Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
Jesus certainly had some unfair interviews in his life. Jesus faced a lot of gotcha questions again and again. I sometimes wonder if the questioners of Jesus were some what like the reporters on television. The television is full of people who are being asked questions in which the reporter does not want to get an answer but instead wants to show the politician or celebrity in a bad light. These so called “gotcha” interviews fill You Tube, the cable channels and even network television. But like Pilate who came before they only are out to make themselves look good and the person being interviewed look guilty, sleezy or just plain bad.
So, we know that what was proclaimed in Daniel and later found in Revelations was that Jesus was the "Son of Man" and “the King of Kings”. Daniel predicted Jesus’ kingdom to be forever and ever. So, Jesus was not making an outrageous claim but a truthful one.
So along comes Pilate with a loaded question, a gotcha question. When Jesus was being interviewed by Pilate his first question was "Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate's concern was with Jesus as a threat to the state. "Are you a King who seeks to overthrow Rome?" is a clearer statement of what Pilate asked. Jesus' response, "Why are you asking me this?" shows that Jesus knows that Pilate is being manipulated. "What have you done?" "If I were the kind of King that you have in mind, my followers would be revolting in the land and trying to effect my release." "So, you are a King?" "YOU say that I am a King." The repartee comes to an end. The lectionary text ends here just as the verbal jousting seems to climax.
Do we say Jesus is a king? What do we mean? Jesus' kingdom is not of this earth, but of truth—a truth to which one can belong. Pilate finally answers his own question in John 19:19 "Jesus of Nazareth, he King of the Jews" reads the statement placed upon Jesus' cross for all the world to see.
This lesson does amputate Pilate's final words in order to end the lesson with Jesus' words and not Pilate's sarcasm. Pilate's contemptuous," What is truth?" reveals what is in his heart. Our Apostle's Creed states," Crucified under Pontius Pilate."
This is proof that one cannot remain neutral in relationship to Jesus Christ. One must do something with Him. To dismiss Him or leave Him alone is not a lifetime option.
This is Christ the King Sunday. By faith we have been present at His investiture and at His coronation. How tragic it would be if one did not intentionally decide to be present with Him in the glorious future over which He will rule. The pitiful allegiance we pay to earthly kings ("we have no king but Caesar!") and our need to obey them (Romans 13:1-7) is transcended by our highest loyalty to the King of kings! There should be the shout of a king within the churches on this Sunday. Everyone should be rejoicing that Jesus Christ is still the King of Kings and Lord of Lords forever! After all we are rejoicing over the fact that God and good have the final word.
In Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 we are given to the vision of the four beasts. There is a lion, a bear, a leopard, and the terrible fourth beast. History records them as the Persian, Medean, and Greek civilizations. The fourth beast represents the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes IV. It was during his reign that the book of Daniel was written (circa 165 BC). This same persecution resulted in the Maccabean Revolt. Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 are two inserts of poetry into a chapter of prose. This is similar to other apocalyptic literature in the Bible. The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John has drama interspersed with visionary poetic utterances. These poetic asides assert the fourth beast to be under the judgment of God.
In this terrible time Daniel's readers needed to be assured of what is really going on! In verses 9-10 God is portrayed as ancient. What did it mean in that culture to say God was older than time? Old age was a symbol of wisdom, authority, prestige, and power. "Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; the number of His years is unsearchable." (Job 36:26) Ancient of Days implies that God is the parentheses within which one lives his or her life. The poetry affirms the ultimate truth, which is even present in our death. God reigns!
Verses 13-14 climax the vision begun in verse 2. This son of man comes with clouds (as in Mark 13:26), but this son of man does not come to the earth, rather he comes to God's throne. This piece of poetry is about the son of man's investiture. In contrast to the four beasts that seized power violently this one receives his power directly from God. Their power was temporary. His is eternal. The bestial history of humankind does not infringe upon the final chapter, nor is it the final chapter of human history. In this revealing of the Kingdom of God we are assured the victims become victors. The magnificent reversal of the bestial history is vouchsafed in the character of the Ancient of Days.
In Daniel's vision the son of man represents the people Israel, the people of God. Our understanding of God dealing with us in a corporate way comes from this ancient concept of Judaism. We are the Body of Christ, the Church, and the Bride of Christ. Each image is one of personal worth within a community of fellowship. God is a personal God, but not an individual God. It is never true that God would choose you over me, or visa versa. Therefore, it is never "my victory," but God's victory that saves us. Daniel would be aghast to see the idea of private salvation outside the church being entertained in our day as a possibility.
Jesus chose Daniel's name "son of man" for his references to himself. Over time the name became synonymous with the Hebrew word, Messiah. Jesus expanded the concept son of man to include an understanding of servanthood, but that is another lesson. The three streams: son of man, messiah, and suffering servant all found their perfect blending in the life of Jesus Christ.
The poetry of Daniel 7 are prophetic windows letting in the light of salvation, assuring us of God's final and permanent kingdom that is coming with the clouds.
When we turn Revelation 1:4b-8 we find four types of material converge in these five verses:
1. Verses 4-5a follow the convention of a Pauline epistle. 2. Verses 5b-6 are a doxology. Verse 7 is an eschatological announcement. 4. Verse 8 is a Divine self-proclamation. This divine name in v. 8 is an expansion of the name given in Exodus 3:14 "I AM THAT I AM" from just the present into the past and future also. "Who is and was and is to come". The word pantokrator ("the almighty") was also being used in reference to the Roman Emperor. John sought to reclaim in to realm of ideas this name for God alone.
The doxology celebrates Jesus Christ's place in the world and our place in Him. This praise lifts up Christ's love for Christians who are suffering in the present persecutions. This obviously was used in Christian worship as a portion of an inspirational hymn.
The eschatological promise picks up the language of Daniel 7:14. The parousia (second coming of Christ) was becoming established in Christian thought. Looking for Christ's coming with the clouds would become a theological pastime and a prophetic tea-leaf-reading in our time. Abuses aside, the evidence of Scripture is that history will not someday wind down, but that there will be a culmination of history with Jesus Christ at the center of all activity concerning this event. As is carved in the dome of the Capitol of the United States of America, "One far off divine moment towards which all creation moves." Good is trod under the feet of evil day and night. Not good, but God will defeat evil. Our faith will be revealed to the whole world to have not been in vain. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Pilate knew a good gotcha question even before there was such a thing. Pilate was going to get Jesus no matter what, Pilate wanted Jesus dead. He was a political embarrassment. But then we all know Jesus could really see the future and Pilate did not have a clue. Jesus saw the future and Pilate could not see beyond a gotcha question.
The new thought being presented is that one can trust God with the future. That abode with its uncertainty and foreboding, brooding darkness is the abode of our God. The god who is God, YHWH, has spoken conclusively in Jesus Christ. God Almighty has given Jesus sovereignty over all things. There was little evidence of this in the Roman world when John wrote on Patmos. It is not over. The future is yet to be, and it is Christ's future. Katharina von Schlegel penned these words that capture this passage:" Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past." It is a reminder whatever happens: God is the Alpha and Omega, the one who is and was and is coming. God is All-Powerful!
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
There was a famous incident when a television reporter, Ms. Newman, was going after an expert in psychology, who was a Dr. Peterson. He was not following the group think on trans gender persons. He had a different view. The reporter went after him. She finally went after him by asking: “Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended.”
His response was simply “Because in order to think, you have to risk being offensive,” said Peterson. “Look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable.” “Well, I’m very glad I put you on the spot,” Newman stammered, visibly taken aback, as Peterson laughed.
“But you get my point,” pressed Peterson. “You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell’s going on, and that is what you should do. You’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me. And that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.”
“But you haven’t sat there and--,” Newman began, and then fell silent. She dropped her gaze, and to the delight of many stammered, “I just, I’m just trying, I’m just trying to work that out.” She fell silent again as the camera captured her discomfort.
“Ha,” came Peterson’s Canadian voice off-screen. “Gotcha.”
“You have got me,” Newman admitted.
“It’s about time,” said Peterson drily. (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/ha-gotcha-free-speech-hero-corners-left-wing-reporter-with-her-own-logic)
You’re sitting in an unfamiliar room, on the other side of a hiring manager’s desk. You’re a little nervous, but who isn’t at an interview? But you’re not worried. You’re prepared. You’ve got this.
And that’s when it happens — the “gotcha” question. How you handle the next two minutes of the conversation could have a huge impact on your future.
It’s an intimidating scenario that most people face at some point in their lives, and preparation makes all the difference. Luckily, there are people who’ve built a career around getting you ready for that “gotcha” moment. Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Matt Wiehe is one such expert. With more than six years of experience recruiting across for a wide variety of positions, he’s seen a lot.
We asked followers on social media for examples of job interview questions they found the trickiest to answer in a job interview setting, and then we played a round of “gotcha” with Matt Wiehe.
Okay, let’s play “gotcha.” What’s your greatest weakness? Matt: The kneejerk answer is to lead with something that’s actually a strength, “I work too hard, I’m a perfectionist,” that kind of thing. That’s not what they’re looking for in my experience. The best way to show what you can do is to be vulnerable, and say what that weakness is, but at the same time have a response for how you’re dealing with that weakness. “I’m reading self-help books, I’m asking my coworkers to challenge me on it and I’m really reflecting to make sure that I’m improving.” That way they see that you’re self-aware but also proactive.
Have you ever been fired? Matt: You have to be honest, because in today’s world, if you lie it’s going to come back to get you. It’s better to be honest and get into it than to try to sneak one past them. In general, with a candidate, if there’s a red flag, we lead with that in our submittal process to the client. In an interview situation, if there’s a red flag, lead with that and be open and honest, because a lot of the time they might know already. You never want to be negative about a previous position or work relationship. Just state the facts. “My attendance was poor, and I was let go.” If there’s any way to then spin it positively, to talk about lessons learned, that’s going to be the lasting impression.
Why do you want to leave your current company? Matt: You can just state your point of preference. If you’re looking for a better career opportunity, if your position doesn’t offer a lot of growth opportunity, if you need to stretch your wings. Of course, nine out of ten times, the reason is money, and along with that a feeling of being undervalued. But you never want to bad-mouth an employer, so you spin it to a positive. “I’m looking for growth and opportunity and that’s why I’m here.” (https://www.aerotek.com/en/insights/ask-aerotek-job-interview-gotcha-questions)
The most wonderful charge I ever heard at an Installation service for a new pastor included the reminder that no pastor (no Christian for that matter) can be all things to all people, nor should anyone try to be. "The title of Alpha and Omega is already taken."
God seems to be reigning as King in the lives of fewer and fewer Americans. A Gallup poll noted a drop from 54% who said they were religious in 1999 to 50% in 2002. People who cite no religion at all now account for 14% of the nation, up from 8% in 1990. George Barna identified a similar decline in faith when he found that while 24% of American adults were unchurched in 1991, today that number has risen to 34%.
A Hasidic parable compares God to a kind of king. There once was a king who had two sons, the tale begins. Each son came to the royal banquet hall to receive a gift from his father. The first son only needed to go to the door of the hall, and his wish was immediately granted. The king did that because he had little love for that son. He wanted him to be gone as quickly as possible. But when his favorite son appeared, the king took great pleasure in his arrival and wanted to make sure that he did not leave too quickly. That is why the king decided to delay granting that son's requests. The king kept inviting the son to move closer to him to tell him what he wanted. And as the son approached his father ever nearer, the son began to sense the great love that his father had for him. In fact, finally the son drew so near and felt so loved that he boldly began to serve himself from the king's banquet table.
Although God appeared in kingly roles in older movies like The Ten Commandments, in more recent times God has been portrayed with a much less regal air. Perhaps one of the first popular movies to "humanize" God was O God, in which George Burns starred as the deity. In a recent movie, Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey is endowed with God's power after he complains too much about the state of the world. Michelangelo has had a huge impact on western culture when he anthropomorphized God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512, presenting God as a white-bearded, somewhat older strongman. In the 1930s, the Hays Code was established, which served as the forerunner to the current movies ratings system. The Hays Code specifically forbid the ridiculing of religion and faith. In the 1950 film The Next Voice You Hear, which starred James Whitmore and Nancy Reagan (then Nancy Davis), God spoke to the world through radio broadcasts to warn about the impending dangers of war. In the movie, the characters hear the voice, but the audience never does. Picturing the deity as a king on Christ the King Sunday is yet one more way we attempt to understand our Lord as we employ images that are familiar to us.
