Pastor Sherry’s message for November 21, 2021
Scriptures: 2 Sam 23:1-7; Ps 132:1-12; Rev. 1:1-8; Jn 18:33-37
Let me begin by sharing two stories about kingship:
1.) Chuck Colson related this one in his book, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008, p.90). In 1990, he was in Russia, preaching at the Moscow Baptist Church, just blocks from the Kremlin, “He told a packed crowd of worshipers that all through human history, as far back as recorded time and doubtless before, kings, princes, tribal chiefs, presidents, and dictators have sent their subjects into battle to die for them. Only once in human history has a king not sent his subjects to die for him, but instead, died for his subjects. This is the King who introduces the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, because this King reigns eternally.”
Colson was, of course, referring to Jesus Christ, comparing Jesus’ selfless reign and rule to that of all other world leaders.
2.) In another story—so old there we do not know to whom to credit it—we have an anecdote concerning the King of England from 1014-1035, who was actually a Danish royal and a Christian, named Canute. “King Canute tired of hearing his retainers flatter him with extravagant praises of his greatness, power and invincibility. He ordered his chair to be set down on the seashore, where he commanded the waves not to come in and wet him. No matter how forcefully he ordered the tide not to come in, however, his order was not obeyed. Soon the waves lapped around his chair. One historian tells us that, therefore, he never wore his crown again, but hung it on a statue of the crucified Christ.” King Canute knew he lacked the power of Christ the King. He probably also realized he would not be willing to die for his subjects, as Jesus did.
Today is the last day of the church calendar, called Christ the King Sunday. Next week we begin our Christmas focus on the Advent or the 1st and 2nd Comings of Jesus. But for today, we close out the Church’s calendar year by focusing on the Kingship of Jesus. Jesus truly is Christ the King.
A. In our OT reading, 2 Samuel 23:1-7, the prophet Samuel records the last words of King David. David credits God with elevating him to the position of king from being a shepherd son of a peasant farmer. He admits the Holy Spirit worked through him—and spoke through him–during his lifetime, probably especially though the music he wrote and played (his psalms), his phenomenal military success, and the fact that he tried to rule righteously.
In verse 5, he alludes to the Covenant agreement David had with God—There would always be a descendant of his to rule Israel, as long as that descendant was obedient to the Lord. Those who did evil would be cast aside; but the Righteous One to be—Jesus—will reign forever and ever.
B. Psalm 132:1-12 was apparently written by King Solomon, King David’s son and immediate heir to his throne. In it, Solomon asks God to remember that David wanted to build an earthly dwelling suitable for the Lord. Solomon has just completed construction of the Temple in Jerusalem and is celebrating having moved the Ark of the Covenant from “the tent of habitation” to the Holy of Holies (a goal of his father’s). This psalm was probably sung at the Temple’s dedication service. Solomon asks God to come and dwell in this Temple—which He does. And then Solomon reminds God of His promises to his father, David:
1.) To always keep a descendant of David upon the throne of Israel, providing that descendant obeys the Lord.
2.) Solomon probably doesn’t realize it, but inspired by the Holy Spirit, he has just prophesied the kingship of Jesus in verse 11–The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that He will not revoke: One of your own descendants I will place on your throne…The last of the Davidic kings was the rebellious Zedekiah (597-586BC). There is, at present, no king of Israel. But Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a kingly figure on Palm Sunday. He admitted to Pilate that He is a king. And He will be enthroned in Jerusalem when He returns to earth a 2nd time.
C. Our Gospel lesson is from John 18:33-37. It records a portion of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea. It is said that Pilate hated Jerusalem and really disliked the Jews. He spent most of his time at Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast. He made it his habit to visit Jerusalem during the great feasts, like Passover, when Jews from all around the world would crowd into the city to worship God. He hoped to impress his superiors by keeping the peace in a volatile country. Not truly understanding the Jewish religion, he finds himself having to adjudicate Jesus’ case.
Now Pilate was a pragmatist, a Roman military officer, not a philosopher. He probably thought Jesus was a nut-case if He claimed to be Israel’s king. Afterall, Israel was then under the rule of a Roman-appointee, Herod Agrippa, who owed his authority and privileges to Rome. What right would an itinerant rabbi have to call Himself King?
