Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2018
A Sermon on John 18:33-37 by Samuel Zumwalt, STS
John 18:33-37 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Confessing Christ: Adoringly
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ, means “the anointed one,” in Greek. It is the equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Both words mean the same thing, “King.” To call Jesus “Christ” is to call Him, “King Jesus.” Make no mistake about it. King Jesus is a far greater threat to every king who has ever lived than they can or could imagine. He is a far greater threat to anyone who is living, who has ever lived, and who will ever live than we can or could imagine. When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” He was making clear that He had no interest in Caesar’s throne, in Caesar’s army, or even in poor old Pontius Pilate’s governorship. King Jesus wants far more than that. He wants every heart, every mind, every thought, every feeling, every relationship, in short, every person to be His. He wants all of you and all of me. That’s what is at stake. He is the Truth. All other so-called “truths,” all other ideas, identities, and innovations are measured against the Truth, Jesus.
Someone who is hostile to the Christian faith, someone who is bound by the old evil one, someone who hates and persecutes Christ’s Church on earth understands far better than cultural Christians, wishy-washy Christians, lukewarm Christians, what is at stake. With Jesus it is a battle for every heart and mind, for every square inch of His creation, and those who do not get that have been catechized more by the world than by the Church of every time and place. Those who want to re-imagine Jesus or to trap Him in the first century Holy Land do not worship and adore King Jesus. Those who want to coopt Jesus for their political, economic, or psychological systems do not worship and adore King Jesus. Earthly kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but Christ Jesus is forever Lord of all. Those who cringe at Jesus’ titles “Lord, King, and Ruler” do not worship and adore King Jesus. If you want to be in control of Jesus, you are in trouble.
Anyone from a tribal culture, anyone from an ancestor culture, and anyone who thinks of their family as what matters more than anything else gets what is at stake when the Lord Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” There are those in the Muslim Middle East, those in Africa, those in China, and those in India who understand that if they are baptized with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they will be disowned and even killed for switching their allegiance to Jesus. In America, someone who grew up in a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or Black Muslim family will understand that Baptism into the orthodox Christian faith in which Jesus is indeed one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit is to leave behind the old religion of their family and to risk being shunned by their own flesh and blood. This is what lukewarm, wishy-washy, cultural Christians never get about Baptism. It’s having Jesus as King.
Those in secular and even so-called Christian schools and colleges, those in the popular media and entertainment, and those in governments who twist Jesus’ words to cut Him down to size or to coopt Him for their own programs and projects have made themselves enemies of the Truth. Jesus isn’t a socialist or a capitalist. Jesus isn’t a Democrat or a Republican. Jesus isn’t on the side of abortion, same sex marriage, or anyone that denies we are made male and female in the image of God. In short, when you hear Matthew 25 quoted by those on the left to support their political programs or immigration policies, they do not understand who King Jesus is or what He wants. Or, maybe they do, and that’s why they try to put words in His mouth. He alone is Lord.
Again, people who are hostile to the Christian faith understand far better what’s at stake than lukewarm, wishy-washy, cultural Christians who think church is like a country club membership.
When we renounce the forces of evil, the devil, and all his empty promises at Baptism and confess God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is a lifelong, daily way of life. It is a daily renunciation of all other kings and all other truths. It is a daily abandoning oneself to the grace and mercy of the one true God who has made Himself known as Christ Crucified for sinners! When you hear foul-mouthed preachers telling you that you can stay just the way you are and think whatever way you want, they do not know the Truth. They do not hear Jesus’ voice!
So, then, what does it mean to be His in the washing of Holy Baptism? When you are baptized into King Jesus’ death and resurrection, you are no longer your own. If you were born in a male body or a female body, that’s who you are – male or female. To pretend otherwise, to claim some other gender, some other identity, some other way of life is not being true to Jesus, the Truth, through whom all things were made. To pretend that your feelings about yourself or your child or your spouse are more important than Jesus, the Truth, is to refuse His rule and reign over all of you. To pretend that abortion is not the murder of a child and that sex outside the marriage of one man and one woman is not a sin is not being true to Jesus, the Truth, who has spoken clearly about murder and about marriage. Our Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection does not change our emotions or our thoughts or the relationships into which we were born or to which we were placed, but our Baptism means there can only be one King, one Truth, one Lord.
So, then, how do the baptized who resist King Jesus in some particular areas of our lives deal with that rebellion against Him? We confess we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, and we acknowledge that He can free us from every thought, word, or deed that is hostile to King Jesus. There are seven pastors in this congregation. If you feel ashamed or guilty over something you have said or done, over some feeling or relationship, you can approach any of the seven pastors in this congregation, and none of us will ever tell anyone what you tell us. You can confess your sins, receive Christ’s forgiveness as from His own lips, and be encouraged to return to your Baptism as a way of life – as a daily renunciation of the devil, his works, and his ways. We will never betray anything you say to us in confidence… not to anyone. Don’t wallow in guilt or shame. God wants to set you free from every unclean thought, word, or deed.
