The Last Sunday of the Church Year: Christ the King November 21st, 2010

The sign above Jesus on the cross said it all: “King of the Jews, this one is.” It was his charge. It was his crime. It was his claim. The sign that all the gospel writers refer to in their various crucifixion accounts, spoke volumes about the man who was lifted up to die that day. The sign was meant to be a bit of mockery, meant to strike fear in the hearts of any Jewish citizen that dared cross the Romans or the Jewish officials, meant to jeer, meant to ridicule, meant to minimize, meant to humiliate, and yet that sign spoke nothing less than 100% absolute truth. “King, this one is!” His great crime! His great claim, a claim that was ratified by everything that happened on that hill outside Jerusalem, giving us every reason today to say with great confidence what precious few would confess on the day that the Lamb atoned for the sins of mankind: “This crucified King is our King!” Today, we Stop, Look and Listen to the crucified King. STOP and gaze in awe and amazement at just what sort of king King Jesus is – truly a King of the greatest quality, not demanding service and obedience from his people, but serving for his people by battling Satan and winning the ultimate victory over sin and its greatest proponent. STOP and give full attention to him. LOOK at the visible evidence of his divine royalty, the fulfillment of every picture of sacrifice, the reality of every shadow in whom the Old Testament believers placed their hope; and finally LISTEN – Listen and take to heart his promise to the dying, believing thief, for that promise still resounds today and remains true for you! Stop, look and listen to Calvary’s lingering shadows and see with believing hearts what so many would not: The crucified king is our King forever and ever! I. STOP and give him full attention Luke 23:35-43

We don’t live in an age where cruel and unusual punishment is tolerated. In fact, even in states where the death penalty can be administered, there is always a groundswell of people who would like to see it abolished altogether. In Jesus’ day, the death penalty for slaves and insurrectionists, crucifixion, was not only cruel and unusual, it was regularly put to use, and what a spectacle it was. I really don’t think we could ever truly imagine how disgusting and deplorable crucifixion really was. Sure, we read about it; scientists and historians study its details. Hollywood tries to portray it, but any vision we might have surely falls short of seeing something like that first-hand. It stopped people in their tracks. “The people stood watching,” verse 35 says, with the verbiage of the Greek giving the idea of gawking, and that’s exactly what the Romans wanted. They wanted people to be afraid of even entertaining the idea of rebellion or insurrection. They wanted people to know what the punishment would be if they ever crossed the “kings of the Jews.” They wanted people to pay close attention, not necessarily to the condemned criminal, but specifically to the kind of torturous death that crucifixion was.

It was a spectacle. And yes, people did stop and gawk and stare. But what about us? Do we pass by the cross of Jesus non-chalantly as if it were routine, as if it were no big deal? I bet if we were there that day, the image of our Savior’s passion would be etched into our minds for the rest of our lives. Take some time to stop at the foot of the cross. Pay close attention. This isn’t just another crucifixion, and Jesus isn’t just another condemned criminal among many. He is our King. And as our King, it was his work, willingly undertaken, to enter this war for us; to enter into the valley of the shadow of death to slay the enemy – “by his death...destroying the one who holds the power of death- the devil.” He went to war, just as the ancient promise of Eden said that he would, “...and I will put enmity

(war) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel.” War isn’t pretty, but victory in war is glorious. The battle he fights on Calvary

he fights for you. Let’s not walk hastily by the cross this day, and thus rob ourselves of the spectacle of the battle won. Stop for a moment and give him your full attention. Be among the ones who watch with bated breath, because with every breath, with every word, with every action, he fights...for your life, for your freedom from sin, for your eternal joy and happiness, for your citizenship in his everlasting kingdom. He fights under our sentence of condemnation so that “there is no condemnation (for us) for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The sign says it all! This crucified King IS our King! II. Not everyone was convinced, though! Verses 35-39 reveal that: LOOK at the visible evidence
35 The

