Sunday, November 23, 2003

Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

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

Christ the King Sunday is the last day of the church year. Next week we begin the journey of Advent, watching the coming of the light in the darkness of our world as we approach Christmas and the birth of the King.

The two days - Christ the King and Christmas - are very similar in many ways. They both herald the coming of a king. It is a time of rejoicing in the power of God to overcome the darkness. They both demonstrate the authority of God over Creation, as He accomplishes the impossible. At Christmas, the God of the Universe is born in the flesh of a man. At Christ the King, the Messiah is given authority, glory and sovereign power - all nations will worship Him.

As I look around the world today and see so many who do not believe in God, I wonder how this will ever come to be. Human beings have rejected God as He is revealed in the scriptures, choosing instead to believe in false gods and self-centered ideology. There seems to be nothing that can convince them that salvation is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the God they seek to worship. Instead, they seek fulfillment in other ways, filling their bellies with good things and their hearts with warm fuzzies. They do not want to commit to the life that is expected of those who believe in the One true and living God. They want what they think is best, to have control over their own destiny, to grasp on to their own faith.

They have fallen for the lies of the enemy. They think that when it comes to that Day of Judgment that they will be able to stand on the works of their own hands. They do not know their own sinfulness and inability to stand before the Creator's wrath. They do not know they need Jesus to stand for them on that day, to be the advocate before the righteous judge. In that day, "one like a Son of man" will approach the Holy One on our behalf, and His righteousness will cover our unrighteousness. That One is our Lord Jesus Christ. Only through Him will we see the glory of God. He is worthy to be worshipped.

But in this world, we worship a whole lot of other junk. The gods of this world are our jobs, families, relationships, material possessions and our selves. While we do not get down on bended knee to worship these things, we do worship them when we put them ahead of God. In "Gone with the Wind" when Scarlet felt defeated, she shook her hand filled with dirt at the sky and said that she would not be defeated. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Is tomorrow another day? According to the church calendar, we have reached the end. This is the end, when the Day of Judgment comes, there will be no tomorrow. We follow a calendar, but God does not. Tomorrow may never come, Advent may never begin again. Are we ready to face the King?

These are not questions to bring fear into our hearts, but to look today to the One who is our advocate. We can't wait until tomorrow to get to know the Lord Jesus. We should not wait until He comes in glory because now is the day of salvation. Now is the time to praise the God who saves through faith in Jesus Christ.

John writes in Revelation "Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come." God is not sitting around waiting for the Day of Judgment to turn His wrath upon the world. He longs for all to know His mercy and grace, to find peace in the knowledge of His love. We do not fear that day because God has made it possible for us to live through His righteous judgment by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus now stands as a witness to the world, and He transforms us into a kingdom of priests. Though by our own ability we are unable to stand before God, Jesus makes us able by His power and grace. The faithful throughout time - the saints of Christ - are among those who minister to the Ancient of Days. One day we will be among them because of the cross of Christ.

Christ the King is the day when we look beyond Christmas and beyond Easter to see what it will be like in that day when Christ is finally crowned in glory. John describes the scene like this, "Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen." In that day, our divided hearts will see the truth of the One true and living God, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." He will reign forever and ever.

The image of His throne from Daniel is awe-inspiring. The Ancient of Days is dressed in pure white with white hair - the image we have of the old man on the throne. His throne is like fire and fire flowed from the throne. Multitudes ministered to Him. It would be unlikely that we could stand before such a sight without falling to our knees in worship and awe. I even know people who say that if only God would give them such a vision, they would believe. But God is not in the business of giving us what we want - He gives us what we need.

We needed Jesus. So, for three years, Jesus ministered to the earthly needs of the people while He taught them about the Kingdom of God. He touched their lives and their hearts. Many believed - some believed for a little while, but when the teachings became too difficult they walked away. A few stayed with Jesus through it all. Many did not believe. They thought Jesus was crazy, or blasphemous. They did not believe His words and put Him to death. Amazing, isn't it, that the very thing they thought would stop Jesus in His tracks, is the very thing that brought salvation to the people.

They did not recognize Him as a King. A few wanted to make him ruler over them, but Jesus avoided being crowned on earth. His Kingdom was not of this world. They were offended by His intimate relationship with God, disturbed by His teaching. So, they gave Him over to death.

In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus stands before Pilate. Pilate asks, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Pilate could see that Jesus was not a threat to anyone. He had no earthly power that should cause such a commotion. Jesus asks him, "Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee concerning me?" He was testing his faith. Was Pilate seeing Jesus as the King, or was he just repeating what he'd heard others say. Pilate thought it was a ridiculous question. He was not a Jew. The politics of Israel made no difference to him as long as they did not do something against Rome. He throws it back in Jesus' face, "It is your own people that are trying to put you to death." Jesus then tells him that His Kingdom is not of this world. Pilate is shocked that he would admit such a thing. "Art thou a king then?" Pilate asks. Jesus answers, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."

Jesus is indeed the King, but the Day has not yet come when all will hear His voice. Pilate had no idea what Jesus meant by the truth. He proclaimed Jesus as king, but not of his heart. For Pilate, tomorrow was still another day and truth could be sought in the things of this world. Jesus died, but He was raised to new life. From that day until today, we long for the coming of His Kingdom in power and glory that we too might be among those who minister to the Ancient of Days for eternity.

What a difference we see between the King that stood before Pilate and the One who will reign forever and ever. A submissive servant simply does not become the powerful ruler. Unless God does the impossible - comes in flesh, dies on the cross and then comes again in glory. And that is exactly what He has done. We long for the day when we will see the King on that throne of fire, but until that day we have the King in our hearts. The Lord Jesus Christ, the one like the Son of Man, stands before God and gives us the grace to walk in faith daily until we will never face the darkness again.

Yes, this is the last day of the church year and tomorrow we are faced with the darkness of the world in which we live. But for this day, we can praise God among the multitudes, to see Him as He is in heaven. As the psalmist writes, "Jehovah reigneth; He is clothed with majesty; Jehovah is clothed with strength; he hath girded himself therewith: The world also is established, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah, The floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. Above the voices of many waters, The mighty breakers of the sea, Jehovah on high is mighty. Thy testimonies are very sure: Holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for evermore."

Thanks be to God.

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