Christ the King

Christ the King

Christ the King
Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash

As Christians we are to be in no doubt of Christ’s authority over us. And not only His authority, but also His existence, and that He is the only way to the Father.  Along with this we need to believe that one day Jesus will judge us fairly and justly.

This must be proclaimed to the world (Acts 10:42; Romans 2:9-16), but when He judges He will do so according to the Gospel (John 12:48; Romans 2:9-16), and he will judge fairly (Acts 10:34-35; Colossians 3:24-25).

Jesus is qualified to be our Judge, because He knows what is in our hearts (John 2:24-25; Revelation 2:23), and therefore He is able to be a just and righteous judge of all the world (Acts 17:30-31).  Yet Jesus did not receive justice, fairness and righteousness at His own trial.

John’s description of Jesus’ trial is very different from the scenes portrayed in the Synoptics.  John has intentionally and dramatically arranged the trial of Jesus before Pilate into 7 scenes.  Like a rabbit, Pilate hops in and out to meet the Jews and to interact with Jesus.  The important thing to see is that each scene – and the whole trial – centres on KINGSHIP.

Scene 1: 18:28-32 – Jesus is accused; the charge will be sedition — making himself a king.

Scene 2: 18:33-38a:  The nature of Jesus’ kingship is raised.

Scene 3: 18:38b-40 – The choice; King of the Jews or Barabbas? The people reject the king for a bandit.

Scene 4: 19:1-3 – Jesus is crowned King of the Jews.

Scene 5: 19:4-7 – Jesus is presented to the people dressed ironically as a king.

Scene 6: 19:8-11 – Jesus’ authority as king and Son of God is revealed.

Scene 7: 19:12-16a – Jesus is presented as King of the Jews.

The issue of Jesus’ kingship has already been raised.  Look back to John, chapter 6.  He has just satisfied the bellies of the 5000 when they try to seize him and force him to be king; but Jesus slips away.  His authority as king originates not from this world but from God and his kingdom has to do with the reign of love, not political expediency aimed at personal aggrandizement.

Jesus knows that too easily we enslave ourselves to cynical rulers who rely on power and coercion to succeed, so long as they satisfy our bellies and require no sacrifice.  Jesus also already knows that later in the story the people of God will cry out, with the most devastating irony: “We have no King but Caesar!” (19:15)

Our passage comprises Scene 2– The nature of Jesus’ kingship.  Pilate has just hopped back in from asking Jesus’ accusers about the charge against him.  We know from historical records that Pilate was a brutal man. Being assigned to the backwaters of Palestine was not part of his ambitious political career plans.

He tries to send away the pesky Jews but they persist.  So he comes to investigate whether Jesus is a political threat to Rome.  Hence the question: “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Rather than answer Pilate, Jesus becomes the interrogator and judge in this trial.  Pilate is not as in control as he pretends to be and Jesus knows it. (see their exchange in 19:10-11).  In response to Jesus’ question, Pilate declares, “I’m not a Jew, am I?” Of course he’s not; quite the opposite: he’s a Roman representing the arm of the Empire that is oppressing Jesus’ own people, the Jews.

Pilate is opposed to Jesus, and is entirely uninterested in truth for truth’s sake.  In doing this he becomes entwined with the words we read in John 1:11 “He came to what was his own, and his own people didn’t accept him.” As the Jewish people are rejecting Jesus, so too is Pilate.

In verse 36, Jesus responds, in a way, to Pilate’s king question.  But Jesus does not crow about being a king; rather, he immediately speaks not about himself BUT his community, calling it a kingdom.  In doing this he contrasts himself with Pilate.

Pilate uses power and authority for selfish ends with no concern for the building of community, and certainly not a community guided by love and truth.  Instead Pilate hoards power and lords it over people even to the point of destroying them, on a cross or otherwise.

Jesus, on the other hand, empowers others and uses his authority to wash the feet of those he leads.  He spends his life on them, every last ounce of it; he gives his life to bring life.

Pilate’s rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm.  Jesus’ rule brings peace, even in the midst of terror (John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-26).

Pilate’s followers imitate him by using violence to conquer and divide people by race, ethnicity, and nations.  Jesus’ followers put away the sword in order to invite and unify people, as Jesus does when he says “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (12:32). Pilate’s authority originates from the will of Caesar and is always tenuous.  Jesus’ authority originates from doing the will of God, and so is eternal.

In Jesus’ response Pilate only hears that Jesus is a possible threat to his own authority: “So you ARE a king?”  In response to this Jesus pushes deeper to the heart of the matter, for this is the trial of the ages… because truth itself is on trial and… Jesus is the star witness.

Will Pilate side with Truth or Cynicism?

What about us?

