You and I no longer live in the age of kings. Through most of human history, in most times, in most places, people have had kings. People want to belong; people need to belong; to a kingdom. It is natural to want to belong to a kingdom or nation that is lasting, not easily overthrown by rebellion from within or an enemy from without. People want peace and protection – a secure future for ourselves and our loved ones.
But not us; we got rid of our king sometime back. His name was George. And whether we were right or wrong in rebelling against England at that time, most people I think would agree that we are better off without a king. Kings have a nasty habit of looking out for their own interest above all – amassing power, wealth, wives, chopping off people’s heads.
So for us, kings are now but a faint memory.
Yet, Scripture talks a lot about kings and has a rightful place for kings. Kings were not meant to be oppressive. The ideal king would be a shepherd, a father for his people. He would defend his people from their enemies. He would provide peace and prosperity. And he would uphold the cause of justice in the land, protecting the poor and weak. He would be strong and noble. Moreover, the people would pray fervently for his health.
Matthew begins his gospel by telling us that Jesus has come; and, more importantly, He has come as a king. For example in chapter 1, Jesus is described as the descendant of David – David the king.
In chapter 2, Matthew reports the arriving of Magi from the East. They come to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They follow the star, and they worship the Christ-child, presenting their royal tribute. The gift the Magi brought were gifts fit for a king: gold, incense and myrrh.
Then in chapter 3, John the Baptist comes on the scene, preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Then in chapter 4, Jesus is tempted by Satan – that pretender to the throne. And Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. All these I will give you,” Satan promises, “if you will fall down and worship me.” But Jesus will not be crowned by that imposter, Satan.
No, later in Matthew’s gospel He will receive his throne from God, His Father. The Father’s path for Jesus, the path to Jesus’ kingdom, will lead him to the cross – there in nakedness and shame, there in kingly love. And wearing a crown of thrones he will pour out his blood underneath the sign that read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
And not just of the Jews. Raised from the dead, the Father gives Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth so that Jesus sends His apostles out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and filling their ears with the promises of His kingdom.
In our text, Jesus the King goes up on a mountain, and his disciples gather around him – the King with His people. Just before this, Jesus kingdom had been revealed with some flair. He was going around, healing every disease and every affliction among the people – all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics. And he healed them.
But now, the ink in the Bible turns red and Jesus begins to be revealed as the preacher King. Surrounded by people with needs – real needs, physical ailments, poverty and hunger, grief, injustice – surrounded by people with all these needs, Jesus, the mighty King gives them… a sermon – the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes.
Jesus gives them words? What happened to all the healings? Why doesn’t this King give his people something useful, something helpful? Maybe so much bread that they cannot eat it all it one sitting. Or how about raising some loved ones from the dead. Or maybe he could sit down with them and reconcile all of their disputes with fairness and equity.
But no. Not here anyway. Just words.
Brothers and sisters, what are you looking for from Jesus Christ, the King? What do you want? What do you expect to receive from Him when you come to church, into his presence? What’s so great about Christianity? What is our claim to fame? Why should we rejoice that the kingdom of heaven is at hand?
Or let’s do it like this. Imagine that you were asked to write a newspaper ad for Immanuel. The ad would read: “Immanuel Lutheran Church has the best _______” What are you going to put in the blank? Or what should we put in that blank? Immanuel has the best quilting group. Our church has the best Oktoberfest. Our church has the best social ministry. Our church has the best music, the friendliest people, the best school, the deepest intimacy with God, the most powerful preaching, the sincerest staff.
I cannot help but think of Paul’s words for today: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
Well, how about this: “Our church has the best promises.” In our text for this morning, King Jesus gives us his kingly promises, his royal pledges. And we have the Lord’s promises. They are just words, that is true; but they are the Lord’s words.
Why do we come to church? Answer: for Jesus’ promises. How was church today? “Well, Jesus was there, and He made me some wonderful promises.” Who preached today? “I don’t remember, but I heard Jesus’ promises.” Why do read Scripture? Because Jesus my king is making me his promises. Why do you baptize? Because Jesus my king is making his promises.
And just listen to what this King is promises: Do you have many tears? Jesus says, “The day is coming when I will comfort you and fill you with joy.” Are you little regarded in this world, or do you have little? Jesus says, “The day is coming when all of heaven and earth will be my inheritance and I will share it all with you.” Are there wrongs that plague the world? Are there are injustices which do not seem redressed, in your own life and in the lives of those around you? Jesus says, “The day is coming when I will set all things right. And you will be satisfied. The day is coming when you will be welcomed into the presence of God in mercy and your sins will not be remembered or mentioned. The day is coming when you will see My face, and your eyes will look on the beauty and splendor of your God. The day is coming when, standing before the whole world, I will say: ‘This is a son of God.’”
This morning, here in this place, we hear in the Scriptures, the voice of Jesus our King. Jesus comes near to us as our King. He gathers us and makes royal promises to us. Take heart and endure. The day is coming. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Blessed are those who long for that day.