Christ the King, 2016
The Epistle. Colossians 1:12-20
The Gospel. St. John 18:33-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Back in the Old Testament, in the first Book of Samuel, chapter 8, we read these words: “When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’
This is a great turning point in the Bible…and in the history of Israel. They had gone for so very long trusting (for the most part) God to rescue them from Egypt, confound enemies on the battlefield and give them victory over enemies.
He had fed them and given them drink in the wilderness.
So here is what happens when the people demand to replace God as their King and instead desire to have man rule over them…
We continue in 1 Samuel 8….
“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
One of the saddest lines in all of Scripture.
“According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’”
“So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him.”
And here we have a description of life under a king, rather than having the LORD God as their King.
Here is what God warns them will happen now that they have chosen to reject God…
Samuel said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:
He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.
He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.
He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.
He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.
He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
Then here is what God says will be the result once a king is set over them….and all of this comes to pass….what they will think of it all…
“And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Despite God’s truth telling here, this is the reply of the people, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
They obviously didn't recognize all of the battles they had won because the hand of the LORD had given them the victory.
They did not recall to remembrance all of the ways in which God provided such a more full and better way to caring for them.
The chapter ends this way….on a very sad note…. “And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and make them a king.’”
Now we know that the Old Testament serves us well as an example of humanity’s behavior at every turn.
We see ourselves in how the people turn from God and wander after idols and other distractions.
So this lesson is a perfect one to set us up for the lessons and theme for today. There are similarities and differences.
Today is the Feast of Christ the King. Instituted not long ago…in 1925 because of the observed rise of both secularism and nationalism at that time.
The attention of man needs to be constantly turned away from the kings and rulers of this world and turned toward the true King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
A King who was not recognized as such, but is now.
A King who was arrested, tried and executed by His own people.
A King whose Kingdom is not of this world.
A King whose armies are angelic beings.
A King whose sole mission in life was to die for the sins of His people.
A King who speaks only truth…
And yet just like the case of Samuel, there are many today who reject the Lordship of Christ and demand another king…or no king at all…except one of their own making at a time of their liking.
Paul’s section from his letter to the Colossians today displays the glorious King whom we worship and adore day-by-day and week by week.
The second verse today already sets the tone.
God has delivered us….already delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the humiliating death of our King, God has already begun blessing us. We have passed from death to life.
We are now in the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. We should think on this reality often. We are not just waiting to be with Him upon our death….though that is true.
We are also at this very moment beginning and enjoying the heavenly promise. The Kingdom of Heaven broke in on this world at the incarnation when Christ was born.
He brought the Kingdom with Him.
And through faith attaching ourselves to Him, we are now at this very moment members and partakers of His Kingdom.
Holy Communion is a reminder of this fact.
Not all are allowed to eat of this meal.
Not all are allowed to drink of that cup.
But those whom He has declared worthy on account of their faith in Him, He calls us to partake of Him and His Kingdom.
Paul continues with this wonderful picture of just who Jesus is here in this section from the Epistle today.
Jesus is: “He is the image of the invisible God.
The firstborn of all creation.
By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth.
All things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
Through him, God reconciled us to Himself.
Peace between God and man was made by the blood of the Cross.
Paul also offers this to finish off this section. He says, “You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds… (that's us, before He found us and made us His own)….He has now reconciled us to God in His own body of flesh…
…referring to Him coming down to us and being born a man in our likeness…and being crucified in the body.
…in order to do this….
To present us holy and blameless and above reproach before God the Father…if we continue in faith.
We must remain stable and steadfast, not shifting (away) from the hope that we find in the message of the Gospel, which we have all heard and believed.
In that Old Testament passage we heard at the start, the king….the earthly king they desired, was promised to do many things to the people which they would come to regret.
And we might compare those to what Christ our King does to, with and for us, His subjects.
The king they wanted would in effect enforce a draft. Men would be forced to join his army, drive his chariots, be his horsemen, and even run before his chariots into battle.
Christ, whose service is perfect freedom, for us, calls us to a different kind of life under His Kingship.
We too join an army of sorts, but it is an army of peace and reconciliation. It is a resistance against the world, the flesh and the devil.
And really, it is Christ who fights for us, as God did in the Old Testament for those people.
Under the earthly king men would be sent to forced labor, plowing fields for him and reaping his harvests. They would be forced to make his implements of war and equipment for His chariots.
Christ the King whose service is perfect freedom, calls us to labor for the Kingdom, preach and share the Gospel, labor in his vineyards calling men out of darkness and into His own glorious light.
He tells us that the harvest of unsaved souls is plenteous but the laborers are few and He calls on us to fill that position of laboring for the lost.
The earthly king was going to take a 10th of their grain, grapes, olives and flocks….and give it to his officers!! So they now had not only a 10th to give to God, but an additional 10th to the state. A burdensome tax, in other words.
Christ, whose service is perfect freedom, calls us to give financially for the work of the Church and the extension of the Kingdom. The Prayer Book reminds us that our duty is to work, and pray, and to give for the spread of His Kingdom….and do so cheerfully in light of His great goodness toward us.
The earthly king would take the peoples male and female servants and the best of their young men and donkeys and put them to his work.
They would be his slaves.
We don't own slaves ourselves, but as Slaves of Christ the King, as Paul occasionally calls himself, ….we live under His rule and authority.
Being a slave to Christ means being free. More free (or freer) than when we did not know Him. Being a slave to Christ means pursuing holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.
It means a life devoted to Him and not to self.
It means a life devoted to turning away from evil desires and to His desire, that we be holy as His Father is Holy.
The Catechism in the Prayer Book asks this question to the one being instructed, “What do you desire of God when praying the Lord’s Prayer?” A prayer given by Christ the King to us to pray.
Answer: “I desire my Lord God, our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send his grace unto me, and to all people;
that we may worship him, serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do. And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies; and that he will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins; and that it will please him to save and defend us in all dangers both of soul and body; and that he will keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our spiritual enemy, and from everlasting death. And this I trust he will do of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore I say, Amen, So be it.”
All of this, God has done for us by and through Christ our King.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.