There is so much we could say on Christ the King Sunday about our Lord Jesus Reading a portion of the Passion narrative found in the Gospel of Luke could seem inappropriate for a triumphal king. But this short passage tells us so much of what his kingship is about. Reading from Luke:
One of the criminals who were hanged there, kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
A criminal was saved by Jesus while hanging on the cross and facing excruciating pain. There was no altar call. There was no sinner’s prayer. No baptism. No confirmation. No public testimony by the converted. So much seems to be missing in the statement: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus was and is always about salvation. From the Gospel of Luke:
For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. ()
And from John’s Gospel:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16)
The criminal on the cross with Jesus had a change of heart. He was moved by the suffering of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was innocent of any crime. Not only that, he realized that Jesus was not only king of the Jews, but that he had a heavenly kingdom.
Do we preach and teach for a heart change today? Or out church programs, even our church doctrines getting in the way? There is nothing wrong with church programs and activities, but they cannot substitute for the Gospel message. The Apostle Paul tells wrote to the Church in Corinth:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel—and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
Do we preach the cross, or is this message too offensive today? The “shepherds of the sheep” were sadly, missing the mark in the days of Jeremiah. He prophesied:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1-4)
The sheep were fearful. They were confused. Why so? Are our sheep confused today? Do they know who Jesus is? Yes, he is Christ the King, but what does that mean to us? The Apostle Paul wrote this about Jesus:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
These are the credentials needed to be the head of the body of Christ. Do any of us qualify? If Jesus is the head of our church, then we should be preaching and teaching Jesus. Jesus is the head. We are not. Is he sitting on the throne as Christ the King? If not, then we are on the throne.
The enemy moves in when Christ is not given authority. Ministers become fearful. Shepherding is a challenging task which cannot be done by human wisdom and strength. False teachings and doctrines, if not checked, will gradually supplant the true Gospel. Without Christ, there are sad attempts to hold the church together. The “prosperity gospel” comes to mind.
This message is not just for the ordained ministry. All of us should be ministers of the Gospel in some way, depending on our spiritual gifts and callings. Jesus is the servant King. That is how he exercised his great authority. The Apostle Peter wrote:
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it, not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
The shepherds of Jeremiah’s day needed correction that could only come from God. Perhaps we need his correction today. Are we fearful? Are we confused about the Gospel. Are we experiencing persecution for our beliefs. Peter wrote:
Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name.For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:16-17)
Let us return to the simplicity of the Gospel. Let us return to the power of the cross. Let our church doctrine incorporate the truth that salvation is by a change of the heart. Only in this way can we truly celebrate Christ the King in our churches.
Do we know this King? Is the the ruler of our hearts? If not, let us stop to realize what Jesus has done for us, as did the criminal on the cross. Then we are free to worship him with all our hearts.