The Kind of King You Need

Pastor Jon Enter

Worship Theme: The Kind of King You Need

First Lesson: Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)
Second Lesson : Revelation 1:4b-8 (NIV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Luke 23:35-43 (NIV)

  • CW 341: Crown Him with Many Crowns
  • Song of Praise: We Will Glorify
  • Kindergarten: Sing to the Lord
  • Oh, to See the Dawn (The Power of the Cross)

Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

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Message: The Kind of King You Need

Pastor Jon Enter

Today is Christ the King Sunday! Yes! Aren’t you pumped? Maybe not. This festival Sunday of the church year is a bit foreign to us because we don’t have a king ruling over us. Having a king doesn’t excite us too much. After all, isn’t that a big reason why the Founding Fathers of our country started the revolutionary war against King George III of England? We didn’t like having a king—especially an oppressive king. Now, today, we are celebrating Christ the King Sunday? And Christ is a King who demands more out of our lives than old King George III ever did. Strange.

Having a king rule over us is truly a tough concept to get excited about. We get to elect our leaders. In a monarchy, they don’t get to elect their king—they’re stuck with him. They also don’t get to protest against what the king and his leadership are doing. It‘s further difficult to get excited about the King part of Christ the King Sunday because of the stories of corruption by past kings. And the current images seen of wasteful extravagance of many kings are purely upsetting. Three kings come to mind illustrating both the corruption of kings and the crazy things kings do when they yield absolute power.

There’s King Henry VIII. He was the corrupt King of England who married, divorced and beheaded wives who couldn’t produce for him a male heir to the throne. Henry VIII was more interested in women and wild living than in being a good king. Not the kind of king you need.

There’s King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Germany. Better known as Crazy Ludwig. Ludwig once said, “I wish to remain an eternal enigma.” Ludwig was an eccentric man who had extravagant castles built. The most famous being Neuschwanstein where there’s a hallway built to look like a cave and a bedroom that took woodcarvers seven years of daily work to construct. Ludwig was more interested in crazy castles than being a good king. Not the kind of king you need.

Finally, there’s Saddam Hussein. Technically, Saddam was a president. But shortly after helping lead a coup in 1968, he was brought to power and lead Iraq with absolute authority and was referred to as king. We are aware of his corruption, his unprovoked invasion of the tiny nation of Kuwait in 1990 and his crimes against humanity in the slaying of 182 political opponents back in 1982, which lead to Saddam’s conviction and execution. Saddam lived in extreme elegance as his people lived in dirt poor conditions. Not the kind of king you need.

The corruption of many, if not most, earthly kings makes it difficult to understand the joy and blessing we have with Christ as our King. But our King is far different from any king this world has ever seen. That is clearly seen in our sermon text today. At first glance, this text may seem a bit misplaced; a portion of Scripture we’d expect during Lent or on Good Friday, since it deals with Jesus’ crucifixion. Upon further reflection, however, it is a more than appropriate text that teaches us about the special, unique King we have in Christ. Let’s review the scene.

“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself.’” (Luke 23:35) I probably don’t have to tell you where we are. We’re outside Jerusalem at a location known as the “Place of the Skull,” or, in the language of the day, “Golgotha.” It is the day we have come to call Good Friday.

A few days earlier the people were in the temple listening to Jesus hanging on His every word. He was their great hope then, and they invested a lot of “maybes” in Him. Maybe He was the One who would restore Israel to the status of a great nation; maybe He was the One to lead them out from under the foreign domination of Rome. With each “maybe” their expectations grew. But that was then. Now, it was different. Now, they saw Jesus as a dying failure.

The religious rulers led the ridicule. They heard His talk about salvation and how He had come into the world to save sinners as the Promised Messiah. They understood exactly what He said, but they didn’t believe it. So, they threw it all back in His face mocking this dying man. And they weren’t the only ones:

“The soldiers also came up and mocked Him. They offered Him wine vinegar and said, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.’ There was a written notice above Him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:36-39)

The Roman soldiers got in on the act. Today, we often hear about the importance of men being sensitive and compassionate. Not these guys! In their line of work, sensitivity was not in the job description and compassion was a liability. They offered Jesus wine vinegar. Tasty sounding, right? (The Greek word shows this was the sour, cheap, foul-tasting wine.) It was another taunt. “Hey king, try this not-so-royal drink!” That’s what they meant. They repeat the ridicule.

