Things are not always as they seem!
Perhaps you were like me when I first read the Gospel lesson for today. At first, I thought I was on the wrong page and in the wrong season. This isn’t Easter time is it, aren’t we heading into Advent? The answer is yes, we are heading into Advent, but this is also “Christ the King Sunday.” The Sunday that we remind ourselves that Christ and Christ alone is King; that Christ reins over the kingdom of God; that Christ is the light of the world, and it is through what Christ did for us on the cross that we have forgiveness of our sins and have eternal life.
This is also the last Sunday in the church year. Before we can begin the church year anew, and start fresh with our hopes and expectation of the coming of Jesus into our world, we must end this church year. Thus, the story of the cross which tells us how Jesus fulfilled his ministry on earth by claiming his kingly crown.
Like me, you have probably heard the phrase, “Things are not always as they seem,” and the story of the cross that we hear this morning, is not at all as it seems at first glance. In fact, there is nothing about Jesus at this point that looks like the type of king we are familiar with. The kings we know have power, prestige, and usually have wealth and all the comforts that the world can provide.
Jesus appears to be about as far away as you can get from the definition of a king. He certainly appears not to have any power at all. He has been seized, beaten, His clothing ripped off, and made to carry a heavy cross to Calvary Hill where He was nailed to this lowly tree. He hangs there as a criminal unable to move, in agony, unable to defend Himself in any way.
Besides this, he is taunted as He hangs there. Let’s listen to the words of the Scripture again. “35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
Yet, despite all of this, things are definately not as they seem. Jesus life here on earth was provocative and certainly a counter-cultural ministry, and the story of the cross is perhaps the ultimate example of what Jesus taught. There He hangs on the cross although He is the appointed king of God’s kingdom. Jesus has the power to conquer all including Satan himself, and He certainly has the power to save Himself. Jesus could have walked away from dying on the cross, but He was obedient to God the Father. Who can forget Jesus plea in Luke 22, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”?
The earliest Christians identified Jesus with the predicted Messiah of the Jews. The Jewish word “messiah,” and the Greek word “Christ,” both mean “anointed one.” Thus, many of the people believed that Jesus was the expected king who would free them from tyrannical rule of the Romans. When this did not happen, many turned against Him not understanding that Jesus came to free all people from sin and death. Something that was much, much more important than anything else on earth.
Jesus knew the oppressive and often cruel selfish nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, He manifested humble service to all. Take a minute and think about what humility it took for the Creator of all things to come to earth and live as a man, experiencing all the good and the bad that human life entails.
As disciples and beloved children on God, what does it really mean to be a humble servant? To have true humility is hard in today’s world. Most of us would rather have someone serve us rather than serve someone else. It does not mean that we are bad people, after all, who does not enjoy a little pampering once in a while. What it does mean, however, is that we need to recognize the selfish ways that manifest our society, and be ready to help and serve our fellowman when they are in need.
We also need to be aware of and avoid the false humility that often manifests itself in our culture. You know the kind where someone one acts embarrassed and tries to make little of a compliment given to them, wanting others to see them as humble. Yet in their mind and heart they are thinking that it was about time that someone recognized how great they and their accomplishments were.
As we leave here today, let us remember that we are not celebrating the type of king and ruler that we are familiar with here on earth, but instead we celebrate a king that gives us true freedom from the fear of death.
As we anticipate the beginning of Advent and the celebration of the Christ Child’s birth, let us never forget what Christ did for us on the cross. Let us be humble and live our lives as such. Let us be ready and willing to serve God whenever and wherever we can. Let us remember, not all things are as they seem.
As beloved children of God, may you experience the inexplicable joy that only knowing and having faith in Christ, our King, can give.