When you are baptized into King Jesus’ death and resurrection, it’s not just an outward sign of inward action. It’s far different than the bath or shower you took before you came to worship. When you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table, it’s not just a remembrance of what Jesus once did and not just a spiritual experience. When you hear the pastor announce the grace of God to you, it’s not just a sinful man standing up there sharing with you some happy thoughts. King Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh and when He was crucified for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world, it changed everything forever. To be baptized into His death and resurrection is to have died and been raised with Him and given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. To lift these sin-sick, empty hands in a throne at the Lord’s Table is to receive His true Body and His most precious Blood by His Word of Promise for the forgiveness of sins. He is the Truth. He does not lie. To hear that King Jesus’ death on the cross covers every sin is to know that the Lamb of God has spread His Blood over the doorposts of our lives and has delivered us from our bondage to sin, death, and the devil. God’s Word accomplishes His purposes in the lives of His children.
So, then, the best defense is a good offense. Read God’s Word daily and pray daily for your life to be conformed to it. When you step into the shower or into the tub, renounce again the forces of evil, the devil, and all his empty promises and confess your faith in the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). When you are readying yourself for the services of God’s house every week, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart, your mind, and your ears to God’s Word, especially the Word you do not want to hear. And when you find yourself hungering and thirsting for someone or something other than King Jesus, bring that hunger and thirst to Him in prayer and ask that, when you receive Him at His altar, He will replace and fill that hunger and that thirst with what you really need. You need Jesus. I need Jesus. Everyone needs Jesus always.
When any relationship is hostile to King Jesus, ask Him to change that relationship into that which is God pleasing. Remember: you need spiritual friendships in which Christ is King. When your heart or mind is touched by human need, give yourself away like Jesus, especially to your spouse or other family relationships. You don’t have to go far away to serve like Jesus. Finally, however and whenever you use time, talent, and treasure at home or away, do so in ways that not only say, “Thank you” to King Jesus but in ways that confess Him adoringly before the world.
At the end of all things, soon and very soon, Christ the King will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. The only ones who have anything to fear are those who hate Him and those who never cared to do more than pay lip service to the Truth, who chose not to listen to Him!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©The Rev. Dr. Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Confessing Christ: Adoringly
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the people of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 625).
John 18:33 “Are you the King of the Jews?”
St. Cyril [Early 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “Having nothing at all of which to accuse him, and none of those crimes to allege against him that normally bring with them just punishment – and Pilate persisting in inquiring why they had brought him – they assert that Jesus had sinned against Caesar in assuming the dominion that Caesar had acquired over the Jews and in changing the glory of his kingdom to suit his personal aspirations. Great was the malice that suggested this device and caused the false accusation to assume this shape” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: John 11-21, 289).
John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Tertullian [Late 2nd – early 3rd century theologian in Carthage, Africa]: “If he exercised no right of power even over his own followers, to whom he discharged menial tasks – if, in short, though conscious of his own kingdom, he shrank back from being made a king – he in the fullest way possible gave his own an example for turning coldly from all the pride and outward trappings, as well of dignity as of power (289).
John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world.”
St. John Chrysostom [Late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople]: “Here Jesus shows the weakness of kingship among us. He demonstrates that its strength lies in servants. But that which is above is sufficient of itself. It needs nothing…. And so, he also says that his kingdom is not from this world – not depriving the world of his providence and governance but rather showing, as I said, that his power was not human or perishable” (289).
John 18:37 “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
St. Augustine [Late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius in present-day Algeria]: “Truth was born from the Virgin Mary, that he might be in a position to offer sacrifice for those who needed justification, the sacrifice of his passion, the sacrifice of the cross. How could he offer his sacrifice for our sins, except by dying? But how could he die, unless he took from us what could die? Had he not taken mortal flesh from us, Christ could not have died, for the Word does not die, the Godhead does not die, the Power and Wisdom of God does not die. How could he offer himself as a saving victim, if he did not die? But how could he die without clothing himself in flesh? And how could he put on flesh unless Truth sprang up from the earth?” (291).
1. Am I willing to listen to Christ the Truth as He calls me away from the worship of sin and self?
The Ten Commandments (from Luther’s Small Catechism)
As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.
The Close of the Commandments
What does God say about all these commandments?
He says: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.
1. Pray for every unbaptized child you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend how the close of the commandments warns of the danger of entrenched sin but points us to Jesus, the Savior of the world.
4. Join with our new Mission Team to serve neighbors whose property has been damaged by Hurricane Florence. Sign up in the Commons to provide a meal for an incoming mission team from another congregation or to join in recovery efforts.
5. Practice the freedom of being God’s child in Christ this week, with the Holy Spirit’s help, by making a list of favorite sins that have the potential to steal your heart forever. If you have the courage to do so, (and pray for such courage), ask one of the pastors to hear your confession, offer you absolution, and talk with you about the amendment of your life.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”