A Strange Kind of King
In this divine drama that we see being played out in John’s gospel we witness the clash of kingdoms. It is the clash between the Kingdom of God and the Roman Empire.
In this encounter Pilate summoned Jesus to his palace (Called the Predtorium) and asked him that would eventually seal Jesus’ fate on the cross, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. How could he? The title “King of the Jews” hardly sums up his mission. But finally he does concede that, yes, he is a king. That is why he came into the world. That is why he was born . . .
Today is known as Christ the King Sunday in many churches. In 1925 Pope Pius XI wanted people to know that this is Christ’s world, not the emerging dictators of that day. Mussolini had been in power for three years. Adolf Hitler had been out of jail only a year, and was finding great popular support for his fledgling Nazi party. The pope had the audacity to declare, despite dictators, that Christ was King, reminding Christians where their ultimate loyalty lay!
Unfortunately, the world didn’t listen then, and at times it doesn’t listen today. We place our allegiance in the values of our age, be it economic, political, or social.
We come here this morning to proclaiming that Christ is our King and Lord of our lives.
What does that mean for all of us here?
- Let’s begin with this radical idea that Our first allegiance is to Christ. That shouldn’t be a radical idea, I suppose, but in today’s world it is. Our first allegiance is to Christ. Not to our political party. Not to the opinions of our family, friends, neighbors or community. Not even to our nation. But to Christ.
There are some people today who confuse their political views with their allegiance to Christ, and they are not bashful about branding those who disagree with them as enemies of the Gospel.
We’ve seen it happen before. In earlier generations, the battle to keep African-Americans out of schools, libraries, and even away from public drinking fountains was framed by some people in religious terms. In their eyes it was God’s will to keep the races separated.
Great people of faith challenged such a heresy.
Billy Graham said in addressing the social problems of our age: “I’ve often said that in my view racism is the biggest social problem we face in the world today, and I believe it still is. Not only do we have continuing problems with racism in our own country, but racism is a worldwide problem that leads to countless wars and conflicts. It also is at the root of much of the world’s injustice and poverty.
Governments have their part to play in solving society’s ills, of course—not just racism, but other social problems as well. We need fair laws that will fight corruption and injustice, and we need wise policies that will encourage a better world.”
In his fight for justice and racial equality, Martin Luther King Jr. said this;
“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
Our allegiance to Christ begins with the time-honored one question, WWJD, “what would Jesus do”?
Don’t misunderstand. Christian people ought to be involved in public service. We need to become involved in establishing a just, fair and compassionate society. That has always been the hallmark of being a Methodist. John Wesley laid out a very concise way to live out our lives in community by saying;
“Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.”
Such an appeal isn’t about having a Democrat, Republican, Liberal, or Conservative agenda, rather it’s about have a Christ centered agenda.
- Secondly, we demonstrate this allegiance by the quality of our lives.
It is interesting to witness how Christians seek to publicize their allegiance to Christ. Some do it with bumper stickers. A few do it by carrying their Bible with them.
A church in Ohio did it with a large icon–a 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus with upraised arms, installed in a cornfield just north of Monroe, Ohio on Interstate 75. The statue–dubbed “Super Savior”– was erected by the Solid Rock Church, in Middletown.
Here is what is interesting. Traffic fatalities on this notorious stretch of road have dropped dramatically since the Super Savior statue was raised. Is that pure coincidence or has the Styrofoam and fiberglass Christ really aided road safety? Nobody knows.
Certainly, a giant statue of Christ does no harm and if it improves traffic, that’s fine. But do not be confused. Is this the best way to express our allegiance to Christ? Perhaps, the best way to express our allegiance to Christ is to make our lives worthy of the name Christian.
Sportsman and best-selling author Pat Williams, in his book The Paradox of Power, tells about one man who deserved to bear the name Christian. In fact, that was his name, Christian X, king of Denmark during World War II.
The people of Denmark remember him the way any of us would want to be remembered, as a person of character, courage, and principle.
Every morning, King Christian rode without bodyguards in an open carriage through the streets of Copenhagen. He trusted his people and wanted them to feel free to come up to him, greet him, and shake his hand.
