End Times 4: Christ the King

Preached: November 25, 2012

Christ's Kingdom Is Out of This World
John 18:33-37

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word of God through which our King speaks to us is John 18

Then Pilate came into the judgment hall again. He spoke to Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you ask this yourself or have others spoken to you about me?”

“I'm not a Jew, am I?” Pilate answered. “Your own people and high priests handed you over to me. What do you make of it?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting in order that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now, my kingdom is not from here.”

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king, aren't you?”

Jesus answered, “You maintain that I am a king. For this reason I was born and for this reason I came into the world, namely, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:33-37).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

This was not a scene of royalty. No pomp and circumstance. Not the regal majesty of high officials dressed in splendid uniform attending the palace court. None of the spectacle of a royal wedding nor pageantry and ceremony of a coronation. Just a man, a haggard man, standing there.

He had had a long night, beginning with emotional and spiritual turmoil as he wrestled in prayer. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42 NIV84). Oh, how sorrow overwhelmed his soul and his sweat became like drops of blood! And this was just the beginning.

Soon a friend betrayed and the rest abandoned him. One of his closest friends denied even knowing him. Falsely accused, he spent the night standing trial until condemned in the morning and brought before the governor, Pontius Pilate. There we meet him in the text.

He's been knocked around by the guards, mocked, and ridiculed, but the worst is yet to come. The flogging, the thirst, the crucifixion, the forsakenness. Behold your King!

He appears so weak and foolish. How weak and foolish his kingdom must be! But no, dear friends. That is only the appearance to the darkened human mind and heart. For you see, his kingdom is out of this world.

Now don't get me wrong, our King certainly exercises his power and authority over this world. He rules and governs all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth. But he does it in ways that this world judges as weak and foolish. For his kingdom is not of this world.

Through the Word of God today, may the Holy Spirit comfort your hearts assuring you that Christ's kingdom is out of this world. Yes, it appears weak, but Jesus alone is strong to save. It appears foolish, but Jesus speaks the absolute truth. How grand and glorious his kingdom is! It's truly out of this world.

A. It appears weak, but only Jesus is strong to save

How weak Christ's kingdom appears! We look at the world around us. Society keeps turning its back on Christian values. It condones abortion, couples living together without getting married, same-sex marriages, divorce, materialism, evolution, humanism, the abuse of God's name to curse and swear. How could a righteous king let this happen?

Look at the evils in this world both natural and man-made. Hurricanes and earthquakes; famine and disease; war and poverty. How could a good king let this go on?

Look at the lies told in his name by churches that claim to follow him. Many deny that the Bible is God's Word. Many deny that God's law gives the standard of right and wrong and condemns to hell all who break it even in just one point. Many deny that forgiveness is God's free gift received by faith alone, unearned, unmerited, undeserved, unasked for by us, but paid for in full by the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, our crucified and risen Savior. How could a wise king let so many churches misrepresent him?

And what about our own lives as we follow Jesus? How often do we suffer for doing the right thing? How come it's such a struggle to say no to sin and guard our hearts from thinking evil? Why is it so hard to love others as ourselves, to forgive our enemies, and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ even as Jesus loved us? Why do we experience setbacks, losses, and injury, while those who ignore God seem to prosper? Why does sadness overshadow us and gladness seem so far away? Why do crosses visit us so often? How could a merciful and mighty king allow his people to endure such things?

Yes, how weak his kingdom appears! How weak our King looks as Pilate interrogates him! But he is strong to save. That's why he humbled and lowered himself to death, even death on a cursed cross. Only he was strong enough to carry all the sins of the world, all yours and mine, every last one of them. Only he was strong enough to endure God's wrath over our guilt and be forsaken in our place, suffering our hell instead of us as he hung on the cross. Only he was strong enough to redeem all sinners, including you and me and everyone else, ransoming us with his holy, precious blood, the blood of our God, Jesus Christ. Only he was strong enough to break death's chains coming back to life on the third day. Only he was strong enough to parade through hell in victory as the mighty Conqueror who has defeated Satan. He alone is our crucified and risen King.

And just as he won salvation for us through the weakness of the cross, so also through the weakness, hardships, frailty, and crosses of our earthly existence, he exposes the emptiness and futility of this present age, so that you and I cling to him all the more. For only he, our King, is strong to save. In him alone do we have hope. For he brings salvation to all who believe his promise.

So dear Christian friends, do you seek comfort as you struggle through the hardships and losses of life? Do you seek comfort in the midst of earthly weakness, frailty, and sadness? Look to the salvation your King brings. He is strong to save. Look back to the cross and believe his promise of full and free forgiveness, for his blood atones for you. Look forward to the heavenly glory he has prepared for you, who follow him in faith. What a promise the future holds! Your King will raise you from the dead. This present, evil world will be destroyed as he makes everything new. Yes, a new world, the home of righteousness, beyond this land of woe. A new world, where we will be before the throne of the Lamb, worshiping him in his wondrous presence with all our tears wiped away. His kingdom is out of the world.

To many this may sound like foolish talk of fairy tales and empty dreams. Some may ridicule it entirely. Others may say it's good for us to believe these things if it motivates us to do good in this world, just as any other myth or story is beneficial if it inspires people. But we do not believe these things because it makes us feel good. We believe them because they are the truth. Jesus speaks the absolute truth.

B. It appears foolish, but Jesus speaks the absolute truth

How foolish Jesus' words must have seemed as he stood accused before Pilate. “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37 NIV84).

Pilate may well understood the words, “For this reason I was born,” but why would Jesus add, “for this I came into the world,” as if he existed before his birth? How foolish that sounds! But as you know and believe, dear Christian, Jesus existed from before the creation of the world. He is the eternal God, the Son of the Father. He came into this world sent by the Father. He came, born a human being, to take our place under the law and pay our debt of sin by dying as our Substitute. This is the truth he testifies to. Listen to him and take him at his word.

Don't become confused by the way the world talks about truth. To the modern world truth is an every changing commodity. Personal truths vary as people go through different experiences in life. Political truths change as different parties come to power. Even scientific truths evolve as new observations are made. For example, in the twentieth century Einstein's theory of relativity changed the established laws of physics that had ruled since he days of Sir Isaac Newton in the sixteen hundreds. So when this world claims that something is true, it only means that it's the accepted truth for the time being, subject to change at any moment.

But Jesus speaks the absolute truth, the unchanging truth, for all of time, in fact, for all eternity. This is his solemn testimony that will not change, for he is God who does not lie. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What he speaks is more sure, more certain, more reliable than morning breaking in the east each day. Believe all that your King says. Believe it with all your heart and soul and mind.

You see, through his word of truth, your king reigns in your heart. That's how surprising and out of the world his kingdom is. Even though his kingdom is not of this world, it is in the hearts of each one of us who believe. It's in your heart, dear Christian.

It came to you through the truth spoken with water and word at your Baptism. You were reborn into his kingdom. How foolish Baptism looks to the human eye! But Jesus testifies that in Baptism your sins were washed away and you were reborn into God's family by the power of the Holy Spirit. His kingdom continues to come into your heart as you remember your Baptism and believe the promises your King made to you there. What comfort!

His kingdom continues to come into your heart as you receive the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. How foolish to imagine that someone's body and blood is with that bread and wine! But that's the absolute truth. Jesus testifies that he gives you his body to eat and his blood to drink. He wants to comfort and assure you that you belong to him. He sacrificed his body and blood on the cross for you. He is your King and you are one of his blood-bought people. What comfort his truth brings!

And of course, his kingdom continues to come into our hearts as we gladly hear and learn his word of truth, the Holy Scriptures. Yes, this book, the Bible, is the absolute, unchanging truth. Now I am still changing in how much of this truth I grasp and how confidently I hold on to it and put it into practice. But that doesn't contradict the fact that this book is already the absolute truth and will not change. The only thing that is changing is my level of understanding and faith. Isn't that a reason for us to be continually taking in his Word? We want to keep growing in our understanding and faith. We want to become more in sync with the truth.

So dear Christian friends, find comfort in his word of truth. For through his word of truth he reigns in your heart. Do not doubt but believe his testimony, the testimony of your King. Jesus speaks the absolute truth. He alone is strong to save. How surprising and out-of-this-world his kingdom is!

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313