Easter Sermon: Jesus Is King
March 31, 2013
OBJECTIVES OF SERMON:
* Midweek service (dinner at 6:00; meeting at 6:45); need help with childcare.
* Potluck next week.
* Need a couple of weeks filled for set up and clean up.
SCRIPTURE READING: John 19:19-22 (Marilyn)
John loves IRONY and relishes sharing ironic stories. One of my favorites is when the Jews claim to be free even as they are SLAVES to Rome. Even better:
John 11:47-52 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
Here is the height of irony: The two men, Pilate and Caiaphas, MOST RESPONSIBLE for Jesus death unwittingly declare that Jesus is LORD and SAVIOR.
Caiaphas, as chief priest, declares him savior and Pilate, as Rome’s representative, declares him LORD:
John 19:19-22 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
* Of course, Pilate meant it as an INSULT – “this is what we do to kings” – which is why they wanted it changed.
21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
But what PILATE DIDN’T KNOW, what the chief priests didn’t know, in fact what even Jesus’ own FOLLOWERS didn’t know, was that the crucifixion wasn’t the END of Jesus reign, it was the BEGINNING.
* With his death, Jesus INAUGURATED the Kingdom of God.
KINGDOM OF GOD
If you have read the Gospels much, then you know that the KEY THEME of Jesus teaching was not “repent so you can GO to HEAVEN,” but “repent for the Kingdom of God is COMING.”
* The idea of the Kingdom of God can be SUMMARIZED as “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The Kingdom of God is not about going to Heaven, but BRINGING God’s RULE to EARTH. It’s about God ruling as king here and now.
* Israel tried to be ruled by various HUMAN KINGS, but things were never right when human was on the throne.
From SAUL to ZEDEKIAH, kings ranged from “not bad except...” to horrible. The Jews knew that everything would not be well until God himself was back on the throne.
* We used to sing, “The LORD REIGNS,” from Psalm 97, which basically longing for God to be king on earth.
By the time of Jesus, the RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL LANDSCAPE was very complicated. On one hand, many Jews lived under the eager EXPECTATION that God would make good on his promise and restore them, that they would no longer be oppressed by foreign nation.
* They were awaiting a MESSIAH, one like MOSES, who would deliver them.
Messiahs came and went, some more successful than others, but none successful. The most successful was JUDAS MACCABAEUS, who purified the temple that Antiochus desecrated, but his family proved a disappointment.
* The PHARISEES were eagerly awaiting for God to come, take over and put Israel back on top.
The Pharisees wanted GOD as KING, so long as he conformed to their AGENDA, as we see when Jesus shows up.
On the other hand, the SADDUCEES were the aristocrats, the high priests, the wealthy. They were the ones with the power, and they got it by working with the Romans.
* The Sadducees did NOT want GOD as KING, they were quite happy without him.
JESUS walks into this situation and begins ACTING like he is this KING – he calls twelve DISCIPLES, loudly DECLARED the RULE of God has come, demonstrates his AUTHORITY over HELL by casting out demons, and acts like he OWNS the TEMPLE.
* JESUS UNDERSTOOD he was that king, God coming to rule and succeed where the past kings failed.
At first, the PHARISEES would have been very interested in him, with the miracles and all, but very quickly he showed that he WASN’T what they wanted.
* Jesus hung out with the WRONG kind of PEOPLE, he didn’t HATE the RIGHT PEOPLE, and undermined THEIR AUTHORITY.
What God intended was far different than they expected – they wanted a king to change the POLITICAL landscape, he knew they needed a king to RULE in their HEARTS.
* Then SADDUCEES were afraid because he threatened their POWER.
Politics makes STRANGE BED FELLOWS, and people of every stripe who normally hated each other, got together because they agreed on one thing – Jesus had to go.
THE REAL BATTLE
Many try to paint Jesus as a VICTIM of political necessity, a teacher whose teachings the world wasn’t ready for.
But Jesus saw it VERY DIFFERENTLY – this wasn’t the untimely end of an otherwise promising career. Jesus was clear on this point: No one takes my life from me, I am laying it down.
* Jesus did indeed come to bring the Kingdom of God, but a very DIFFERENT KINGDOM than they had guessed.
Everyone thought that by KILLING JESUS, they were ENDING his movement, but in reality they were BEGINNING it. For the Kingdom of God to come, Jesus HAD to die.
As I said last week, the BIGGEST PROBLEM facing Israel was not being ruled by Roman tyrants. The biggest problem we face isn’t political – we are ruled by the tyrants of SIN and DEATH.
* There is NO ARMY BIG ENOUGH or weapon advanced enough to rout those enemies; “We struggle not against flesh and blood.”
The tyrant of SIN could only be defeated with Christ’s PURE SACRIFICE, giving himself over in place of our sins, cleansing us of sin’s stain.
* His death provided FORGIVENESS that broke SIN’S POWER.
The tyrant of DEATH could only be defeated by the RESURRECTION, which we celebrate today. Jesus wasn’t simply revived, he is now beyond death.
* The key point is that because he was raised, we will be too.
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
* In Christ, Heaven and earth met – this life became INCORRUPTIBLE.