So he enters into the dialogue with Jesus:
PILATE. Are you the King of the Jews?
JESUS. Essentially, what prompted that question?
PILATE—Not me; your own folks say this of you.
JESUS—Yes, I’m a king, but not of this world, or more correctly, out of this world. He will not be a political king, rising out of the political system. He will be a true king, not a political hack. He will be—and is—a theocratic king and will come to earth again as King of King and Lord of Lords (but Jesus doesn’t explain all of this to Pilate).
D. However, this is where our NT lesson from Revelation 1:1-8 picks up. The year is somewhere in the 90’s (near end of 1st century). John is the oldest living apostle (in his late 80’s, early 90’s). Peter has been crucified, upside-down, at his own request! John’s brother James has been put to the sword by King Herod Agrippa. Paul has been beheaded in Rome.
John has outlived them all—some say he is the only apostle to die a natural death.
We find him in today’s narrative, confined to the prison isle, Patmos.
It was a rocky, inhospitable island, about 6 X 10 miles, in the Aegean Sea.
Inmates there were sentenced to hard labor in the mines and quarries, exposed to elements. Our passage tells us (verse 10), On the Lord’s Day, I was in the Spirit. Here he was, in harsh circumstances, isolated from friends, but worshipping God on Sunday, the Lord’s Resurrection Day.
He was praying, in the Spirit, when he has a Holy Spirit assisted vision.
John sees and hears from Jesus.
But I am getting ahead of myself here—Return to verses 1-3:
John tells us God the Father gave this revelation to Jesus Christ. The word, revelation comes from the Greek word, apokalupsis which means an UNVEILING, a REVEALING. In this god-forsaken place, Jesus Himself comes to John. What a comfort that must have been to the apostle:
John, I have not forgotten you! Even though you are elderly and in exile,
I have a job for you to do.
So Jesus is speaking this unveiling, this revealing to John, as the Ascended Lord, the King of the Universe! Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. This means He is installed right next to God the Father, at God’s right hand of power. Jesus conveys the revelation to John thru an angel (messenger). And John obediently writes for us all that he saw and heard.
Whoever reads it, and hears it, and takes it to heart will be blessed.
So who is that? Us! Yes, it’s complicated and uses a lot of figurative language, (Old Testament allusions) but if we persist/puzzle through Revelation, we will be blessed! We will be blessed because it tells us how our great cosmic history turns out! The Good Guy wins! Through Him, we also win! (We are vindicated).
John greets the 7 churches in Asia Minor (Turkey):
These were specific church groups, but also types/representatives of churches. In verses 4-6, he states, Grace and peace to you from.
Him who is and who was and who is to come [the eternal Father], the 7 spirits before His throne [The Holy Spirit; the Complete Holy Spirit given all of His characteristics], and from Jesus Christ. Jesus is then called by several titles:
1.) The faithful witness— Jesus has told us truth and so He continues to tell us truth (I am the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6).
2.) The firstborn from the dead—During His earthly ministry, Jesus resurrected 3 persons: His friend Lazarus; the son of the widow of Nain; and he synagogue ruler’s 12 year old daughter. But they all went on to die, again, later. Jesus is the first One resurrected to eternal life!
3.) The ruler of the kings of the earth—In Phil 2:9-11, we are told…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Ultimately, at the end of time, all Caesars/kings, presidents, premiers, despots and dictators everywhere will acknowledge the lordship of King Jesus. Their eyes will be open to the Truth of Who Jesus is.
4.) V. 8. I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. Alpha is the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet; Omega, the last. Jesus is saying, I am the A through Z. He is the full revelation of God the Father. He is the beginning and the end, eternal, unchanging. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it (13:8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
The final outcome is ultimately a good one! God has the last word! We serve Christ the King. The resurrected Jesus Christ is alive and on His heavenly throne. The Alpha and the Omega will come again in glory to rule and reign upon the earth. I can hardly wait, can you? Amen! Maranatha! Come King Jesus!
©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams