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Passion History IV (The Praetorium) - March 14, 2018

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Posted: Thursday, March 15th, 2018 by Pastor Westgate

Jesus is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Last week we heard Jesus is our Priest, our High Priest. He made a great sacrifice on Calvary. He sacrificed Himself on The Altar called The Cross. He gave up His life so we could live forever. He bore our sins so we could be without sin. He crushed the devil’s power so we could live under Him forever.

That leads us to today’s theme: Jesus is our King. We heard this throughout tonight’s reading. That’s one of the points St. John wants to get across in his Passion account. He is “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” He is The Christ, The King. His kingdom is not of this world. He is King of heaven and earth.

The Jews condemned Him for confessing He is God’s Son. It was blasphemy, and the punishment for blasphemy was stoning. But God had just recently stripped them of their right to execute. So they had to take Him to Pilate. But Pilate was never going to execute somebody for making that claim. He might think Jesus was crazy, but no Roman was going to execute Him for that. After all, they worshiped a pantheon of gods who acted awfully human!

So they cooked up a new set of charges. He was perverting the nation, forbidding them to pay taxes, and claiming to be a King. Pilate knew He wasn’t perverting the nation because that would mean He was inciting riots, and the Romans hated riots, so he knew Jesus wasn’t doing that. He could hear easily enough that Jesus just that week had told them to pay taxes to Cæsar, so that was another lie. The only thing of interest here was the claim that He is Christ, a King. Did this guy really want to overthrow Cæsar?

He couldn’t believe it. He never did believe it. He never wanted to kill Him. He wanted to free Him. He was pressured into the whole thing. There was nothing about Him that looked like He was leader or even warrior material. He was obviously a kind man who had no desire to fight Rome. He sounded a little strange with His talk of truth and a heavenly kingdom, but He couldn’t be crucified for that!

He claimed to be Christ, a King. The word “Christ” comes from the Greek word for anointing. In Hebrew it’s “Messiah.” Priests and kings were anointed into their offices. Isaiah said Messiah would be anointed with the Holy Spirit. So they thought of Him as a King. But they could not think of any sort of king other than an earthly ruler in Jerusalem. They wanted back the kingdom they lost to the Romans about a century before, or better yet, the kingdom they lost to Babylon about 600 years before. The only Messiah they wanted was one who would free them from Rome. Jesus told them He isn’t that kind of Messiah. So He couldn’t be the one sent from God in their minds.

But God never planned to send a political Messiah. The promise was always to bless the whole world, not one little enclave, with a Savior. It was never the plan to rescue a nation from a political power. That’s quite frankly too little a thing for God. Yes, He had freed them from Egypt and brought them home from Babylon, but that was solely to pave the way for Jesus to come. Now it was time for Him to do something for all people. It was time for Him to take care of the problem of the whole world: sin, and sin’s consequence, death, and sin’s author, Satan. Messiah was anointed to fix these problems, “to fulfil all righteousness,” not to free them from a man in far away Rome.

He is King, and the world mocks this King. They hailed Him in a mocking tone, dressed Him in a purple cape, gave Him a staff and crown of thorns. They put the title above His head, never believing it for a second. But it’s true. He is King. The ironic thing is this: He was reigning at that very moment as they mocked Him and condemned Him to die on a tree.

How could He be reigning right then? We don’t know much about kings. This commonwealth declared independence from the British Crown in 1776 and hasn’t looked back. Our ancestors may have been here by then, others came 100 years or so later. Most of us don’t know anything about kingly authority. After all, Queen Elizabeth is just a figurehead, a celebrity, with no real power. How is Jesus reigning on Good Friday?

He gives us a hint earlier in St. John’s Gospel. He tells us He is The Good Shepherd, and He is The Good Shepherd precisely because He lays down His life for His sheep, only to take it up again. What does that have to do with kings? The ancients thought of their kings as shepherds. Some translations of Psalm 23 call The LORD not my Shepherd, but my Ruler, my Governor. Why? A shepherd guides his sheep and cares for them and fights off predators. A good king cares for his people, fights for them, and loves them.

That’s what we see on Calvary. Jesus is caring for His people, fighting for them, loving them. He’s fighting off the devil. He’s pulling us out of death’s jaws, even though death has already swallowed us up. He’s loving us even though sin makes us completely unlovable. He’s working to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death to everlasting life.

He is our King. Should He be? He took Barabbas’ place. Should He have? Barabbas was a very bad man. He was a thief, a killer, a rebel. It must have made Pilate sick to free him. I wonder if he was back in jail on Easter! But Jesus replaced him. He’s making a point. You are the thief. Your sins have robbed God of glory. You are the killer. Your sins are hatred of God and they often show hatred towards your neighbor. You show you love yourself more than anyone else whenever you sin against them. Hatred is the root cause of killing. You are the rebel, for sin is rebellion against the holy God. He should reign by condemning you.

Yet He reigns for you. He reigned on The Cross. He reigned by judging sin forgiven. Kings are judges. He declared Himself guilty of your sin, of your hatred. He declared you innocent. He bore the punishment for it all. He released you from the penalty you owe for your sin: eternal death. He crushed the power of the serpent who enslaved you. He declared Himself your Lord Who is leading you into everlasting life. The snake thought he won, but then Jesus rose from the dead. He broke out of the jaws of death and left it eternally broken so it can hold nobody. Therefore He personally is at work to make good on the promises He made you on His Cross.

He is ascended into heaven, but your King is not absent. He placed His Name on you at Baptism. He rescued you from the devil’s jaws. He is your Lord. He rules by forgiving sins and by bringing people to faith in Him. He rules by proclaiming to you His Word – His Law which reminds you of your sins and leads you to be sorry for them; His Gospel which reminds you what He did for you on Calvary and leads you to believe in His forgiveness. He leads you to heaven by feeding you with His Word and His holy Sacrament. He is here guiding you, protecting you. Soon He shall take you to be with Him, at His throne, where you shall behold His face, bask in His love, and never be bothered by the devil again. And in joy you shall hail your King.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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