What Kind of King do we Follow?


What Kind of King do we Follow?

As we close out the Christian year, we do so with Christ the King Sunday. It is an opportunity to stop and reflect on who Jesus Christ is. Why we call Jesus our Lord, Saviour and Sovereign.  

Scripture: Luke 23: 33-43

In Hans Christian Anderson’s short tale The Emperor’s New Clothes two weavers promise the emperor a new suit of clothing that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent. The reader is aware that the weavers are not making any clothes at all, however those in the story believe the tale that the weavers weave. Finally, the emperor goes before the public in a parade and a child cries out “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

The child demonstrates to everyone that the fool has been the emperor all along. It might make you question what type of leader he could have been to be fooled so easily.

What kind of king is it that we follow?

That is the question for today, the last day of the church year. A day we mark as Christ the King Sunday. On first glance it may appear to be an odd choice for the gospel passage. Our passages from Colossians and Jeremiah, they hint at a king, a ruler who is just, who is respected.

The only indication in Luke’s gospel that Jesus is a king comes in a crude, mocking sign hung above him as Jesus hangs on the cross. ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

What kind of king is it that we follow? A king, a god, who allowed himself to be killed, mocked, beaten, bloodied. Jesus being crucified was used to mock early Christians and some who would still make the assertion that we follow a God who was killed. How can we still call him king?

In the Roman Empire there was no more shameful way to execute someone than crucifixion. A tribute was a parade of honor for a powerful and mighty hero. A crucifixion was a parade of shame for a powerless, might-less, weak, inglorious loser. And that is what the Empire did to the Son of God. He was forced to carry his own cross in this parade of shame. He was crucified, he was mocked, he was beaten—and then, in the midst of all of this, he was worshiped by one of the thieves who was crucified with him: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” (Working Preacher)

Luke paints a striking picture for us. A picture of a suffering God, doing so for our sake. It’s an expression of how much God does love the world, not only that Christ came, but that Christ dies.

It is clear that Jesus is no king in the traditional sense of the word. That the definition of king that Jesus fills surpasses our understanding of what a sovereign should be.

One thing that Luke does in his gospel account is make it clear that Jesus is innocent. Pilate found no reason to sentence him to death. Herod agreed with Pilate. In our passage today the criminal says surely this man has done nothing wrong. Next a centurion will say that “certainly this man was innocent.”

Jesus was innocent. It’s something I think we all know, but don’t think about actively. A man that almost everyone knew was innocent was executed in the most humiliating and public way possible. Luke focuses on the public shaming that Jesus experiences, there is no mention of blood or gore. Though certainly such a death would be grisly.

A king like no other, who was executed though innocent. In Colossians we read, “Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.” – Colossians 1: 20

These are the reasons we name Jesus our king. For his innocence, his innate goodness, for bringing everything in creation back to God. A reminder of who we are and who we belong to. It is a message and a way of being that we still struggle with today. The two points of view provided to us by the criminals hanging at Jesus’ right and left illustrate this. The represent two ways of being in the world. One criminal identifies and sides with the powers of empire. While the other stands with oppressed and marginalized.

Far too often in its history the church has found itself standing with the powers of empire. Reveling in the power and status afforded to it and ignoring the plight of those whom Jesus calls us to serve and care for. We have propagated a message of prosperity and blessing, rather than a focus on service and mercy. Yet, when we look to Jesus we see that even in those final moments he did not submit to the powers of empire which might have spared his life. Instead, the final earthly act of Jesus before he dies is to offer mercy and forgiveness to the criminal who hung beside him. It is the final act of an innocent man, the final act of our Lord and Saviour, an act of gentleness and mercy.

Friends, we serve a king like no other. In The Emperor’s New Clothes once the emperor learns he has been duped he continues the parade, recognizing that he has been deceived. We serve a king who is stripped naked and displays the full vulnerability of the human condition. Who through this vulnerability invites us into a new way of being in the world. One that says “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Prayer by Oliver Holmes.

Lord of all being, throned afar,
thy glory flames from sun and star;
center and soul of every sphere,
yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
sheds on our path the glow of day;
star of our hope, thy softened light
cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn,
our noontide is thy gracious dawn,
our rainbow arch thy mercy’s sign;

all, save the clouds of sin, are thine.

Lord of all life, below, above,
whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
before thy ever-blazing throne
we ask no luster of our own.

Grant us thy truth to make us free,
and kindling hearts that burn for thee,
till all thy living altars claim
one holy light, one heavenly flame.


St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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