The Preacher Says....  
  Christ the King  
     
 
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Back in September we considered together the man Jesus. We were tempted to discover, if you will, the private Jesus not the public Jesus, and we analogized to Roosevelt and Stalin. We know these men as public figures. We know very little of their private lives, their individual lives. And so it is largely with Jesus. Thereís not much written material Ė not much in the Bible about what Jesus was like as a man. Jesus, for most of us for great parts of our lives, exists largely in the intellect and not in the heart. As a prelude to my remarks this morning, Iíd like to review with you briefly some of things we considered at that time about the man Jesus. One of the things we didnít consider then was how difficult it is for all of us to picture Palestine 2000 years ago. Palestine then, much more than it is now, was the land bridge between Africa and Asia. It was a melting pot. And we know it was a melting pot of people and nations because we know that on the day of Pentecost, at the time of Jesusís ascension into heaven, when the miracle of the tongues came upon the nations all those persons gathered together could understand one another. The second chapter of Acts indicates that there were gathered together in this place and each man heard the truth being spoken in his own tongue. These people, Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphilia in Egypt and in the parts of Libya, about Cyrene and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, they were all there and they all, it says here, "heard them speak in our tongues, the wonderful works of God."

So Palestine was a melting pot of nations. But not a melting pot of nations that we would recognize. Musical notation hadnít been developed then so weíre uncertain about how music sounded 2000 years ago, but we suspect that only the pentatonic scale was known Ė a five note scale Ė an oriental, Asian sound. The streets were full of beggars, lepers, ill-formed people, sick people, mad men. There were no hospitals, asylums as we know those things. And the fact that the wise men brought gold and frankincense and myrrh gives some feeling for the Eastern flavor, the oriental flavor of that time. And the conclusions that we drew about Jesus in this environment were these: First of all, we donít have to draw this conclusion. He was very young when his work was over. I have a daughter who in a few days will be as old as Jesus was when he died and, of course, Iím a very young man. So it seems to me almost impossible to conceive that Jesusí work was over at the time of my daughterís present age. We concluded about Jesus that despite the testimony in Isaiah where we read that Jesus had a marred visage, he had no form or comeliness that we should desire him. Jesus was probably an arresting, handsome, magnetic figure. After all, men are made in the image of God weíre told. Who more likely to more closely approximate that image than the son of God. In Luke 2:40 weíre able to draw some inference of what Jesus might look like. "The child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." Now this was before he commenced his ministry. But he was well thought of among men having grown in stature Ė presumably physical stature Ė and wisdom. Consider also the behavior of Peter and Andrew. Certainly no pillars of conviction and courage. They were fishermen on the seashore when Jesus accosted them. And we have no record of great long speeches being made. He simply said "Come and follow me. I will make you fishers of men. And they dropped their nets and followed him." Well, you know he must have had a certain animal magnetism, charisma, if you will, to have that kind of effect on individuals.

We get false pictures of Jesus this time year. We think about halos and farm animals and shepherds crooks and passive, meek, gentle folk patting little children on the head. And this idea that Jesus was meek and l owly and somehow passive is a false notion that we need to rid our minds of because Jesusí short life was very turbulent. I remind you again as I reminded you a few weeks ago just how turbulent it became. In the first chapter of Mark one of the first miracles that Jesus performed was to heal the leper. And in the 44th verse Jesus said to this leper, "see thou say nothing to any man, but go thy way. Show thyself to the priest and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. But he went out" Ė the leper did Ė "and he began to publish it much and to blaze abroad the matter insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city that was without in desert places and they came unto him in every quarter." And in the next chapter, Jesus entered into Capernaum some time later and it was noised about that he was in the house. "And straightway many were gathered together in so much there was no room to receive them. No not so much as about the door. And he preached the word unto them and they came unto him bringing one sick of the palsy which was borne a four" Ė carried by four men Ė "and when they could not come nigh unto him for the press they uncovered the roof where he was. And when theyíd broken it up" Ė broken the roof up they let this man down through the roof. When Jesus saw their faith he said unto the sick of the palsy, "son, thy sins be forgiven thee." So consider this scene, this mob scene around this house. People trying to get in it. They canít get in. They climb up on top of the roof. They break the roof open. Four men lower a body down into the room where all these people are gathered together. And so it was with Jesusí life. Everywhere he went there was a mob scene. Consider the situation involving the man afflicted with the evil spirit. This man, an insane man, had been shackled and he freed himself from his shackles. And he lived like a wild animal in caves and in the wilderness. And Jesus caused this mania to leave him and go into 2000 swine. 2000 swine. A huge stampede and they ran violently over a cliff into the sea. And the keepers of the swine ran into the village and told the owners what had happened, and the owners came back and asked Jesus to leave. But the man that he cured wanted to follow him. Jesus said no, you stay behind and tell what happened here. So all through Jesusí life there were hoof beats and foot falls and dust flying, and there was an air of violence that hung over him.

