Matthew 2:1-6; 27:32-37
This is taken from a Sermon preached @ The King Street Worship Service, Hendersonville, NC
What a contrast we have in today’s readings from the Gospel of Matthew. We go from wanting to sing, “We Three Kings,” to “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” in a matter of minutes. One moment we are listening to the story of the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem as they ask, “Where is he, who is born King of the Jews?” Then suddenly we are at the foot of the cross looking up at the sign hanging over the head of our crucified Lord Jesus, which reads, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Obviously, the theme that binds these passages together is the kingship of Jesus. The question regarding his kingship (asked by the Magi) is asked in the second chapter of Matthew, and is later answered in the twenty-seventh chapter (by Pilate). The question and the answer are like bookends to Matthew’s Gospel. In-between these two bookends Matthew makes it clear to his readers that Jesus is the anointed kingly messiah, whose coming is foretold in Old Testament prophecies.
More than any of the other evangelist, Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy and is in fact the long awaited Messiah of the line of David. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven some forty times. The signs and wonders that accompany his teachings of the kingdom of heaven demonstrate His power as king by rolling back the kingdom of darkness.
Matthew shows us a kingly Jesus! One who is born of the house and lineage of David, who is born in the city of David. Matthew shows us a king who fulfills all of the Messianic prophecies, including the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah. In his trials before both the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, Jesus was asked point blank “Are you the king of the Jews?” In both cases Jesus answered in the affirmative. If you sit down and read the entire Gospel of Matthew, (something that I highly recommend) there is no way that you can miss the proclamation of Jesus as King.
On the Church Calendar, the last Sunday of the Church year (one week before Advent) is called “Christ the King Sunday.” It is a day set aside to commemorate and celebrate Jesus as our King.
Biblically, it is undeniable that Christ is King. As Christians we proclaim this in various ways throughout the Church Year. I noted as I visited various stores this past week (often against my will), that Christmas music is being played everywhere. After a while I noted that I was singing along with the music. I was surprised to note how many times we sing of the king in Christmas Carols:
The First Noel – “born is the king of Israel”
Joy to the Word – “let earth receive her king”
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – “Glory to the new born king”
O Come All Ye Faithful –“born the King of angels”
O Holy Night – “the King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger”
I’m sure that you can think of others, as there are many more examples – listen for it in the coming weeks, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our king.
But here we are forced to ask, “What does it mean to proclaim Jesus as King?” Is it just churchy talk? It is just sort of an honorary title we give to Jesus, because he is supposed to be important in our lives? I mean really, what experience do we as Americans have with any king that would help us understand how we are to relate to royalty? Now, it is true that Americans are fascinated with royalty; just look at the covers of the tabloids and magazines in the checkout lines.
But in our daily lives our only brush with royalty is if we sleep in a king size bed, or eat at Burger King. The only royalty we have in America are those whom we crown as beauty queens. There is no single person who exercises sovereign power over our lives. We have no king. I ask you (and you do not have to be a history buff to know this answer), what did we do to our last king? – We fired him, right? We revolted against King George III of England in the American Revolutionary War. As Americans we came to the conclusion that we could rule ourselves. Kings and Queens claim to rule by “divine right.” We claimed that God gives “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We hold these truths to be self-evident – we do not need, nor do we want to be ruled over by a king. As Americans we fight for the rights of each and every individual. The hair on the backs of our necks stand up when we hear stories of the rights of individual’s being taken away or overridden. We hold to the rights of the individual so firmly, that it has become part of our DNA, part of what it means to be an American. And that is great! There are very few people who are more patriotic than I am.
However, as with many aspects of our culture, our burly individualism has found its way into our faith lives. Many of us – at times all of us – live our faith lives for ourselves. If I had a dollar for every time someone described a worships service to me and said, “I didn’t get anything out of it,” I could retire. People church shop, not in search of the truth, but in a search for the message they most want to hear.
What does this have to do with Christ the King? – Everything… Many of us have fired Christ as our King, just as we did King George. We truly do not want Jesus to be sovereign over our lives. We do not want to have Jesus involved in every aspect of our lives. We want Jesus, but in measured amounts that we can control. We want Jesus, but we want to drastically limit His power and influence. Though we would never say this aloud to anyone, we think “If I allow Jesus to be sovereign over my life; if I allow him to reign over my life, things be changed in a most dramatic way!” So we call him king, but we set up a sort of constitutional monarchy for Jesus. We make him our spiritual figurehead, while we run our faith lives the way we want. Like the Queen of England, we grant Him the title, but greatly limit his power.
Why? Because we are afraid of the changes that will come if we truly follow our king and allow him to reign as sovereign. Jesus might want me to do things that the rest of the world thinks are strange. (MOST LIKELY, HE WILL.) Jesus will want me to prioritize things differently. (HE DEFINITELY WILL.) But why would we fear a king who loves us so much? This king is unlike any other.
This is a king who indeed rules by divine right. This is a king who emptied himself – laid aside his glory and being found in our likeness was crucified for us. When he was arrested in the Garden and some of his disciples resisted, Jesus told them that he could simply ask and he would have 12 legions of angels at his disposal. – Yet, he did not resist.
Did you ever play the game, “King of the Mountain?” One child stands and proclaims himself king. It is a very physical game where the other children then attempt to dethrone him by force. They push or pull him down from the mountain so that they might become king in his place. (I can imagine Jesus playing this game and helping others up the hill to stand together on the top.)
There is a story about a king, (I’m sorry; but I do not remember where I read or hear this story.) who truly desired to rule wisely and care for his subjects. Seeing the disparity between his tremendous wealth and their own, he decided to share all of his treasures with his subjects. He had his throne moved from his great hall to his court yard. He then had his treasure rooms and store rooms emptied, and place all of his wealth in his court yard as well. He then sat upon his throne and summoned his subjects to come into the court yard of the castle.
“I want to share my wealth with all of my subjects” he said. “You are free to examine everything here and choose any one thing for yourself.” The people began to mill about examining pieces of gold and silver. They held jewels up to the light, comparing them to one another. It must have looked like the first few moments of a Black Friday sell at Wal-Mart. In the midst of all of the chaos a woman stepped forward and spoke to the king. “Am I right in understanding that I may have any one thing I choose.” You are correct” replied the king. “Then,” said the woman, “I choose you, your majesty.” “In choosing me,” replied the king, “you have gained my entire kingdom.”
Choose the King…
In every one of our hearts there is a throne room.
Only you know who is sitting upon that throne.
Who is sovereign over your life? Who is your king?