Jesus, the Crucified King

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Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King – RCL Year C Option 2

Scripture Passages

  • Psalm 46
  • Jeremiah 23:1-6
  • Col 1:11-20
  • Luke 23:33-43

This morning’s readings distill for us the essence of the Christian story that we live out together through the liturgical year. In Jeremiah (Je 23:1-6), we feel the frustration of corrupt rulers, sin that seems to go unchecked, and the endless cycle of apostasy (falling away) from God. Yet, we also hear a promise for the future, that God will do something for his people they themselves could not do.

In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:6, ESV)

In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 23:33-43) we read the story of the crucifixion of our Lord. Disowned, dishonored, and emptied, Jesus sacrificed himself on our behalf.

In the Epistle (Col 1:11-20) we see Jesus exalted:

…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:18–20, ESV)

Today we celebrate Christ the King! More than ever we need reminders of who is in charge in this world. It is not the news media, it is not the social media trolls, it is not any earthly head of state, or entertainment personality or academic authority. It is Jesus Christ.

Jesus as the firstborn from the dead, the Risen Christ, is the ground and foundation of our faith, of our confession that Jesus is Lord. He is alive, and he is Lord of my life, your life, and our common life together. Truly if Jesus is not Resurrected from the dead our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15). Yet for Jesus to be the Risen Lord, he must first be the Crucified King. This what we’re going to explore today.

Jesus as the Crucified King is important because we see Jesus exercising his Lordship and Sovereignty most clearly, most poignantly, most counter-intuitively at the Cross.

If we want to live as faithful followers and imitators of—and witnesses to—Jesus, we need to have eyes to see Jesus didn’t endure the Cross so we would escape it, but so we could go through it and emerge in victorious Resurrection with Christ, in Christ, because of Christ.

The Cross isn’t just incidental brothers and sisters.

The Cross isn’t just an arbitrary, unfortunate event in the biblical narrative.

You see, at the Cross Jesus  not only procured our life and our salvation, but painted a picture of our life and salvation. This is because the Way of the Cross is the Way of Jesus.

We just read it: the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus; in Jesus the fullness of God accomplished the selfless, bloody work of reconciliation and peacemaking, making the reality of the Resurrection life possible for all who believe. The fullness of God chose the Way of the Cross.

What did Jesus say?

…If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24, ESV)

We can’t forget the Way of the Cross is about much more than only dying physically. We take up our cross daily! It is about a daily death to self for the sake of others. It is about living the reality

… that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6, ESV)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16–17, ESV)

This should come as no surprise!

…the last will be first, and the first last.”” (Matthew 20:16, ESV)

…For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”” (Luke 9:48, ESV)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)

This is Jesus’s M. O.!

St. John said simply “God is love.” (1 John 4:8b, ESV)

Do you see the way of the Cross is—counter-intuitively—the Way of Life, the Way of Love, the Way of God?

The Good News is not that we will escape all death and suffering in this world; we only have to look around to see this isn’t the case. The Good News is that if we are in Christ, we are transported through death and suffering to the Resurrection life, both in the present and in the future.

Jesus laid down his life for us every day he was on this earth. His whole life was for the life of the world.

And even though we hated him, he loved us. This is the vision that God has for the world. He looks out and is presented with a depraved, selfish and self-destructive people, but he sees so much more than that. He sees children in need of shelter. He sees sick in need of healing. He sees the broken in need of mending. He sees the shackled in need of freedom. He sees the oppressed in need of justice. He sees the lonely in need of love.

He doesn’t just see sinners, but sons and daughters. A covenant people. A bride waiting to be made pure.

Jesus died for us while we were yet enemies, because his vision of us and creation is restoration and redemption that we can never make happen on our own. True, no strings-attached love was poured out not in a show of power, but in humble submission and service all the way to the cross.

And there, we see Jesus acting as the True King. At the cross we see Jesus taking on the burden of the world’s sin-sickness and corruption. At the Cross we see Jesus opening the Kingdom to anyone that will come. At the Cross we see Jesus forgiving the very people that nailed him to that wood.

We were created in the image of God. This means we are meant to display God—his character, his beauty, his way—to the world. What does this look like in practice? Paul said about Jesus,

He is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15, ESV)

You see where I’m going with this. If we want to image God, we must image Jesus. To image Jesus we must allow our faith in him as the Risen Lord to fill us with courage to follow him as the Crucified King. Because of the Resurrection Reality can be faithful—and full of faith—to walk in the Way of the Cross.

The implications of this huge.

Following Jesus in the Way of the Cross means there is no need to grasp hold of any kind of status, privilege, advantage, or power.

Following Jesus in the Way of Cross means we are called, as individuals and as a local church family, to let go of our preferences, comforts, security, and trust in any human systems. Following Jesus in the Way of the Cross means our mission is nothing other than his mission. Our way can be nothing other than his way.

A book I read this week put it like this:

“The church’s job is not to grow and thrive. The church’s job is not even to survive. The church’s job is to die for the life of the world—to literally spend itself, pour itself out in service to the world.”[1]

For the past 10 or so years DMAC has been kind of corralled in the Sunnyslope area. At various times we’ve looked at other places to go, but God keeps keeping us here. Now, God can move anyone, at any time, to any place he please. We keep finding ourselves here, though, and it seems like we’re here for the foreseeable future. For various reasons, we’ve gone back and forth as to whether we are called to this community. We haven’t always gotten the response we would like. It’s been hard to make connections and gain trust, and some of us (myself included) have held back somewhat from going all-in mentally, emotionally, physically even spiritually here. I believe it’s time for us to embrace where God has placed us whole-heartedly…God ha placed you in your family for a reason, your workplace for a reason, your country for a reason, and we are here for a reason! Regardless of what happens in six months or a year or two years or ten years, we are always called to pour out our lives for the sake of the people around us. The people around us are the people of Sunnyslope.

Six months ago, I presented this church with following guiding statement:

“We exist by grace of God, to be the people of God, for the glory of God, in Sunnyslope and the greater Phoenix area.”

I still think that statement is true, but I want to put a finer point on it considering our history in this area, and considering the Way of the Cross.

“We exist to lay down our lives for the people of Sunnyslope.”

I think this is better, because it makes explicit for us as community what was implicit in the first one. How does it make you feel? The first statement I came up with was kind of inspiring for me. This one inspires me and scares me. It makes me uncomfortable because it carries with it a sense of cost. A sense of risk.

Now, I get that many of us drive into this neighborhood from other places. And God is already calling you to Way of the Cross in your own neighborhood as well!! He is already calling you to lay down your life for your family! So, I know that to lay down your life for this neighborhood will be costly for many of you, and it will look different for each of you.

To be honest with you all I don’t know yet exactly what this looks like for me. I don’t know what it looks like for us all together, except that to greatest degree possible, we must look like Jesus, the Crucified King, our Risen Lord.

I know it will be costly, but I just can’t believe we are here on accident. I believe Desert Mission Anglican Church has a God-given mission to Sunnyslope.

Over the past six months, the burden in my heart for Sunnyslope has only grown and grown until it seems like I can hardly stand it. I understand that for whatever reason, you might not feel that the same way, and that’s ok.

I just want to ask you: Why do you love your mother-in-law?

Many of us wouldn’t have naturally been best buds with our mothers-in-law, am I right? I mean my mother in law is a saint and amazing, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t fallen in love her daughter. We grow to love the people that the people we love, love.

God loves the people of Sunnyslope.

We went to deliver bread to some elderly people in need in our neighborhood last week.

It was our first time to go in about 5 months because of some frustrating bureaucratic details. One sweet lady in her nineties, Sarah, took Geri’s hand in hers and said, “I am just so glad you are back. I am just so glad to see you all.” Witnessing that interaction alone was worth 5 months of paperwork and emails. God is at work through us in those communities!

God is at work in many areas of Sunnyslope, actually. This Saturday some of us from the Harvest class will be joining a ministry called Sunnyslope Ministries of Hope to serve a Thanksgiving meal to some of the homeless in this area. You are all invited to be a part of that.

Sunnyslope Mennonite Church up the road is another small church, a lot like us, that opens their building for AA meetings and supports House of Refuge, a shelter that helps the homeless get back on their feet while sharing the Gospel. They just had a bunch of baptisms as a result of people coming to know Christ in their program.

Other churches are faithfully ministering to children, distributing food for hungry, and building up their immediate neighborhoods. So there’s list of good work to support, and there’s still a lot of work to do.

This past Thursday I met a couple that due to extraordinarily unfortunate circumstances, had lost almost everything. The girlfriend was pregnant and they were newly homeless that day, looking for a spot to charge their cell phones, and sleep out of the elements. Housing can be an issue for many peoples here.

We’ve learned from talking to officials at the elementary school that many of the kids that walk through our parking lot every day go hungry on the weekends.

Gang violence is a problem, and there are a lot of neighborhood children growing up without fathers.

Look, I know our little church is not going to solve all the problems in Sunnyslope. All I am asking you to do this week is look around this neighborhood as you drive home, as you come and go on this campus. As you do that, try to imagine, try to see this place as God sees it. A place and people that are precious to him. A place and people that Jesus laid down his life for. A place and a people that God loves. A place and people where God is already at work, and where we are invited to take part in that work.

Like I said, I don’t think we’re going to be able to solve every problem, or even most of them. But I do think as we faithfully die to ourselves in countless little ways, God will be faithful to manifest the fruit of the Resurrection in our church.

I believe God is asking us look around with eyes to see, and be willing to faithfully follow him in laying down our lives for the people of Sunnyslope.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(A Collect for Fridays from the Book of Common Prayer)

[1] Shrink by Tim Suttle