Jesus is not the King we would expect, But He is the King we need

Today is Christ the King Sunday. Now, princes, kings, queens, and princesses those are all kind of distant to us. We have never experienced what it is like to have a king or live in that type of society. So, I started to think about types of people that we might consider royalty. Maybe for us it is some of our music artists. Rappers especially like to acknowledge their greatness. Here are five rappers, all of whom have proclaimed that they are the greatest, or that they are the king, or even a god in one of their songs. Likewise, Michael Jackson used to be called the King of Pop. Beyoncé is called Queen B. And Elvis was called the King of Rock and Roll. And perhaps it is a fair comparison. All these artists are able to pack venues with fans willing to proclaim their greatness. All of them have enough wealth to lead glamorous lifestyles. Or maybe we think of some of our sports starts as modern day royals. Lebron James has the nickname, King James. And that openly proclaims that he is the best. Or perhaps for us it is the ultra-rich that we would consider modern day kings. For example, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is worth 132 billion dollars. In a recent interview he said that the only way he can dispense with all his wealth is through space travel. From now to the end of his life he is going to liquidate one billion dollars of his assets a year to fund his space exploration project, Blue Origin. Just think about this, Jeff Bezos is so rich he feels the only thing left for him to do is to literally shoot for the stars. Likewise, I think we could call Bill Gates a king. I mean, just look at his castle. This is Bill Gates’ residence in Washington. It is called Xanadu 2.0. This mansion is 66,000 square feet, and its value is estimated to be 147 million dollars. And that amount is only a drop in the bucket compared to Bill Gates total assets. So, take your pick. I think all of these different people could be considered modern day royalty, modern day kings and queens. They lead glamourous, extravagant lifestyles, and they all have fans who are willing to bow down and proclaim their greatness. Now, behold your king.


            If our concept of royalty is a rich, glamorous, and powerful individual, then that looks like anything but a king. That is not a king we would expect. This is how Luke describes this scene: The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” So Jesus has been captured, beaten a number of times, given an unfair trial, and condemned death. So, they dragged him outside of the city and, up on a hill near the road, they nailed him to a piece of wood to be left exposed to the elements and experience agony until he died. And as if that wasn’t enough, they humiliated him while he was suffering. The Jewish leaders proclaimed him a phony messiah because it seemed like he couldn’t save himself. The Roman soldiers mocked his claim to be a king. They put up a sign above him saying, “Hey, look at this guy. He is the king of the Jews.” Our reading says they came up mocking him. I imagine they brought him the wine vinegar saying, “Hail, king! I your humble cup-bearer bring you your royal drink.” Even one of the criminals who is enduring the same treatment mocks Jesus and says, “Oh, so you are the messiah? Well, save yourself and us.” At this point Jesus looks like anything but a king. Here he is being executed as a criminal in the most humiliating way, and his claim to royalty is being ridiculed. Here Jesus looks like anything but a king.

            But even in this most humiliating moment, Jesus is still king. Just not the king we would expect. And at this moment, only one person recognizes the truth. Only one man acknowledges Jesus as king. Hear the words of the thief of the cross, But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus only had one fan in the stands when he was fighting for the salvation of all people, and it was a lowly thief. First the thief rebukes his fellow criminal, then he confesses that he has led a sinful life, and then he acknowledges the king. The thief says, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” If someone has a kingdom, that means they are a king. When it seemed like Jesus was anything but a king, this man turned to Jesus and saw him for what he was and proclaimed him a king. And the King did not let his subject down. Jesus assured this criminal that he was welcome in his kingdom. Today you will be with me in paradise.


            At his crucifixion, Jesus was not the king that people expected, but he was the king they needed. Only the thief saw that through the eyes of faith. So, let’s go back and reexamine this account from that perspective. Let’s see the king we don’t expect but the king we need. When Jesus is beaten, falsely accused, and condemned, the king is enduring pain and injustice for his subjects. When the leaders and soldiers mock him and tell him to save himself, the king is saying, “I can’t save myself right now I am saving you.” When the king gives up his life, that is not defeat. Rather he is winning the victory over death for us, and he is crushing our enemy Satan under his foot. Jesus may not be the king we expect but he is the king we need. He won the victory for his subjects. He saved us from our enemies of sin death and the devil. He is not the king we expect, but he is the king we need.


            And brothers and Sister this Jesus is still king. Right now he is reigning in heaven ruling all things for our benefit. And he is still not the king we expect, but he is the king we need. So, brothers and sisters if Jesus is not the king we expect, then I think we can expect that the king’s rule in our lives will be unexpected. And I think we often struggle with that truth. We struggle with the fact that our king’s reign doesn’t meet our expectations of how our king should reign. I think a prime example of this is when we suffer. When we suffer whether it from an illness, a tragedy in our family, or the loss of a job, we struggle because it is not what we would expect. If we are subjects of the king, and he is the most powerful and loving being in the universe, why would he allow us to suffer? Well, we have to remember, brothers and sisters, Jesus is not the king we expect, but he is the king we need. And just like Jesus flipped his own suffering on its head to bring about the most glorious thing, the salvation of the world, so too, in some way he will flip your suffering on its head and bring about something good and glorious.


            And as you go about your lives and wrestle with this truth that Jesus is not the king we would expect, but he is the king we need, let this hope sustain you. One day Jesus is going to come back and blow all of our expectations out of the water. Today is Christ the King Sunday. On this Sunday, we remember that the unexpected king is coming back. And when King Jesus comes back, it’s not going to be like this. It’s going to be like this. When Jesus comes back, it will be in all his glory, and everyone will acknowledge him as king. When the king comes again, he will bring an angel choir that will make all the music of this earth seem like stammering nonsense. When the king comes, he will lift all his people up to heaven, and he won’t need Jeff Bezos’ rockets to do it. When the king comes, he will give us new and glorified bodies that are better than Lebron James’ in his prime. And when the king comes, he will take us to a home that will make Xanadu 2.0 look like a shack. That’s the king we have. And that’s the king we need. Amen.