Pontius Pilate also weighed in. He’s behind the sign tacked on the cross. It was a double-barreled shot against both Jesus and the Jews, with whom he shared a mutual dislike. Again, the point to be made was: This pathetic man hanging on the cross is a king? Ha!

But perhaps the greatest lack of respect came from what would seem to be the most unlikely place. “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39) What abuse our Lord took as He was mercifully forgiving the world of our sins! How do you think bloodthirsty King Henry VIII, crazy King Ludwig II or the sadistic Saddam Hussein would’ve reacted to such disrespect? They would’ve had those mockers disemboweled before their very eyes!

Yet, Jesus remained silent! Jesus is the same God who punished Korah and his followers for disrespecting Moses and Aaron, God’s chosen leaders, by having the earth open up, swallow them alive and then close back over them again (Numbers 16). Jesus is the same God who sent down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah for disrespecting God’s commands (Genesis 19). Jesus has every right and every power to destroy those who mock Him and His commands.

Which Bible character are you most like in this account? None of us perfectly honor Christ our King. None of us perfectly follow the commands given to us by the King of kings and Lord of lords. Are you like the Jewish leaders? They didn’t agree with what Jesus said so they rejected it. What teaching of God’s Word don’t you like and so you are completely ignoring His command? Are you like the Roman soldiers? They took pride in their job of making others suffer. Whom do you loathe? Who is the person you secretly—or not so secretly—would like to see suffer for what they’ve done? Are you like Pilate? Pilate took no responsibility for Jesus’ death even though he was the one who gave the command. What responsibility in your life are you trying to weasel your way out of? Are you like the angry, unbelieving thief on the cross? In the midst of his pain, he lashed out in anger against Jesus. What foul things have you said against God while in your pain and anguish?

How do you deserve to be treated for the way you’ve mocked your King? How do you deserve to be treated for the ways you’ve ignored and spit on God’s laws?

Thank the Lord that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world! Thank the Lord that Jesus is not like the earthly kings that rule on earth. “Jesus does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10) At the cross and in our lives, Jesus did not send an earthquake to swallow us or fireballs from heaven to destroy us. No, Jesus is the King we need. He is a merciful and loving King!

The evil that surrounded Jesus at the cross reinforced him all the more to stay on that cross and finish destroying the power of sin. Each afternoon, there is an announcement in our home when our girls were younger, “Okay, girls. It’s time for naps in a few minutes”. There have been times when the girls erupted into tears and started throwing fits immediately after that announcement. It didn’t change our minds. Instead, their crabby reactions reinforced us all the more, “You need a nap!” So also, the sinful reactions of the Jewish religious leaders, the soldiers, Pilate, the criminal and our sinfulness as well, reinforced to Jesus the absolute need for Him to remain on the cross. That is the king we need. Jesus suffered for our sins in dignified silence.

Jesus’ resolute focus in the midst of such agony made an impression on one of the criminals hanging next to Jesus. He was so moved that he was brought to faith in Jesus! After rebuking the other criminal for slandering Jesus’ name, he turned to Jesus and pleaded of Him. “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) This man found true what everyone else in our text thought to be ridiculous. He believed that Jesus was and is a King. The world saw a defeated and dejected shell of a man minutes from death. But through the eyes of faith, this new believer saw his Savior.

And his Savior responded to his faith-filled request in a way that must have made him forget his pain and rejoice: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) That’s the King you need!

And that’s the kind of Savior you have! Jesus is your King. He rules over your hearts and lives with His perfect love and with His almighty power to save you. Trust in Him! Believe in Him! Remain in Him! And one day you will hear these words of perfect peace spoken to you. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” Amen.