Even today, many people ridicule Christians for believing that God will one day appear as a king to sit in judgment over all the earth. That same issue existed even in the early parts of the third century. Back then, Tertullian complained, "We are laughed at for proclaiming that God will be judge."
Perhaps the most powerful earthly king of all time was Genghis Khan. His motto was, "The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him, to ride their horses and take away their possessions!" During the early part of the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan conquered two thirds of the known world, ruling over an empire that extended from Eastern Europe to Korea. Even to this day, Genghis Khan has a lasting influence over his former empire. According to a history that was written just 33 years after his death, Genghis Khan was credited with having 20,000 descendants. Genetic researchers today estimate that somewhere around 8% of the people living in the former empire bear Genghis Khan's genes within them.
What is the ruling force in many people's lives? It's not God; it's television. The average child who completes high school will spend between 19,000 and 24,000 hours in class. That is the equivalent of between 2.1 and 2.7 full years of one's life. In contrast, over the course of a person's 75-year lifespan, the average person will spend nearly 13 years of that time in front of a television set. As a result, three full years of a person's life ends up being spent watching commercials.
Although we have been taught that democracy is the ideal form of governance, history has shown that at times the greatest provider of liberty for all is one who holds absolute power. For instance, in American history, slavery and segregation were deeply entrenched in the society and authorized by duly enacted democratic procedures. Much of the progress toward eliminating those unjust institutions was accomplished by executive fiat, not by popular referendum. It was by presidential executive order that the armed services were desegregated. Likewise, it was a judicial decree; from unelected Supreme Court justices, that led to the integration of public schools.
If Christ is king, then that means that we have to refuse to subject ourselves to the lordship of anyone or anything else. In ancient mythology, the Sirens were sea nymphs who had the power of using their songs to charm any who heard them, luring unfortunate soldiers to cast themselves into the sea. Circe order Ulysses and his sailors to fill their ears with wax as they approached the Sirens, so that they would not be tempted to submit to their wiles. Furthermore, Ulysses commanded his men to tie him securely to the mast and by no means to release him until they had safely sailed past the Sirens. As the ship approached the island of the Sirens, the water was so calm, and the song of the Sirens was so alluring that Ulysses struggled to free himself from his bonds, and he begged the seamen to untie him. But the sailors responded by tying him all the more tightly to the mast. The ship's crew maintained their course until finally the music grew feint and disappeared. Only then did the crew know it was safe to untie their leader and free him from his bonds.
Common opinion today contends that there is no place in America to speak of God's kingship in public life. The platitude that is repeated time and again is: separation of church and state. What we fail to recognize, however, is that throughout the history of the United States, a concern for God's kingdom has consistently been a central issue. Thomas Jefferson spent much of the 1800 election campaign trying to deny rumors that he was an atheist. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln said that the Civil War was, in effect, a war over whether the North or the South was reading the Bible correctly. William McKinley ran a campaign where he did his best to show that he was a better Protestant than William Jennings Bryan. Theodore Roosevelt declared that the President should regularly go to church in order to set an example for the nation. And Dwight David Eisenhower announced that belief in God was the first principle of Americanism.
In 1925, in the aftermath of World War I, the Christian church created the festival day now known as Christ the King Sunday. World War I was a time when leaders all around the globe were saying, "Follow me! No, follow me!" The result, of course, was one leader leading his nation to war against another leader and his nation, struggling on the battlefield to see which leader would emerge as the leader of all. So, the church created Christ the King Sunday as a way of saying that even though countries and leaders like to think of themselves as being superpowers, and they all like to think that they are the ones who hold the future of the world in their hands, as Christians we know that's not true. No, as Christians we know that in fact there is only one true superpower: Jesus Christ.
"Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim and dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire, so man is placed upon earth in God's image as God's sovereign emblem." (Gerhard von Rad)
"As one man put it at an Ohio church meeting during a debate on freezing the deployment of nuclear missiles, `You've got to remember: we are Christians, but we're Americans first." (Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium [New York: Doubleday, 1998], p. 59).
"Fear is never a good counselor and victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of man." (Nikolai Berdyaev)
"Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable—and, most of all, fear puts hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God." (Harry Emerson Fosdick)
"Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning." (John Henry Newman)
"It is only fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man." (John Witherspoon)
"One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world." (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
"The truth does not liberate; our postmodern sensibilities tell us; it enslaves." (Miroslav Volf)
"Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the kingdom of God established." (Paul W. Harrison)
Only after a long search and struggle does Christ become King in the heart of Roman centurion Marcellus Gallio in the film version of Lloyd Douglas' The Robe. Marcellus, a dissolute libertine, has been banished to Palestine because of his rivalry with the Emperor's son Caligula over the affections of the lovely Diana. Before departing Marcellus buys the slave Demetrius from under the nose of Caligula. A good move, as Demetrius becomes a Christian and eventually is instrumental in leading his master to the faith. But before this happens, Marcellus is put in charge of the execution of the crazy man from Nazareth. He gambles with his men for the robe of the victim and wins. Demetrius is also at the Crucifixion, but his attention is transfixed by the way that the prisoner dies, especially his words of "Father, forgive them…" After many adventures that lead the two through Palestine and back to Rome, Marcellus is reunited with Diana, the two becoming Christians despite the danger of belonging to the sect. Caligula is now on the throne, thoroughly mad and insanely jealous of Marcellus. The couple are arrested, tried, and condemned to death for their faith, but as they start to leave the Emperor he notices that they do not look afraid. They are much more like their Master, who stood unafraid and regal before Pilate. The two are smiling as they walk away hand in hand under guard. The Emperor is upset at this, lamenting that they are going to a better kingdom. Little does he know that the king for whom Marcellus and Diana are willing to die can grant life that no one can ever take away.
The common beauties and yearnings of human experience bind us together. On a walk this morning I both saw and felt the sun rise in its warm strength, dissipating the glistening dew on the grass, an experience shared by countless human beings through the eons. David's last words compare the just King, ruling out of respect and awe for God, to the light of morning, gleaming from rain on a grassy land. The simplicity of such poetic description unites us with every person who has dreamed of living in right relationship, to God, to others, to the earth. Let the new light of each morning remind us of this dream and motivate us to actualize the rule of God in our own lives, as we treat others with compassion and justice.
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: O Lord, remember in David's favor
People: All the hardships he endured.
Leader: The Lord swore to David a sure oath
People: From which God will not turn back.
Leader: "One of the sons of Your body
People: I will set on Your throne.
Leader: If they keep the covenant I shall teach them,
People: Their sons, forevermore shall sit on Your throne."
O Lord, we confess that our democratic upbringing gives us little experience with Kings, and so we at times have too familiar, too "chummy" a relationship with You. We confess that Your majesty is lost on us, and that King Jesus seems a bit too familiar to us at times. Shake us from the cocky arrogance of too comfortable a relationship and restore to us the awe and majesty of Your rule in our lives. Forgive us our glib familiarity and make us kneel in homage at the throne of the cross, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Receive these gifts, given as we give ourselves, into the service of Your kingdom. May all we are and have be given over into Your hands, to be used as instruments of Your peace. May they embody Your love, embolden Your people, and encourage the downhearted, in the name of Christ the King.
O God, just as Pilate knew not with whom he was actually dealing, so at times we fail to grasp Your presence in our lives. Lift us to a fresh awareness of Your grace, which we know at the hand of Christ the King: He whose majesty is great, but not too great to stoop down and care for us, his subjects.
Increase our awareness that we are agents of the great King, instruments of his peace, messengers of his compassion, stewards of his grace. As his subjects, may we conduct ourselves with justice and mercy, giving to our neighbors the good news of his forgiving and empowering Spirit. Let the unjust kingdoms of this world give way to a reign of justice and peace, as subjects of King Jesus yield to his sway in our live.