In the end, Pilate attempts to crucify the Truth.  He places a mocking placard announcing Jesus as The King of the Jews. The irony is thick, Pilate has unwittingly announced the truth.

There on the cross the King is crowned, not with diamonds or a laurel wreath but with thorns.  And from that lofty height, He births the church.

So Christ’s kingship is not to be understood in triumphalist terms, but in terms of his radical suffering and service to the outcast, and thus His kingship needs to be understood in terms of radical love.  For loving Truth wins… overand over again.   Long live the King!

Sunday 25th November 2018

Based on Daniel 7:9-10 & 13-14, and John 18:33-37

Fire from above

Fire from above

God has chosen fire to be the symbol of his presence.

  • A pillar of fire went before the Israelites as they left Egypt so they could see which way to go.
  • “Tongues of fire” came and rested “on each of the disciples” at Pentecost.

Fire has also been associated with revival.  The prophet Elijah was looking for revival when he said; “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal is God follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21).

So if we want to see revival, as Elijah did, we need to pray for fire from above.  No one knew how to start a fire like Elijah.  But what has led Elijah to challenge the people like this?  Well, King Ahab married Jezebel, who was not a pleasant woman.  She was strong willed and wanted her own way, and so was good at scheming and manipulating people and situations to her advantage.

When this was combined with a terrible King, God’s people were led astray, abandoning God for the false gods of Baal and Asherah, the gods of his wife Jezebel.   “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord to anger than did all the Kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33).  The consequence of this is that Elijah, a true prophet of God, cursed the land because of Ahab’s evil. (1 Kings 17:1).  This meant that for three years it did not rain.

When God again came to Elijah He told him to go back to Ahab and confront him again. He promised that if he did so, it would rain.  Because of Ahab’s disregard for God he saw Elijah as a trouble maker, so he blamed Elijah for his troubles. (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah clearly explained to him where the real problem was; his family, because they’d abandoned God and followed Baal. (1 Kings 18:18).  This resulted in Elijah making a “proposition” to Ahab. He was to bring all the people to Mount Carmel along with the prophets of Baal and Asherah.  This is when Elijah urged the people to make a commitment, accept God, or Baal, do not sit on the fence.  (1 Kings 18:21).  So Elijah directly challenged Baal by saying to the prophets of Baal. “Place a bull on the alter and let Baal set fire to it himself.”  Despite the best efforts of the pagan prophets there was no answer.

With a wry sense of humour Elijah taunts them, “Maybe you should pray louder.  Maybe he is busy or travelling or sleeping.  Maybe praying louder will wake him.”  But nothing worked, Baal did not show up.

Then it was God’s turn.  Elijah rebuilt God’s altar, dug a trench around it, prepared the bull, and drenched all of it in water, enough to fill the trench.  With a single prayer Elijah called on God to show His power by sending down fire.  Wow, that’s exactly what happened.  The fire was so powerful that not only was the sacrifice consumed, but also the wood, the altar and the dust around it… all consumed!  After hanging around for hours with the prophets of Baal calling on and waiting for their god to act, here we have God acting instantaneously, decisively and with great power and authority.  The people responded by falling on their knees, proclaiming; “The Lord He is God! The Lord He is God!”

So what is this saying to us today?  It is encouraging us to confront our own sin.

God sent Elijah to confront Ahab with his sin.  (1 Kings 18:18).  If we want to experience God’s cleansing power and enjoy His presence, we must first confront our own sin. This involves repentance.

Acts 17:30 – In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

When we have done this we can then respectfully confront the sin that others walk in.

Matt. 18:15–17 – (Dealing with sin in the church)

‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Luke 17:3 – So watch yourselves.  ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.

As we acknowledge and confront our sin our levels of commitment to God increase as we begin to see the real benefits of confessing our sin – it truly sets us free to be the person God has designed us to be.

As we heard in our passage, Elijah called the people of Israel to commit their whole life to God! (1 Kings 18:21).

This has to be a conscious decision.  No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matt. 6:24).‘

For when we commit to God, we experience revival in our soul and spirit, which then flows out of us and starts to affect our family and friends and our community.  As we work to overcome the sin in our own lives we will through the power of God see ourselves changing more into the likeness of Jesus.  This in turn encourages others to convert to the faith, because they will notice the change in us and so they will be far more likely to seek God for themselves.

So, are we on fire for God?  If we allow God to do His will in our lives, if we confront the sin in our lives, if we commit ourselves, then people will see the smoke and begin to wonder if there is a fire.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28–29)

God continually calls us to get on our knees like Elijah and pray for a personal and congregational revival.  Why is this important?  Because people are looking for God, and they will come to God when they see fire from above in our hearts.

Based on 1 Kings 18:17-39; and Matthew 16:13-19

Sunday 18th Nov 2018