This passage that I get to speak to you about this morning is really the scene that defines our identity as followers of Christ. The death of Jesus is what gives us life, long after He died, and although this is a rather large topic as it pertains to our faith, I am excited to get to speak about it this morning. Ever since I was asked to speak at this service a few weeks ago, I have been diligently taking mental notes of the other Rob that speaks here from time to time, hoping that I can put something together worthwhile. So here goes.
This past summer, I read a book by Matt Mikalatos titled The First Time We Saw Him, which takes stories of Jesus’ life portrayed throughout the gospels and puts them into modern day context. It features stories about a crazy guy who tells a corporate billionaire to sell all of his assets and give his money to the poor, and the same crazy guy feeding a ballpark of 5,000 people using only five buns and two hot dogs. It did an excellent job of putting Jesus’ teachings into the year 2016, and it was interesting to see how despite the immense differences culturally between then and now, his lessons still hold the same meaning that they did when he walked the earth two thousand years ago. One of the stories in this book was the parallel of the passage that was just read this morning from Luke: the crucifixion. I thought that Mikalatos, the author, gave a great commentary for this scene, which is what I kind of wanted to jump off of with my message this morning. He writes about Jesus’ own attitude towards his sacrifice, and the purpose that it would serve for those who came after Him.
He notes that it is written earlier in Luke 22:42, where on the night before Jesus died he prayed to God about his ensuing suffering that was to come. He says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup of suffering from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus was sent to this world for our salvation, knowing very well that this salvation would only come through his suffering and death. He came to God the night before he died, as seen here earlier in this verse, to ask God that His own suffering would be lifted and that his purpose on Earth still be fulfilled, because frankly nobody likes physical affliction and humiliation. But still, he had faith. He had faith in God’s plan over his own, and He would graciously accept and go through with what God’s plan was for Him, even if it meant dying on the cross, the worst form of punishment and humiliation possible. (“Not my will, but yours be done,” he says). If this was God’s will, it was to be Jesus’ own will too.
This theme of choosing God’s plan over our own has been something that has stretched me in my faith so much, especially in a time of my life where I am experiencing new things every day that test my faith and my strength to keep my eyes fixed on God at all times. Throughout life’s difficult and sometimes easy decisions, God always has a hand in them. He knows our greatest needs and desires, even if we ourselves don’t know what they are. That trust is what keeps us going through hard times, because we know that the path we are on is the path that God wants us to be on. But it isn’t always easy to choose that path. The first step to do this is to figure out what it is God is pointing us to do in the first place, which can be difficult and mysterious enough as it is. But even if we can grasp where God is leading us, it can still be even more of a struggle to follow through with this plan because of our own sinful desires and emotions getting the better of us. Simply put, we are forced to put our faith in things that we can’t always see right away.
I continually pray for God to reveal himself to me each and every day, making his way clear to me, the way he revealed himself to Jesus when he sent an angel to give him strength in his suffering on the night before he died. And when he does reveal himself in the mysterious ways that he does, I feel like I have no choice but to listen and follow where he leads me. He has led me to the mountains of Jamaica to grow closer to Him through serving his people and building relationships that I will have for the rest of my life. He has led me to the University of Virginia where he has stretched and tested my faith countless times, only to draw me nearer to Him in the end. And now he has called me home this weekend to Trinity Church, to share with you all on this Sunday. He has led me out of my comfort zone and through hardships, but he has never disappointed, which is why I have no choice but to keep listening to him. Most importantly, this is the same God talking to me that also sent his only son to die for us so that we may live, and we can celebrate Him on this Christ the King Sunday. That makes me feel pretty special.
On this Christ the King Sunday, we proclaim Jesus as our sovereign king, as seen in his conquest of death and his Holy Spirit continually among us every day. I think that leading into the advent season, this time can remind us what we really celebrate the Christmas holiday for, and that is the birth of the Messiah who came and gives us life today. We as the church are the living members of his body, and he calls us to live under the guidance the spirit shows us each day, and acting as he would have if the physical Jesus were standing in this room right now.
I think that this image of Christ as a King is one of the more paradoxical words we associate with Jesus. The word “King,” as it is commonly used today, is one of lavish royalty, supreme reign, and respect. I think that for Christ who lives in Heaven, there is not a more fitting word. But what about for the Christ that lived on earth? Well, not so much. What King, in the worldly sense, spends all of his days with the lowest of the low: the tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts? What King here on earth has the servant’s heart to wash other’s feet as they enter the room, while they can offer nothing to him in return? And what I view as the most incomprehensible: What King leaves his home in heaven to come to the world only to suffer and die for everyone around him? Wow. That’s the Lord, the King, that we worship. Not the one who made others bow to Him as he walked by or who lived lavishly above everyone else as a king might do. Not even the one who chose to save himself on that cross. But the Lord we worship is the one that did all of these things out of love for us, so that we can continually let all of our glory be His glory and build his kingdom day after day.
So on this special Sunday where we look at Christ as our King, which in my opinion isn’t really exclusive to this single Sunday, or this single day either, we are reminded of how the one we worship paid it all for us to be able to celebrate Him and walk in his path today. And even though He lived nothing like a King when He walked the earth before us, he is now rightfully on his throne in Heaven, surely living as the King of everything.