“The Real King In Our Lives”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Luke 23:33-43 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus[a] there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]][b] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah[c] of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,[d] “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding[e] him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?[f] Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into[g] your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
We have a new president elect! We don’t have a king, or do we? We tend to place a great deal of emphasis on titles when it comes to leadership, both in our world and in our religious life. Yet we don’t live in a monarchy, or a dictatorship, we don’t have a King or do we? Elvis, The King of Rock and Roll, BB King, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King, Jr., Burger King? You get the idea, our proper names as well as our corporate names tend to reflect that idea, that concept that kingship is something to be followed and proud of as it is named.
Today, our last Sunday before we begin our new Christian year, is recognized as Christ The King Sunday, or The Reign of the King Sunday. It is not a holy day that get’s a lot of press, because it comes on the heal of a long season of Pentecost and Post-Pentecost and close to the rapid start of the new year next Sunday in Advent.
Now it is interesting that the Gospel text in the Common Lectionary is the story that surrounds the Passion narrative. The story that dictates the title of Jesus as King of the Jews. As Luke moves through this scenario it is common place to be focused on the fact that Jesus’ life (on earth) is about to end. The passionate Romans that have surrounded Jesus and labeled him for all to see, want people to understand that Jesus was seen as a leader, as a King! Yet at this point, the message almost “backfires” on them. It sets for them the concept that Jesus was truly an earthly leader in the eyes of the Roman and Gentile people.
However, this Gospel narrative takes it one step further. It brings into the light the understanding that Jesus was more than and earthly king, but was the king eternal. You see the story manifests itself in the common place plea conversation from the criminals who were being crucified with Jesus. After there conversations and the understanding that they were being crucified justly, continue to ask Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To which Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The promise of the eternal kingship comes to fruition!
The ending concept of the Season of Pentecost is powerful for us today, especially in this realm of new political leadership looming in our country but also with the hope and anticipation that Advent will bring to us starting next Sunday. We hear this morning a somewhat dismal earthly story of Jesus’ persecution but even lying deep within that story is the hope and the promise for life in the eternal kingdom.
How well do we do living in our earthly kingdom? My guess, no matter what side of the political map you travel, there has been some stress, some questions, some relief, and some anguish as we think about “what will be”. You see, we don’t do real well with “Kingdom Language”, because it goes against our understanding of a sound political system. Yet when Jesus speaks of the Kingdom, he is not referring to the earthly reign of a monarch, he is referring to an eternal way of living. The Kingship of Christ is not a four year ordeal and then we vote on it again, it is a promise of eternal life in a way that is manifest in the earthly life of all who seek to follow Jesus.
As we “wrap up” the time in the Christian year we know as “Ordinary Time” we have to learn to live in that anticipation of a Kingdom that is about to come upon this earth in the journey and the birth of one who has come to save us, love us, walk with us, and commune with us in our earthly journey. Therefore, let us have the comfort and the assurance that the thieves on either side of Jesus had when his earthly reign ended and know, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
AMEN & AMEN