End Times 4: Christ the King

Preached: November 25, 2007

He Saved Others By Sacrificing Himself
Luke 23:35-43

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out the Holy Spirit on us in the Scriptures and Sacraments. That Word of God for us to take to heart and put into practice is Luke 23.

The people stood watching. The leaders, too, were sneering at him saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if he is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers as well mocked him by coming before him, offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (There was an inscription above him: “This one is the king of the Jews.”)
One of the crucified criminals blasphemed him, “Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
The other replied and rebuked him. He said, “Don't your fear God, since you are under the same judgment? We, ourselves, are justly judged, for we are receiving what's worthy for what we've done. But he has done nothing out of place.”
And he kept speaking, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom”
He said to him, “Truly I say to you: Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:35-43)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

The agent sees a gun raised in the crowd. He jumps. The muzzle flashes, and as the sound of the discharge reaches his ears, he feels the bullet tearing through his flesh. What pain! But he knows that the President is safe.

A Secret Service agent taking a bullet for the President -- that's what we expect. But the President taking a bullet for an agent? That would be so out of order! We might even say that wouldn't be right. But that's what your King did for you. He's a most out-of-the-ordinary king.

So today on Christ the King Sunday, the text does not present us with our King in his divine radiance and almighty power, but rather bloody, beaten, and crucified, dying in shame. He's a most out-of-the-ordinary king. For he saved others by sacrificing himself. Take that to heart. For you are one of the others. He saved you. But just as he is an out-of-the-ordinary king, he brings you a different kind of salvation.

A. He brings a different kind of salvation

1) What kind of salvation did those around the cross think Jesus should bring if he was the Christ?

“He saved others,” the rulers sneered at him (Luke 23:35 NIV). Maybe they were thinking of his so-called miracles. He had healed the sick and brought physical well-being, or so the crowds had claimed. But could these have been legitimate miracles if he couldn't even save himself? If God let him suffer here and die in shame, how could he be the Christ, God's chosen? But he brings a different kind of salvation.

The soldiers join in. They taunt him, offering a cup of sour wine to him as if he were some high monarch. Doesn't the notice above his head say that he's a king? “Now just come down here and drink it, if you are the king of the Jews. Save yourself.” But he brings a different kind of salvation.

Even a condemned criminal puts him down. “Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 NIV). But he brings a different kind of salvation.

2) What thoughts and feelings in us betray that we expect some sort of earthly salvation for this life?

Do we look at our dying King and cherish the salvation he brings, or do we too look for something else from him?

Why is life so hard? Why am I not happier? Why do others seem to have it so well and I struggle? Why don't others like me or treat me better? Where is the blessing of success? How come I don't feel more spiritual? Why don't I have the best life now? Why does my family suffer? Why is there so much hate in this world? In our struggles, we forget about the different kind of salvation Jesus brings. We expect something better for our life now, at least something to make us feel spiritually uplifted and excited. How often our thoughts and feelings betray that we expect some sort of earthly salvation. But Jesus brings a different kind.

His salvation doesn't bring a heaven on earth, not even a partial heaven. His salvation does not bring promises of earthly wealth or success or physical wellbeing. In fact, his salvation doesn't even promise spiritual excitement and high emotions in our earthly life. But rather be prepared for pain and shame, just as your King suffered. He brings a different kind of salvation.

The leaders, the soldiers, the crucified criminal could only see salvation for this life. That's why they mocked Jesus so. How could there be any kind of earthly salvation from a man whose earthly life is coming to a gruesome, shameful end? But Jesus brings a different kind of salvation.

When we are caught up in the earthly, when we place our hopes for happiness in what this life offers or when we feel dejected because of what we don't have in this life, then we're looking at Jesus through the eyes of these mockers. We are turning away from the only real salvation, the salvation he brings. Death ends all that is earthly. Death ends all other kinds of salvation, since they center on this life. And as long as your hopes for salvation and fears of disappointment are built on this life, death brings you damnation, torture, and hell forever. But Jesus brings you a different kind of salvation. Don't see Jesus through the eyes of those focused on earthly salvation; rather, look at Jesus through the eyes of the other criminal.

B. See him through the eyes of the other criminal

1)What does the other criminal see as he looks at Jesus?

What does this criminal see as he looks at Jesus? He sees the innocent One. “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41 NIV). Jesus had not broken any law. He had not stepped over the line. In fact, he had done nothing out of place. He had not sinned. Yet he hangs there condemned and crucified. He hangs there bloody and beaten. He hangs there with a weight, an unbearable weight on him. For he carries the sins of the world.

As the criminal looks at Jesus, he sees him carrying his, the criminal's own, sins. He says to the other one, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41 NIV). He knows his own sin. He confesses openly. He deserves this death and the hell and suffering that follow for eternity. But he sees Jesus taking away his sin. For he sees Jesus as his King sacrificing himself for him. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 NIV).

What comfort as Jesus heals this broken heart! “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV).

2) When we see Jesus through the eyes of this criminal, what kind of salvation do we see him bring to us?

Now that criminal's earthly life did not get better. No success, only death lay in front of him. No happy times here again, only pain and shame. No best life now. He still hung there tortured with nails ripping through his skin. He still hung in public shame and disgrace. Thirst and pain writhed through his body. Later the soldiers would crush his legs, breaking his bones to speed his death. No earthly salvation at all.

But Jesus brought him a different kind of salvation, and when you see Jesus as this criminal did you too share in that salvation. For Jesus saved others, he saved you, by sacrificing himself.

Get rid of that pride that thinks that we deserve to be treated well. Get rid of that pride that complains how unfair life is when things go bad. Rather see yourself as that condemned criminal. For that is what you and I deserve, and worse. Even the ugliest day of our life on this earth treats us far better than we have a right to expect. And the reason we fail to see that and instead feel sorry for ourselves is because we fail to see how damning our own sins are. Consider a wrong you did or a good thing you failed to do this past week, whether in thought or word or action. Just think of one of them. That sin alone is so serious that even in the unquenchable fires of hell we could only claim, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41 NIV).

Now see that sin and all your others laid on Jesus. He, the innocent One, the almighty God, the glorious Son, your King, he is your Substitute, your Sacrifice, your Savior. Hear him say to you, “You will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV).

He has done much more for you than take a bullet. Considering what we were, it would be like the President taking a bullet for Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. For we were his enemies. But he sacrificed himself for you. He took your hell in all its fury as he hung on the cross. He turned God's righteous anger away from you, suffering it in your place. He, your King, is your Sacrifice. How out of the ordinary!

What costly salvation he brings! For his salvation is not for this life, but for all eternity. His salvation is the paradise of heaven. His sacrifice saves others. His sacrifice saved you. And he gives this costly salvation to you free of charge. Don't loss this salvation by looking for something else. Rather see him through the eyes of that criminal. See him the innocent One carrying your sins. See him your King, your most out-of-the-ordinary King. He sacrificed himself for you to bring you into his kingdom and safely home to paradise. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

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