Christ the King, Nov. 22, 2015 Zion, Bunker Hill, Rev. 1:3-8
There he stood, Christ the King, denied, betrayed and abandoned by his closest associates. There he stood, bound, whipped, mocked, and bloodied. There he stood rejected by the leaders of his own faith. There he stood, before Pontius Pilate who had all the might and power of the Roman Empire behind him. Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus did not look like much of a king. By noon that Friday Pilate would mock the Jews, “Behold your King.” “Crucify him” they shouted. “Shall I crucify your king?” he taunted. “We have no king but Caesar,” the crowd shouted. So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. That was the worst of times to be a follower of Jesus. But it was the hour of Jesus glory.
We may well think that today is one of those worst of times. The recent events in our own country and elsewhere in the world have more than a few of Jesus’ faithful followers reeling with horror over what seems to be the advance of every evil influence and power in the world. Events, come rushing toward us like tidal waves one after another . Sometimes it appears that the very ground upon which a make our stand in faith has shifted. Questions arise. How do we Christians deal with the sense that we no longer the predominant influence in our country? The numbers of church affiliated Christians is shrinking, the number of the unaffiliated are growing. How much worse does it need to be, or will be before Jesus comes again in glory? Surely the end is near.
It must have also seemed to be the worst of times for the fledging church at the end of the first century, when John wrote the book of Revelation. Christians were sometimes caught up in Emperor Domitian’s sporadic moves against those he perceived as a threat to his rule. The emperors were regardedgods and idolatry the rule of the day. Some had their property confiscated, some were killed and John, bishop in Ephesus, was banished to the island of Patmos. Ecclesiastes tells us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So it seems.
But Jesus said in the Gospel lesson, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Where do we look for this out of the world kingdom? Martin Luther said, “Begin where Christ began-in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts. For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among us, suffered, was crucified and died. He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself.”
St. John tells us that we are already three times blessed this morning. In the verse before our text from Revelation, we read “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words.” Our second blessing is on, “those who hear.” So we have read aloud and we have heard. Now our third blessing comes as we consider how we might remain faithful and put into practice to what we have read and heard. That we might not allow what we might regard as the worst of times engulf our thinking and view of things, for what is ahead is the best of times when we will take part in Christ’s resurrection; we are admitted to the heavenly banquet with the risen Christ, our baptismal robes washed white by the blood of his suffering, inglorious death and glorious victory over sin and death on our behalf. St. Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time, are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In John’s revelation, we have the unveiling of Christ in all his eternal glory and dominion. He writes,“Grace to you and peace.” Luther wrote, “Grace and peace,… embrace the whole of Christianity. Grace forgives and peace stills the conscience. When the grace and peace of God are present, a person is so strong that he can bear both cross and peace, both joy and sorrow.” Grace and peace are ours today assembled in worship together. We also experience grace and peace as we come to Holy Communion where we receive the blessings of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation a preview of Christ’s eternal heavenly banquet. We experience grace and God’s peace as we recall at the beginning of each worship service, our baptism. That occasion when the word of God came through the water and we were washed clean and put on Christ, the proper attire for Christ’s banquet.
This grace and peace comes from the Heavenly Father through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Several years ago, following my first heart by-pass surgery, I wasn’t allowed to drive for a month. In the meantime some books I had from the public library ran quite a bit overdue. When I took them back I explained to the librarian my situation. She gave me some grace that day and cut my fine by one half. And any overdue books after that would have received no grace at all. But the grace we receive from God is not half grace, nor temporary, but whole grace, unending grace, with no limitations. Because it comes “from him who is, and who was and who is to come.” He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He continually pours out upon us his gifts of blessings that in a world in which we know little of peace, we can know the peace that is ours with God.
Not only does the Father, who is and was and is to come stand behind our grace and peace, but so does the Holy Spirit, revealed to John as the “seven spirits.” The Holy Spirit is the perfect eternal presence of God resting upon you and me with his gifts of wisdom and understanding that we might know how to live faithfully in our world. His counsel and might – to recognize that the true power in this world is through the word his gospel. The Holy Spirit brings knowledge of God as the giver of grace. He creates in us a reverent respect for the Lord that we might submit to his will.
And behind all grace and peace is also Jesus Christ who faithfully witnessed to God’s plans with his life and his words as he proclaimed the coming of God’s ruler ship of the whole earth. He is the firstborn of the dead, a first fruit of a bumper crop of resurrections to follow and we are part of that bumper harvest.
Though the world may appear to be an arena of the worst death and destruction at the hands of evil people, Revelation gives us another view, if we look up we can see through the eyes of faith the Lamb who died but now sits on the throne.
To bring this all down to earth again consider a man and woman in Colorado who were driving back from a church conference. As they rounded a curve they came upon an accident in process. A motorcyclist’s wheel caught on something and flipped into the air. The rider, without a helmet, was thrown fifty feet and the bike landed nearby. The woman leaped from the car and ran to the motorcyclist, while the man stopped traffic and sent people for help. When the ambulance arrived they whisked the motorcyclist away. The man and the woman got back into their car in silence. Blood covered the woman’s hands and the hem of her skirt. The man said, “I saw you talking to that young man. He was obviously unconscious. He may have been dead already. What could you possibly have been saying to him?” She replied, “I just told him over and over…I just told him, the worst was over. The healing has already began.”
The worst is over for us. The worst happened on the cross. The cross can’t be undone. The healing has already begun. Come Lord Jesus Come.