In 1940 Nazi Germany invaded Denmark. Like so many other European nations, this small Scandinavian country was quickly conquered. But the spirit of the Danish people and their king proved unquenchable. Even after the Nazis had taken control of the nation, King Christian X continued his morning carriage rides. He boldly led his people in a quiet but courageous resistance movement.
On one occasion, the king noticed a Nazi flag flying over a public building in Copenhagen. He went to the German kommandant and asked that the flag be removed.
“The flag flies,” the kommandant replied, “because I ordered it flown. Request denied.”
“I demand that it come down,” said the king. “If you do not have it removed, a Danish soldier will go and remove it.”
“Then he will be shot,” said the kommandant.
“I don’t think so,” said King Christian, “for I shall be that soldier.”
The flag was removed.
You are already familiar with the most famous story about Christian. The order came from the Nazis that all Jews were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with the yellow star of David. King Christian said that one Danish person was exactly the same as the next one. So the King donned the first star of David, and let it be known that he expected every loyal Dane would do the same. The next day in Copenhagen, almost the entire population wore armbands showing the star of David. Though this Danes saved 90% of their Jewish population.
Later, the Nazis decided that all eight thousand Jews in Denmark would be rounded up and sent to concentration camps in central Europe. Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German diplomat with a troubled conscience, secretly informed King Christian of the Nazi plans. So the king organized a resistance effort that smuggled 7,500 Jews to Sweden within a single two-week period.
The remaining five hundred Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Theresienstadt, an internment ghetto in Czechoslovakia. King Christian interceded on their behalf and all but fifty-one survived their treatment at the hands of the Nazis.
King Christian paid a price for his bold courage. The Nazis imprisoned him from 1943 until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. An old man in his seventies, imprisonment was hard on his health. He died two years after his release.
I don’t know anything about King Christian’s religious beliefs. But I do know the quality of life he lived. Such a life does credit to the name Christian.
Our primary allegiance is to Christ. We demonstrate that allegiance by how we live. But here is the most important piece of information that we need on this Christ the King Sunday:
III. Christ demonstrated his allegiance to us by his life, death and resurrection.
The American actor and author Bruce Marchiano was speaking to inmates in a prison chapel in South Africa. This is what he said about Jesus.
“You think you had it rough as a kid? This Guy was born in a barn. His first bed was a feed trough. He wasn’t even two years old and people were trying to kill Him. He has to hide out with His mom and dad on the run, and just a baby. And that went on His entire life. Folks were always plotting to kill Him–eventually they did.
“Did you grow up being laughed at and kicked around? Imagine Jesus hearing the laughs about His mom being pregnant before she was married, getting teased and spit at by other kids because of it.
“Did you grow up without a father or mother? Divorce, death, or maybe one just walked out on you? You know, Joseph is never mentioned after Jesus is 12. Nobody knows for sure what happened to him, but most experts figure he must have died when Jesus was just a kid. Yeah, guys, Jesus knows that heartbreak. Imagine Him standing at His dad’s grave. And as the eldest son, He’d have to carry on and support the family. See Him in His dad’s workshop that first day, reaching for His father’s tools, tears streaming down His face–and just a kid.
“Ever had no place to sleep? ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’–the words of Jesus. He even knows what it’s like to have no place to live–sleeping around campfires. Or on people’s floors. Ever had anyone beat your face in? You guessed it–the Bible says they beat Jesus so badly you couldn’t even tell He was a human being.
“Friends run out on you? Jesus had a couple choice buddies named Judas and Peter.
“And He even knows what it’s like to be in a place like this, He knows because they locked Him up once,
“Yeah, Jesus knows, guys, He knows every struggle, every heartache. And not just because He’s God and God knows everything, but because when He was a man; He went through the same things you and I go through and more. He knows because He lived it. He’s been there.”
And here’s the amazing thing. He did it for you and me. No wonder we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We owe him our allegiance. We demonstrate that allegiance by how we live. We love him because he first loved us. He demonstrated that love through his life, death and resurrection.
Even in the face of Rome’s might Jesus confronted Pilate with a power that would one day conquer his empire. Jesus’ kingdom transformed the world through love and grace, and not with fear, prejudice, and mistrust.
Where does your allegiance lie today? How will this divine drama be played out in your heart? The decision you make will make all the difference in the world.