HISTORICAL FACT – SO WHAT?
In the past I have talked a lot about the HISTORICAL BASIS of the resurrection, that there is a strong rational basis for believing that Jesus was who he said he was and the early church believed him to be.
* In the New Testament era, faith did not believing without proof, but CONFORMING one’s LIFE to verifiable events.
KNOWING these events to be historically accurate is WORTHLESS; the Sadducees and Pharisees knew resurrection to be true, but tried to cover it up to protect their own position. Remember:
* The SADDUCEES were the aristocracy, they had position because they had cooperate with the Roman overlords.
They did not want God to be king, they were quite COMFORTABLE with the STATUS QUO. It is no surprise Jesus was followed by the weak and the poor, who desperately wanted a regime change.
* The PHARISEES would not shift their EXPECTATIONS; the king had come but wasn’t kind enough to be a puppet to other’s agenda.
Both the PHARISEES and the SADDUCEES remained firmly COMMITTED to their AGENDA in spite of the evidence. The Sadducees hoped nothing would change and the Pharisees wanted their change.
* Neither of them REALLY WANTED GOD to be king.
What they didn’t know was the path either of them were on was leading them to DESTRUCTION:
Luke 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
And this is exactly what happened. Various REVOLUTIONARIES tried to fill the role of Messiah and managed to kick Rome out of Jerusalem. But ROME came back in force and LEVELED the place.
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT HE IS?
The DEATH of Jesus, which we commemorate this week, and his RESURRECTION, which we celebrate this week, mean one very important thing: The king has COME in POWER, but not to protect the status quo.
* Jesus came to RULE, not just the NATION of Israel, but something both far GREATER and far SMALLER.
Jesus came to rule in our HEARTS. The king of glory came to ASSERT his AUTHORITY over our lives, to be Lord and Savior.
Even though a lot has changed in the last 2,000 years, the QUESTION facing us is the SAME as faced the Jews in Jesus day:
Q Who do YOU say JESUS is?
Q What will YOU do with him?
Are you like the SADDUCEES, wanting nothing to do anything with the REAL God? You may give LIP SERVICE to him (they were the priests), but in reality you are quite happy as your own lord.
Q Are you HAPPY RUNNING your own life?
Q Do you IGNORE his RULE, is there no fear of God?
Q Are you a PRACTICAL ATHEIST?
Or are you like the PHARISEES, and want God, but want him on your own terms, to give you what you really want?
Q How do you respond when God DOESN’T GIVE you what you WANT?
Q Do you TRUST him in spite or get BITTER?
In the end, we are left with the choice to submit to him or resist the change.
* If you want a god who will stay silent or who will give you what you want, you are out of luck.
But if you want to see sin and death conquered, if you want to be on that winning team, you need to change teams, or risk the destruction the Sadducees and Pharisees faced.
BRINGING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Jesus also came to be king of something GREATER than the nation of Israel:
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This does NOT mean that EVERYONE will be SAVED, but that everyone will be FORCED to RECOGNIZE what they have ignored as long as they could:
* Jesus is KING, not just of the JEWS and not just of our HEARTS but of all creation.
The Kingdom of God has NOW COME and it now coming. By his death Jesus INSTITUTED it. Soon he will bring it in fullness when he returns.
* In the meantime, he is brining the kingdom THROUGH US, his servants.
Jesus was a revolutionary, now we are HIS REVOLUTIONARIES, his agents bringing change to a world that needs his rule.
Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over
He could rule without our help, but that is not his STYLE:
Revelation 5:10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
* GOD works THROUGH JESUS, Jesus works THROUGH HIS FOLLOWERS.
Some things only Jesus could do (like dying for sins), but other things are for us:
* “GREATER THINGS will you do” (John 14:12).
God honors us by giving us the job of being his AGENTS, of working through us, and that begins now. We are not PAWNS, we are PARTICIPANTS.
Q WHAT do we do?
Knowing that this world is his, we BRING life to it:
* Reach the LOST.
* BE the PRESENCE of the God, his temple.
* CARE for the SICK.
* HEAL the EARTH.
God didn’t leave us here for us to JUST ENJOY the life he has given, but to SPREAD that life.
But perhaps the most revolutionary thing we do is worship:
All kingdom work is rooted in WORSHIP. Or, to put it the other way around, worshipping the God we see at work in Jesus is the most POLITICALLY CHARGED act we can ever perform. Christian worship declares that JESUS is LORD and that therefore, by strong implication, NOBODY else is.
What’s more, it doesn’t just declare it as something to be BELIEVED, like the FACT that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to ALLEGIANCE, to following this Jesus, to being SHAPED and DIRECTED by HIM.
Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole BEING, our IMAGINATION, our WILL, our HOPES, and our FEARS away from the world where MARS, MAMMON, and APHRODITE (violence, money, and sex) make ABSOLUTE DEMANDS and punish anyone who resists. It orients us instead to a world in which LOVE is STRONGER than death, the POOR are promised the KINGDOM, and [PURITY] (whether married or single) reflects the HOLINESS and FAITHFULNESS of God himself.
(N.T. Wright, “Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters,” p. 217)