What Kind of King? 

Sunday, November 20, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Luke 23:33-43

Friends, there is a REAL problem with our worship service here today.

No, not with the music, or the liturgy, or the prayers.  But this scripture reading.

It is so … Incongruent. So WRONG… on so many levels.

This is Christ the King Sunday for Pete’s sake. The last Sunday of our church year. This is the Sunday when, after our long journey of ups and downs, twists, and turns, we fall before the feet of our glorious, triumphant and victorious King – to crown him Lord of all!

So why are we standing on a hillside called The Skull – on a cold and dark afternoon, watching a stripped and bleeding man slowly suffocate to death? Not only that – Our ears are filled with the sneers of mockers, who find it funny to spew out their abuse and hate.

If it were up to me, I would pick a passage that is more appropriate for today.  Something more, well, kingly.  A passage from the book of Revelation – with Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God, or the blinding transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop from one of the gospel accounts. Or, how about when the sky was ripped apart at Jesus’ baptism while a booming voice from heaven declared “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

But no. We are here…. witnessing Jesus’ kingship taunted and scorned.

Our king Is not royally robed. He hangs naked.  He is mocked rather than praised.

Anointed with spit rather than oil.  And a crown of thorns is jammed on his bleeding head, rather than jewels set in gold.

This image doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Jesus’ kingly power.  In the words of one preacher, it makes as much sense as being “enthroned on an electric chair.”

Their scoffing is constant… “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One. Ha! “If you are the king of the Jews, then save yourself.”

So. Why doesn’t he? Aren’t kings supposed to protect and save their subjects, their kingdoms and obviously, themselves?  This is not the sort of king we expect.

We Americans, we are not too keen on kings to begin with.  We fought a war to keep a king from ruling over us.

What we really want, what we really hope for Is a hero.

We all want a hero. And the more super that hero, the better.

Do you remember the 1984 song “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler? It was a hit from the movie Footloose.

He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

it’s gonna take a Superman to sweep me off my feet.” 

He’s gotta be larger than life….

I recently read a book entitled Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.

It explores the history of American Evangelicalism’s desire to remake Jesus into a more muscular manly man.

A superhero Jesus. A big brawny outdoor guy with big biceps. A war hero who fearlessly lays the bad guys to waste, eradicates injustice and evil and obliterates disease and suffering in its tracks. Like John Wayne – or Superman.

You know, it is okay if Jesus puts on a disguise as a meek and mild Clark Kent type by day – but watch out. Underneath that masquerades the ‘real’ Jesus – the one with supersonic powers just a phonebooth away. A super-duper hero who will rescue us from all our troubles, vanquish our enemies and will always save the day.

Instead?  We have a vulnerable king. A dying king … who stayed. Right there on the cross.

Instead of annihilating his murderers he forgave them– he FORGAVE them! –

He stayed. Comforting a criminal, loving his enemies, trusting his father –Until every last drop of his life was poured out for us.

He stayed —

He stayed, because he cared more about saving you than saving himself.

And He died, that you might live.

9 Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)

We have a savior whose power was made perfect in weakness.

A king who dwelled with us in all the muck and pain of our humanity.

We might wish for a superhero Jesus to swoop in and rescue us from every hardship or weakness we face – bearing a shiny “Get out of Pain” card.

But what we have a king who stayed. And who continues to stay…

To walk with us through the pain, through the suffering, and the heartbreak of this world.  Offering grace, love, forgiveness, and yes, life.

We are still waiting for the fullness of God’s Kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven…But make no mistake. King Jesus reigns…..

It is a reign of love, of forgiveness, and life.

It is a reign in which you are safe.

In his love, you are secure. In his forgiveness, you are made whole. And, through his saving death and resurrection, the door of Paradise has been opened. In Jesus, you have life.

It may not always look like it. But make no mistake. Christ Jesus reigns – He is our true king. now and forever more.


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