Sermon: Matthew 27:27-31
End Time 4 - Christ the King - November 26, 2017 -
Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
If I asked you to give me a definition of faith, what would you say? Most of you would probably say that faith is to believe in something. Some of you might say that faith is to believe in something when it’s really difficult to believe. We Christians would specifically say that we have faith in Jesus. We believe in Jesus as our Savior.
What if I asked you if it’s easy to have faith in Jesus as your Savior? Is it easy to believe in Jesus? Some of you might say that it’s not always so easy to believe in Jesus. But many of us might say that having faith in Jesus is not all that difficult. After all, everything we need to have faith and belief in Jesus is written in the Bible. We have all the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. In the gospels we have the fulfillment of all those prophecies. We know the whole story about Jesus. So it’s easy to know who he is and to believe in him, to have faith in him.
Today is the Last Sunday of End Time, the last Sunday of the Christian church year. For many centuries this last Sunday of the church year has been reserved to particularly honor Jesus as our victorious King who rules over all. On this day we call him Christ the King. But if we look at Jesus in our gospel reading today, our text, he certainly doesn’t look like a victorious king. He really doesn’t look like a king at all, like anyone who has authority. He’s made fun of as king by the soldiers.
As we consider this text today we realize that
IT REALLY TAKES A LOT OF FAITH TO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS CHRIST THE KING
This gospel text with Jesus mocked as the king of the Jews sounds more like a reading for Lent than for a day that honors Jesus as a victorious King and Savior. But if we’re going to understand why Jesus is our victorious King and Savior then we also need to know why he was mocked by Roman soldiers and crucified.
Jesus’ disciples certainly learned that lesson. What do you think it was like to be one of Jesus’ disciples? Our first thought is probably that it would have been great to be one of Jesus’ disciples. We would have gotten to see all of Jesus’ miracles. Imagine watching him feed 5000 people with just a few pieces of bread and a couple of fish. Or think about what it would have been like to be in a fishing boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee, and then Jesus just calms the whole storm down. Imagine seeing Jesus giving a paralyzed man the strength and ability to walk. Or imagine watching in stunned amazement as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, a man who had already been dead four days.
We would have been able to listen to his preaching. Jesus preached with such power and authority. He expounded on the Old Testament like no one else. He told parables and explained them. He prophesied about the end of time. He proclaimed God’s mercy and forgiveness. He denounced the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and other religious leaders.
So if we had the opportunity to be one of Jesus’ disciples we might think that it was easy to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that he was the King of the world, Christ the King. It would have been easy to have faith in Jesus. We would have had all the evidence before our very eyes.
But then let’s go to the Garden of Gethsemane. Earlier that evening Peter in particular said he would follow Jesus even if it meant dying for him. All the other disciples confidently said the same thing. In the upper room that night on Passover it was easy to have faith in Jesus, to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of the world, Christ the King.
But the disciples were about to have their faith tested. Jesus took them to Gethsemane. He left all the disciples except for Peter, James, and John near the entrance. Peter, James, and John he took farther along with him. Then he began to pray. He prayed long and hard. He prayed with great intensity mindful of what was about to happen to him. Peter, James, and John fell asleep.
Then the soldiers came from the high priest. They arrested Jesus. You know how the story goes. The disciples all ran away in fear. They could have been arrested too. The soldiers took Jesus back into Jerusalem. They brought him before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. He was questioned by the high priest. Jesus acknowledged that he was the Son of God. They brought Jesus before Pontius Pilate. He was sentence to death.
Pilate turned Jesus over to his own soldiers, and that’s when we have this awful scene as the soldiers mock and make fun of Jesus. They took off his own clothes and put a scarlet robe on him, making fun of his alleged royalty. They twisted some thorns together and pressed it onto his head. The pain must have been horrible as the blood flowed down his face. They put a staff in his hand like a king would hold. The hailed him as the king of the Jews. They hit him on the head with the staff. They put his own clothes on him again and led him away to be crucified.
I don’t know if any of the disciples witnessed all of this humiliating and shameful behavior from the soldiers. Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, witnessed some of the trial, and when he realized what was going to happen to Jesus he went out and hanged himself. Peter, who had been so brave earlier in the evening, watched some of the trial and then proceeded to deny knowing Jesus three times. John might have seen the mocking soldiers. He witnessed the trial at the high priest’s home and then the crucifixion itself.
But if all the disciples had witnessed the Roman soldiers mock Jesus would they have been so quick to say Jesus was their Lord and King? Would they have said Jesus was Christ the King? I don’t imagine they would have. They would have been filled with fear, confusion, and doubt. All their hopes for Jesus, for the kingdom of Israel, for themselves, were gone. Jesus was going to die. In those moments it would have taken miraculous faith to still believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel, Christ the King.
The disciples probably weren’t there to witness what the soldiers did to Jesus. They were cowering in fear and their broken dreams and hopes. So what if we had been there? We would probably have been no different than Peter or John or the rest of them who ran away. Our king was made to look like the most ridiculous king ever. The soldiers led him away to crucify him. We would have had little if any faith to say that Jesus was our king, much less Christ the King.
It would take nothing less than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to give back to these disciples the faith and belief that Jesus was really the Son of God, that he really was Christ the King.
In some ways we’re blessed not to have been one of Jesus’ disciples in those days. We’re blessed not to have lived 2000 years ago, but to live now with all the scriptures written for us and so readily available. We know the whole story. We know why Jesus could be mocked by Roman soldiers, be led away to be crucified and still be Christ the King.
The awful events we read about in this text and the crucifixion that followed had to happen. They were the very reason that Jesus came to the world. Jesus was the descendant of Eve promised way back in Genesis. He was the one prophesied by Isaiah to be pierced for our transgressions. By his wounds we would be healed. He was a King. He was the Son of King David. He was the Christ. He was the Messiah, the anointed one, appointed from eternity by God the Father to save us from our sins. Jesus was and is Christ the King.
Jesus was arrested, put on trial, condemned, and mocked by soldiers in order to atone for our sins and the sins of the whole world. He rose again from the dead to prove that he really had forgiven our sins and conquered sin, death, Satan, and hell. He rose again from the dead to prove that he is Christ the King.
So now it’s easy to believe and have faith that Jesus is Christ the King, right? Well, it’s easy to believe the truths about Jesus or at least to know the facts about Jesus in our head. We have them all written down for us in the Bible. We have the prophecies. We have the fulfillments. We see why Jesus had to die on a cross. We know about his resurrection. We certainly see that this Jesus in our text, mocked by soldiers as the king of the Jews, is in fact the eternal Son of God, our Savior, the King of the world, Christ the King.
Some would say that it’s still hard to believe just these biblical truths about Jesus. And admittedly, most everything we believe about Jesus goes beyond our human reason. It really takes a lot of faith to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. It really takes a lot of faith to believe that Jesus atoned for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It really takes a lot of faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. It really takes a lot of faith to believe that Jesus has a place waiting for us in heaven. It really does take a lot of faith to believe that Jesus is Christ our King.
What was my first question to you? What does the word faith mean? What is faith? What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It’s clear that faith is something far more miraculous that just knowing the facts about Jesus. The disciples actually witnessed the facts and events of Jesus’ life. It wasn’t always so easy for them to have faith in him. We have all the facts about Jesus written down in scripture. To believe those facts is a miracle of God.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is believing what seems to be impossible to believe. When we see Jesus beaten by Roman soldiers we still have faith that he’s our Savior. When we see Jesus mocked by Roman soldiers we still believe that he is Christ the King. It really does take a lot of faith, miraculous faith, to believe that Jesus is Christ the King. Amen.