November 25, 2022 A+D
St. Matthew 21: 1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ, Our Lord, is the promised King who reigns on the throne of David forever. So it is that as He rode into the City of Peace to be executed as the King of the Jews, He was acclaimed as King. It seems that few understood what that meant then or on Friday. Christ the King did not come to conquer by might. He came to withstand the judgment against us in our place and to endure His Father’s wrath as our Holy Substitute. He came to win by suffering violence and went as a Lamb to the slaughter. On the third day He took up His life again. He was vindicated by His Father, proven obedient and pure. He now sits at His right hand. Soon He will come again in glory as King. He will judge both the living and the dead. Then every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King. Then they will know what that means. For now He comes in grace. He offers salvation and peace. He comes in quiet and humble, yet powerful, ways to those who trust in Him.
This view of Christ the King is much abused in modern theology. Many take Christ’s kingship to mean that He has a keen interest in the affairs of this world. He wants to end poverty and inequality. This isn’t exactly false, but it is misleading. They make the kingdom of God into a cipher for social action and a thin bit of triumphalism for favored political agendas and ideology.
Jesus does come to restore the earth. He does come to end injustice and suffering. But He doesn’t come to upend the order of creation or the goodness of the moral law. He comes to reestablish both in purity. To make Jesus into a modern feminist or advocate of critical race theory takes His kingship out of the context of the Biblical narrative. It picks the parts that fit with its ideology. It is dishonest and destructive.
But even if it stopped short of that, Christ’s Kingship cannot be separated or considered apart from His prophetic and priestly roles. All of the Old Testament ceremonies, history, and doctrine point to the atonement. Jesus is King because Jesus is Messiah. He is the Prince of Peace, Judge of the world, and Son of the Father, yet He is also the Suffering Servant and the Kinsman-Redeemer anointed to lead us to the promised land. To make Him anything less is blasphemy and it undermines the comfort He brings for His people.
The promise of His kingship goes back to the beginning. He comes to restore what Adam lost. Thus God promised Abraham that “kings” would come from his line (Gen 17:6, 16; 35:11). That promise continued throughout the books of Moses, especially to the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:8–12). Judges magnifies the need for a good, just, and holy king (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Ruth identifies the origin of that King in Boaz and Bethlehem (4:18–22; cf. Mic 5:2). 1 Samuel names David, the son of Jesse, as type of the King we need(1 Sam 16:12–13). 2 Samuel records God’s promises that David’s throne will be eternal (2 Sam 7:9–14). The Psalter strengthens the Davidic shape of the Messiah as a greater David (Pss 107–150). *1
God uses all that to set the stage for His joining of creation in the virgin’s womb. Born into the family of David, from the line of Judah, worshiped by Magi from the East, Jesus perfectly fulfills all the Biblical requirements for the Messianic King. He begins His ministry by preaching repentance because His Kingdom has arrived. He teaches us to pray for His Kingdom to come to us. His parables are mostly named as revelations about His kingdom. Then on Palm Sunday He is hailed as King and on Good Friday the plaque is fixed to His throne “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Why was this hard to see? Jesus is unlike any king the world has ever known. Rather than gaining power by force, He wins us by sacrificial love. He has ransomed all of humanity for Himself but does not force Himself upon us. He is easily resisted because He is not looking for slaves, soldiers, or a source for taxes. He is looking for a Bride who returns His love.
It seems that most of the people who laid down their cloaks did not understand this. Neither did the apostles understand it even 40 days after the resurrection. There is something broken in us that thinks what we can see with our eyes is more real than what God promises in His Word. That something is the corruption of sin. It respects power and is prone to take love for granted.
So repent. You are not more theologically sophisticated than the apostles. Repent and behold. Your King comes to you today. His power is cloaked in gentleness, hidden in bread and wine, water and Word. He speaks kind words of forgiveness and righteousness, restores you again to His flock. He is not deterred by our unworthiness or failures or your confusion. He is steadfast in His duty, relentless in His love. His Kingship is as easy His yoke, His priesthood as sturdy as the sun and moon, and His prophecy more insightful than the best professor on earth. Behold with eyes of a faith, a Messiah, God in the Flesh, coming again, and again, for you. Here is a King worth bending the knee to.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
1 This whole sermon owes a debt to David Schrock, “Jesus’ Kingly Office,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), but this paragraph, in particular, follows a paragraph of us very closely.