people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
He sure didn’t look like a king. He certainly wasn’t being treated like a king or greeted like a king, like he had been only a few days earlier on Palm Sunday. His crown was thorn-encrusted. His scepter was “pity in distress,” as one of our Advent hymns says. His throne was old and rugged. His royal proclamation above him meant to be just a cruel joke. What about his appearance would cause anyone to come to the conclusion that he was royalty? He was truly “a man of one from whom men hide their faces.” And to the Jewish officials and the others offering sneers and jeers at the foot of the cross, there is no way, given what they saw, that this Jesus was really the Christ of God, the Chosen One, the King of the Jews. What do you think? As you gaze with the eyes of faith upon the beaten, broken, bloodied mess of a man who is nailed to the tree, as you feast your eyes upon the condemned Jesus who was stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted, do you see evidence of his royalty? Do you see evidence of his majesty? You should, even in the veil of his humility! Does he meet the expectations that sinful mankind set for him? Certainly not! But has he met every expectation the Father had of him as the Lamb who was led to slaughter, bearing the weight of the world’s sin? Absolutely! And there’s both the evidence and the irony of Christ’s majesty on the cross. This crucified King is exactly what the Jews should have expected. They should have known by the evidence of the Old Testament prophets that BECAUSE he is the Christ of God, the True Passover Lamb, that he WOULD NOT save himself; that because he is the chosen replacement for mankind, he WOULD NOT come down from

his altar of sacrifice; that because he is the Christ, and is our King, he WOULD NOT save himself, but would give himself up to win salvation for everybody else. That’s our King! Look at the visible evidence of his majesty, made clear by his willingness to stay on the cross to the end; to save us rather than himself. No, he doesn’t appear to be a typical king. But the words on the sign above him don’t lie! This one IS King – and his willingness to provide for our greatest need, the need for forgiveness, the need for redemption, at his expense marks him as royalty! We’ve stopped at the foot of the cross. We’ve looked at the reality of the sacrificial shadows that all pointed forward to Good Friday. Now listen to audible testimony, the promise of Jesus to the dying thief: 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself III. LISTEN to the audible testimony

and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” with me in paradise!”

What sweet words Jesus offers to the dying thief, as both of their lives were ebbing away with each passing moment. Paradise! Eden! Even as his lifeblood is flowing out of him, even as he is suffering the pangs of hell, Jesus speaks words of comfort, peace and salvation to the condemned, believing thief! Astonishing, especially considering who this thief was – worthy, according to the laws of the state of the most vile, disgusting, gruesome and torturous form of death. And yet, Jesus promises, “Today you will be Listen carefully to those words, for we are no more worthy of paradise than anyone else, than the vilest of offenders. We should be getting what our deeds deserve. We should receive just punishment for every vile crime we have committed against our God, for every despairing thought, for every denying word, for every disgraceful deed...for everything we do to hurl insult upon insult upon our Savior, and everything we don’t do that says in deeds that words cannot express: “I just don’t care, Jesus! I don’t have time for you! I don’t need you right now! I just don’t care!” Wake up, fellow Christians! Today might be your last! The thief who was crucified next to Jesus knew that Good Friday was his last day of life. He had a sense of urgency about his eternal future. How much more ought we, who do not know when our last breath will be taken? Wake up! Open your ears, and listen carefully to Jesus’ words of promise, which he speaks also to us, the unworthy recipients of his gracious words. We deserve nothing! We deserve what our deeds warrant. And yet, all of what we deserve for our wickedness has fallen on the Lamb who was slain. We can’t not care! Everything that keeps you and me out of paradise has been taken away from us “as far as the east is from the west, so far have our transgressions been removed from us.” And with our eternal sentence of death served in full, all that’s left is the promise: “You will be with me in paradise!” Treasure that promise every day, for every day that the Lord gives you is one day closer to the end of your earthly journey and the beginning of eternity. And for the believers in Christ, that eternity is paradise! Eden! Perfection – given with authority by the King who earned it for us! The sign above him said it all: “King of the Jews, this one is!” No, he didn’t look like a king. He didn’t act like a typical king. Yet, the sign spoke absolute truth. Take the time to stop, to look and to listen, and pray that the Holy Spirit which leads us to the foot of the cross may also create and strengthen in us that conviction of faith: “This crucified King is Christ, my King!” Amen.

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