We donít much about Jesusí childhood. There are just a few events. We know he had a family. We know that at the age of 12 he was discussing the scriptures with the wise men of the day where he doesnít seem to have been treated as some sort of freak. He was a bright, young Jewish boy asking questions, answering questions, getting information, growing in favor of men. His childhood in some ways, however, seems very natural. After a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when they were on their way back home his parents apparently thinking that Jesus was playing with the other children didnít pay attention to where he was. At the end of the day he was discovered missing. They had to go back, look for him three days when they found him finally with the wise men. But even as a child while in many ways he was the same as children he must have been in many ways different because he said to his parents, "wist ye not that I must be about my fatherís business?" What a statement for a young child to make. Jesus was different, I think, largely because responsibility made him different. He knew at 12 years of age that he had to be about his fatherís business. The fate of the world was on his shoulders. He was responsible for the salvation of the human race. Well, you know how responsibility changes you. When you get married. When a parent dies and you have to assume responsibility, you change. And Jesus, therefore, had to change. He couldnít be like a normal man enjoying the normal pleasures of life. Sometimes he almost seems callous and heartless in the way that he treats family members, and yet we know thatís not the case. Jesus was capable of tears. He was concerned about his motherís care on the cross. He put her care in the charge of John, the disciple John.

One of the reasons that Jesus is difficult to know is because we make him difficult to know. We think of him as I indicated earlier as one dimensional. Jesus is love. Thatís a favorite expression of ours. What do you think of when you think of Jesus? I think of love or some such one word thing. Well Jesus wasnít one dimensional. He was many things. He wasnít just a compassionate person. He was meek and lowly, but that didnít mean that he groveled on the ground. He could be assertive, aggressive, angry. He was meek and lowly in the sense that he was unpretentious. What do I mean by that? Well, he saw what he was. He was a man subject to frailties, easily tempted, easily led astray, weak, imperfect. He was imperfect in his nature. He had the tendency to sin. He was subject to death, subject to decay, and he didnít pretend to anything else. In that sense, he was meek and lowly. And thatís why he hated the Pharisees. He didnít hate them, but thatís why he held them up as an example not to be followed because he loathed their pretentiousness. I suspect he even loathed the fact that they were called Pharisees because Pharisee means "separate." They held themselves apart. They were better than the rest of the world. They paid great service to the meaningless oral traditions that had risen up after the written canon of scripture. He called them the children of Gehenna because they led people astray. They were all letter and no spirit. And he said to them, "repent". What did he mean when he said repent? The word "repent" means have a new mind. Get rid of your dead works. This mind set that somehow this trivial behavior of yours can save you. The business of the world for you is the love of God and the love of man. Cast off these dead works. You must have a new mind if you are to enter into the kingdom. Jesus was courageous. Fortitude might be a better word to describe the characteristic Iím trying to tell you about. He was always going against the grain. Going against the grain for his whole life, overcoming the coward in himself. One man against the Roman world, the Greek world, the Jewish world, the world of ideas. He knew in his intellect that his father would save him til the end, but he had fear in his heart. You understand these things. We know Jesus in the intellect, but we donít know him in the heart. We know Jesus will save us at last in the intellect, but we have difficulty believing it in the heart. Jesus had these same afflictions, but he had fortitude. Of course, preeminently he had compassion. How often we read in the scripture, "moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand." And how did it all end for him? Well, with a scream on the cross. It says he cried out with a loud voice Ė a scream. John says he screamed, "It is finished." And so it seems to many Ė it is finished Ė this unique historical figure whom everybody agrees lived this life and died on a cross. He finished, even for persons of religious bent, his work in the reconciliation of man to God through his death on the cross and the earnest of that reconciliation was his resurrection a few days later. But thatís another story, perhaps to be taken up in the spring of the year. But thereís more to Jesus than that story of his life and the fact that he cried out "it is finished" because how do you get from point A to point B? If in fact Jesus reconciled man to God through his death on the cross, how is that reconciliation accomplished? You know Jesus was not only the son of man. Heís also called the son of God, the second Adam, the son of David, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David, the branch of righteousness, the heir of the world, the heir of all things, and the most powerful title of all Ė the Alpha and Omega Ė the beginning and the end. But for our purposes today, most importantly was the superscription on his cross written in Greek and Latin and Hebrew. Written there on that cross was the phrase, "King of the Jews." Was he ever King of the Jews? His faithful followers didnít think so, but they expected it. Just before his ascension we read in the first chapter of Acts, they asked him "Lord, will thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Heíd already said earlier recounted among other places as well, but Iíll read from the 21st chapter of Luke. Speaking about what was to come after his death, he said "the Jews shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive and all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And then there shall be signs in the son and in the moon and in the stars. And upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring. Menís hearts failing them for fear. And for looking after those things which are coming on the earth for the powers of heaven shall be shaken and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

