Old Testament Lesson Malachi 3:13-18
Second Lesson Colossians 1:13-20
Gospel Lesson Luke 23:27-43
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read. [Luke 23:27-43]
There are 196 sovereign countries in the world today. And although the governance of those countries varies widely from socialist and communist to fascist and everything in-between, there are only fourteen monarchs; and of those fourteen, only two absolute monarchs in all the world.
Only two people who know what it means to truly be king; and even one of those two absolute monarchs is subject to review by his family members. The king of Saudi Arabia, King Salmon bin Abdul aziz, is considered an absolute monarch, as long as his actions are met with favor by his family. If not, then one of his brothers becomes the ‘absolute’ king. So that means there’s only one truly absolute king in all the world.
When I would go to sea, being the Commanding Officer of a submarine, it was just about as close as it gets to being king. People followed my orders. The ship went where I wanted it to go, when I wanted it to go. If there was a new contact detected, I decided whether to pursue it, and just how aggressively to prosecute it. If there was a casualty, I decided if and when to call for help, … or even if there’d be a call at all. Ultimately, the decide whether to launch our weapons or not was mine; and that’s no small decision. Lives were held in the balance, maybe even hundreds of thousands of lives.
When the USS Daniel Boone set sail, all twenty-nine years of her creaking, groaning steel, with over a hundred nuclear warheads on board, we went to sea as the fifth most powerful nation in the world; all by ourselves; just one ballistic missile submarine, having more fire power than all but four countries in the world. With all that destructive power, and no one above you to second guess you, you really could feel like you were a king.
But, once you returned to port; once it was your turn to do the dishes, or to cook a meal, or to pass algebra with your kids, kingship faded and the glory you imagined faded along with it. It was like you’d been flying high; and suddenly you were back to earth. It wasn’t kingship after all. It wasn’t really even a taste of kingship, and the culture shock of coming back to reality made that painfully clear.
It’s hard for us to truly imagine what it’s like to be king. It’s even harder to imagine what it’d be like to be a king and to take part in the common everyday life of your subjects. Or even more tragically, imagine what the reality of our sin felt like to our King. He was King of the Universe and no one acknowledged him. He was the creator of all that was created, visible and invisible. He came from his throne in heaven and put on flesh, making a manger his throne, trading the hay of a donkey and scratchy bands of cloth for the majesty and royal treatment he deserved.
He appeared without the wealth and power he could have commanded, appearing as a helpless baby; and yet a helpless looking baby who was truly the king of creation. No one understood who he really was. No one understood why he’d come. Oh, they all thought they knew why he’d come, but no one really understood.
No one believed that he’d come to fulfill all the prophecies of scripture. No one believed that he was born to save people who’d been dead for a thousand years and people who hadn’t even been born yet. He was the Savior of the universe, and his own people rejected him.
He was their Savior, but he didn’t come to save them from the things they believed they needed saving from, and so they looked right past him; even worse they looked right at him and rejected him. They wanted him to rescue them from physical hunger alone. They wanted him to rescue them from human tyranny and manmade oppression.
The thought of being rescued from their own sin never crossed their minds. They could rescue themselves from that. In fact, many of them believed they’d already taken care of that. They were self-righteous. They had no need for the righteousness of Christ. They wanted an absolute king who’d rule on the earth, and rule in their favor, and take charge right now. They had no use for a king who’d rule throughout all eternity.
He was their Savior; and he’s our Savior, but when he doesn’t respond in the way that we expect him to, we reject him. When our prayers aren’t answered in the way we expect, we get impatient with God. We get angry with God. When we have hard times, our first thoughts are that God’s abandoned us, not that we’ve abandoned God. When we get sick, or our plans don’t work out the way we wanted, or doors get slammed in our faces, the blame shifts from us to God and we reject him.
It’s so easy to reject him; so easy to tell ourselves he’s not really our king; so easy for us to say, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” And like the criminals surrounding Christ at Golgotha, we deserve his anger and his wrath; yet he loves us.
It was our sin that made him leave his throne in heaven to live a life of suffering and shame. It was our sinful nature that rejected him and abandoned him and crucified him. And yet, his response was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We certainly don’t know what we do. We wanted a king that met our standards; that acted like and thought like us; but God gave us so much more that we didn’t know what to do. And so in our great confusion, in our great fear, we rejected our king.
But even though we rejected him, he could never reject himself. He could never deny himself. Our Savior who is God of God, light of light, very God of very God, came down from heaven and became incarnate, came down from his throne in heaven and put on human flesh, came down from the glory of heaven to serve in humility; but even covered in flesh, even appearing as a servant, he is clearly our king.
Who else but our king would protect us and defend us at all cost. Who else but our king would save us not only from the evils of this world, but from the eternal evil, the eternal dying that our sin earns us. Who else but our king would choose to lay down his life for us even though we rejected him.
This is our king! This is the one who has fulfilled every prophesy of scripture; the one who has fulfilled all righteousness … in our place. This is our king, who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty; who’s not afraid of death, who conquers death; the king who we reject no more … because he’s made us his own and we know him.
He’s revealed himself to us as his Holy Spirit creates faith in us through his holy word; and he’s revealed himself to us through his holy sacraments. And because he’s revealed himself to us, now we confess him to all the world.
He’s our king to whom we pray, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He’s the king who says to you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Amen.
In Christ’s service,