Jesus is not very helpful in his own defense.  Of course Jesus is a king – in the kingdom of God – Jesus is part of our one Triune God.  And of course Jesus has a kingdom; it is a kingdom in which we all share; again, the kingdom of God.

What the people do not understand – and it is hard for us to understand, even today, is that the kingdom of God is not a particular physical place.  The kingdom of God is not a piece of land or a particular cloud in our image of heaven.  The kingdom of God is dynamic, moving.  Can you imagine?  (There it is!)  The closest description we have to the kingdom of God might be something like:  “the way in which God reigns.”  We are in the kingdom of God today.  And our Christian hope tells us that we will be in the kingdom of God again when we die.

Oh, that we could see that kingdom now!  There are a few times that we see a glimpse of the kingdom of God on earth.  Think about it.  How many times do we exist in “the way in which God reigns?”  There are few.  War, famine, extreme poverty, and devastating illnesses – these are not God’s way of reigning on earth.  God has given us great minds in which to conquer disease, enough food for everyone if we would work at doing so.  Even in prayer, our thoughts wander, the world interferes, and we neglect to sit still and listen.

And yet! – we do experience the kingdom of God on earth.  I am convinced of it.  We hold a newborn baby, and we weep.  Has there ever been such perfection, such beauty?  We pray, and God heals our loved one.  We are lonely, and someone drops by for a cup of tea.  We lose our job, and a new job opportunity opens up to us.  (tell about money falling from the couch)  Sometimes, the kingdom is here and we do not see it.  Of course the baby was born, she was pregnant.  Of course I got the job, I’m talented.  We forget that our successes are not our own; nothing that we have is our own; it is of God and we are called to be thankful.  At the same time, these kingdom of God happenings are not what we might have chosen; these happenings are not something that we could have planned.  Our job is in a new field, or in a new place.  The baby has its own personality, its own way of claiming identity and place.  Why won’t she sleep when I want her to?

Remember, in all things, it is not coincidence that rules our lives, it is God.  We, as Christians in this world, are called to fall to our knees and be thankful in response to all that we have been given.  Grateful.  At all times.  In all things.  We are not king of ourselves, our world, those things that we think of as our creation.  God is king over God’s kingdom.

Today, Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the “green season,” the growing season after Pentecost, we honor Jesus as our king.  It is He who saves us and helps us to see God in our world.  Jesus’ kingship is nothing like that of pop stars and rock stars or of Caesar.  Jesus’ kingship is ever more grand and life-giving than we can ever imagine.  With no crown, no robes, no royal procession, Jesus shows us how to be king and ruler.  And in Jesus’ kingdom are all who seek Truth.  “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  When we listen to Jesus and seek His truth, we come ever closer to God’s kingdom.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Thanks be to God.

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