So after his ascension, Jesus having responded to the question "Lord, will thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel," in the negative, indicating that it was some time in the future- didnít know when Ė men began to watch and wait from 33 AD on. How many virgins have kept their lamps trimmed and full of oil since 33 AD? And how many ten talent men and five talent men have put those talents to work since 33 AD? Put those talents to work in his service. And how many one talent men have buried that talent in the generations in between waiting for the hard man to return? You can figure it out. Conservatively, from our generation back to Christ must be 80 generations. Itís intriguing to think about that on a personal basis. You just think of your own one line of descent back through your ancestors. I know my father, I know my grandfather, I didnít know his father Ė I knew of his existence Ė he ran away to sea when he was 10 years old, but beyond that I donít know. But there must perhaps have been another seaman in the family, a tradesman in England, a farmer in England, a serf in England before that, a slave in England before, a savage back behind the Welsh mountains, and each of us can speculate back. Wouldnít it be interesting to see all 80 of them lined up one after the other and see that direct line. Itís overpowering to think about all of the direct ancestors we must have had since each direct ancestor had 2 direct ancestors and you can see the huge pyramid of thousands of people that brought each of us to this moment. Now stop thinking backwards and think forward. Think of everything thatís happened since 33 AD. The development of the church, the sack of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution. 2000 years, and where have we come? We see weíre at this time when men shall be lovers of their selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemous, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truth breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

But I submit that the picture is more tragic than that. More tragic because thereís a greater contrast than ever now between, it seems to me, the forces of good and the forces of evil. Consider this country in which we live. Consider the blessings of America where there has been an attempt on the part of the government, if you will, to enforce Christian behavior on a nation. What other country in the world has had such a beneficent social security program, universal medical care, child labor laws, occupation safety and health acts, environmental protection acts, food and drug administration, labor unions to protect the poor working man against the unscrupulous capitalist, a redistribution of wealth through anti-trust laws and inheritance taxes? There is an effort on the part of many good men to do something about the plight of man. But on the other side we see implacable, godless foes. Terrorism, religious fanatics, germ warfare, the ultimate weapon, the greatest enemy Ė death Ė still rampant. So we seem so near and yet so far. And as we somehow Ė men of goodwill do better for their fellows when they see how impossible it is to complete the task. And thatís the great tragedy. And Christmas time reflects it all. It reflects the selfless nature that we have and the selfish nature. People denying themselves to make gifts to loved ones. Others consuming themselves on greed and gluttony. Iím not certain itís necessary to preach to each other about Christmas because I believe most people see the tinsel of Christmas for what it is. After all Christmas is the time of year when thereís mass depression, thereís more depression this time of year than any other time in the world. The mental hospitals are full of people because so many people are saying to themselves, "O, wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from the body of this humiliation?" "When I would do good, evil is present with me." Itís not only the scoffers that say now, "where is the promise of his coming for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning." People who would have faith say that because those virgins have kept their lamps full of oil, those servants have been using those talents, the prayers have gone up to God and they seem to reverberating in empty space.

God is not slack concerning his promises, and past is prologue. Shakespeare was right. And it always has been so. From Adam to Christ was at least 4000 years, and it took 4000 years for the prophecy about the seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent to come to pass. But it came to pass. The promise to Abraham and his seed took more than 2000 years. The promise to Moses that a prophet greater than he would be raised up whom the children of Israel would ultimately follow took what? Ė 1500 years. Davidís greater son was promised to him 1000 years before he arrived. Christ the King is a prophetic statement, not a historical one. The first chapter of Matthew, the first verse, the first book in the New Testament says "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." This is not just a recital of Christís antecedents. The promise to Abraham was that he would have a seed to inherit the land. The promise to David was that he would have a greater son to sit on the throne to rule over the land and its inhabitants. What land? Just Israel? Just Palestine? Way back in the beginning God said, "As truly as I live all the earth shall be filled with my glory." The promise to Abraham and his seed was of the Earth. The meek shall inherit the earth. What Jews will be in this kingdom?

"If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abrahamís seed and heirs according to the promise."

You Jews, all of us Jews, the Jews of promise, the Jews of adoption. When Jesus comes to set up that kingdom, it will be a violent time Iím sorry to report.

"Behold the day of the Lord cometh and the spoils shall be divided in the midst of thee. I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the cities shall be taken and the houses rifled and the women ravished and half the city shall go forth into captivity and the residue shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west and there shall be a very great valley, and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north and half of it toward the south. And it shall come to pass in that day that the light shall not be clear nor dark, but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord. Not day nor night, but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light, and it shall be in that day the living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the former sea and half of them toward the hinder sea. And summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the Earth. In that day shall there be one Lord and his name one. With righteousness shall he judge the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the Earth. He shall smite the Earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them."

And finally let me read a passage from the 22nd chapter of Revelation,

"And he showed me a pure river of water of life. Clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river was there the tree of life which bears 12 manner of fruits and yields her fruit every month and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. There shall no night there, and they need no candle neither light of the sun. For the Lord giveth them light and they shall reign forever. And behold I come quickly and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his works shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. He which testifieth these things saith surely I come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus."