The Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King Sunday, Year B (11/22/2015)

Lessons:Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 Psalm 93 (2) Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37 Semicontinuous Series: 2nd Samuel 23:1-7 Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

St. John 18:33-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Thy Kingdom Come

In May of 1529, after a discouraging program of visiting with Christian families in and around Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther published a short pamphlet entitled "Der Kleine Katechismus” (or “The Small Catechism”) — a teaching tool for parents to use in sharing their faith with their children. In this catechism, Luther provided help in understanding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and other basics of the Christian faith.

This week, I am thinking about his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, and particularly the petition, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther writes:

Q:  What does this mean?

A:  Truly God's Kingdom comes by itself, without our prayer. But we pray in this request that it come to us as well.

Q:  How does this happen?

A:  When the Heavenly Father gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we believe the holy Word by grace and live godly lives here in this age and there in eternal life.

I love Luther’s image of God’s kingdom: living godly lives now and into eternity, led by the Holy Spirit, empowered by grace, and grounded in the holy Word. Maybe that is what Jesus’ means when he declares, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

This week’s Gospel lesson is a portion of St. John’s dramatic Good Friday narrative. After sharing a final meal with his followers, Jesus makes his way out to a garden where they often meet. But as they gather there, they are confronted by nothing less than a lynch mob. As St. John puts it, “Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” [St. John 18:3] Jesus is arrested, bound, beaten, and tried by religious and political leaders.

One of those leaders is Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judaea, who serves at the pleasure of the Emperor. It is Pilate who interrogates Jesus, demanding to know whether or not Jesus thinks of himself as a king. Pilate is well schooled in the bloodthirsty tactics of the Roman Empire, which is why he is at a complete loss about what to think of Jesus. (Even his wife was troubled; see St. Matthew 27:19-23.) Kings of this world meet other kings with force, but Jesus seems to willingly accept his fate. He embraces his suffering and death, making it clear, at least to us, that his reign will have nothing to do with violence and terror.

His kingdom is one of grace and love; one of forgiveness and new beginnings; one of purpose and eternity. It is a kingdom which breaks into this world through the events that surround the life of Jesus. It is a kingdom which breaks into the world even today. It is a kingdom which has come, and which is coming. Of this we are certain.

We pray, with Luther, that it might also come to us. So capture our hearts, King Jesus. Rule our lives. Empower our faithfulness. Help us to love and cherish the citizenship we have in your kingdom. Come to us, and be our king. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Pilate (and the rest of the authorities) deal with Jesus?
  2. Why does Pilate have such a difficult time understanding Jesus?
  3. How is the kingdom in which Jesus rules different from the Roman Empire?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean for me to submit to the rule of King Jesus?
  2. How might I characterize the means by which Jesus comes to rule the world?
  3. In what specific ways does the rule of this Crucified King influence my living?