An Unlikely King
November 24, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 16:1–16:13
Festival of Christ the King
"An Unlikely King"
In a world where royalty seems outdated in the minds of many, consider Prince Charles of England. More and more, he is becoming a recognized and sought-out figure in the organic movement that emphasizes responsible stewardship of the land, preservation of rural life, and the need for good food grown without chemicals or worker exploitation. Prince Charles, whose hobbies have included both polo and the peculiarly English rural craft called hedge laying, cherishes tradition. "Given another life, I think he'd have been a farmer," said David Wilson, the manager of the prince's Home Farm. Some may say he is an unlikely king, but there is another unlikely king - the One we hear of in today's Gospel lesson. May the Lord bless the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.
This weekend we observe as the Festival of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year. The church marks time differently than the rest of the world, reckoning time not according to the calendar year, the fiscal year, or the academic year, but according to the life of Jesus. His birth, baptism, ministry, passion, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit are all observed in the first six months of the church year, from December through May. The second half of the church year, the long season after Pentecost, runs from June through November, and focuses on our response to the life of Jesus, growing in faith toward him and in love toward one another. Today is the "new year's eve" of the church year, and our focus is upon Christ's kingly reign, his promised return in power and glory as our King and our Judge.
It's hard to imagine a more unlikely king than Jesus in today's Gospel lesson - a lesson more associated with the suffering of Good Friday than his glorious return in power. Jesus doesn't fit the mold of what we think of as a king. Instead of a crown of gold, he wears a crown of thorns. Instead of being seated upon a throne, he hangs suspended from the rough wood of the cross. Instead of being surrounded by servants who wait upon his every need, he is hemmed in by tormenters bent on a slow, torturous death. It is gruesome and ugly. And yet it is precisely in this scene of unbelievable suffering that the King's true purpose is revealed: to take upon himself all of our twisted and perverted ways, to drink to the full all of our inhumanity and cruelty, to experience the Father's consuming anger - not because of what he had done, but because of what we have done, and because of what we have left undone. Even upon the cross, the King's concern is not for himself but for others: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
If Jesus is an unlikely king, then we are forced to admit that we are even more unlikely subjects of his kingship. Why would King Jesus choose us - we who are but dust and ashes? Why would King Jesus lay down his life in such a bloody and awful manner? Why would King Jesus do all of this? The answer is both staggering and simple: because we are dearly loved in spite of our sinfulness. There is nothing about us that would motivate King Jesus to do this, except grace - God's undeserved love and forgiveness. That is all, and that is everything. It is solely because of God's amazing grace that this unlikely King did all of this.
The Festival of Christ the King reminds us that though Jesus did once die upon the cross, when we shall see him again he will no longer be hanging upon a cross. He will no longer be ridiculed, mocked, and scorned. When Christ shall come again we shall see him in all his power and glory, and he will "have first place in everything" (Colossians 1:18). What we now see only by faith, we will then see by sight. Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.