Christ the King Sunday
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 18:33-37

 


EVEN THOUGH WE LIVE IN A REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC, WE STILL SEEM TO HAVE AN INTENSE FASCINATION WITH ALL THINGS ROYAL. A LOT OF PEOPLE GOT OUT OF BED REALLY EARLY TO WATCH THE LAST ROYAL WEDDING IN ENGLAND; I WASN’T ONE OF THEM. THE LAST ROYAL EVENT I SAW WAS THE CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH; I WAS LITTLE AND MY MOM WANTED TO SEE IT, SO I SUFFERED THROUGH IT. I DO, HOWEVER, HAVE A STORY ABOUT A KING. NOW, IT IS KIND OF LIKE A PASSAGE FROM THE GOSPEL OF MARK; THERE IS A STORY WITHIN A STORY, SO LISTEN CLOSELY.

A FEW YEARS AGO, OUR GOOD FRIENDS MAL AND MARY WERE VISITING US, AND WE TOOK THEM TO THE WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL IN KANSAS CITY. AS WE ENTERED THE SECTION WITH THE GREAT MURAL OF ALL THE LEADERS AT THE START OF THE WAR, A DOCENT ATTACHED HIMSELF TO OUR LITTLE GROUP AND STARTED TO TELL US ALL ABOUT EVERYTHING. WE JUST COULD NOT SHAKE HIM OFF. LOOKING AT THE MURAL, I SAID TO OUR FRIENDS, “SEE THAT PORTRAIT OF THE KING OF MONTENEGRO? WELL, I HAVE A STORY TO TELL YOU. WHEN I TOOK THE FAMILY TO MONTENEGRO IN 1985, WE WENT TO THE ROYAL PALACE, WHICH IS REALLY NOTHING MORE THAN A LARGE VICTORIAN STYLE HOUSE. AS WE ENTERED, THERE WERE TWO YOUNG WOMEN SEATED BEHIND A DESK SELLING TICKETS. AS I WALKED UP TO THEM, THEY BOTH JUMPED BACK IN THEIR SEATS A BIT, WITH A STRANGE LOOK ON THEIR FACES. AFTER PAYING, WE WALKED INTO THE NEXT ROOM, AND CAME UPON A FULL SIZED PORTRAIT OF THE LAST KING OF MONTENEGRO. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A PORTRAIT OF ME AT THE AGE I WAS THEN. MY TEENAGE CHILDREN, WITH OPEN MOUTHS, LOOKED AT THE PAINTING AND THEN AT ME. WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT, I SAID, ‘HEY, IT WAS A SMALL COUNTRY, AND THE KING GOT AROUND.’”

WE CONTINUED OUR TOUR OF THE MEMORIAL, HAD LUNCH, AND LOOKED AT EVERYTHING WE COULD. AS WE WERE LEAVING BY A DIFFERENT EXIT, A DIFFERENT DOCENT ATTACHED HIMSELF TO MARY, WHO WILL TALK TO ANYONE. THE REST OF US WENT OUTSIDE TO WAIT FOR MARY. WHEN SHE FINALLY CAME OUT, SHE WAS LAUGHING SO HARD TEARS WERE STREAMING DOWN HER FACE. WHEN SHE CALMED DOWN, SHE SAID, “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED. THE DOCENT ASKED ME WHERE I WAS FROM, SO I TOLD HIM NORTH CAROLINA. HE SAID, ‘WE GET FOLKS VISITING FROM ALL OVER, AND SOME PRETTY IMPORTANT ONES AS WELL. JUST THIS MORNING, WE HAD A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THE LAST KING OF MONTENEGRO GRACE US WITH HIS PRESENCE.’”

I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE FASCINATED WITH KINGS AND QUEENS AND ALL THINGS ROYAL, WHEN THE REALITY IS THAT THE FIRST KINGS WERE JUST THE BIGGEST AND BADDEST WARRIORS WHO KILLED AND MURDERED THEIR WAY TO CONTROL OF OTHER PEOPLE. THEY DID NOT TOLERATE ANY OPPOSITION TO THEIR ABSOLUTE RULE. CAESAR WAS NO DIFFERENT, WHICH IS WHY THE FALSE CHARGE LEVELED AGAINST JESUS BY THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES WAS THAT HE CLAIMED TO BE THE KING OF THE JEWS. HE NEVER MADE SUCH A CLAIM, BUT IT WAS THE ONE THING THAT WOULD GET THE ATTENTION OF PILATE, BECAUSE CAESAR WOULD EXECUTE ANYONE WHO CLAIMED TO BE A KING UNLESS HE WAS SUBJECT TO CAESAR HIMSELF. WHEN PILATE QUESTIONS JESUS, WE CAN SEE THAT HE IS TRYING TO GET JESUS TO SAY HE IS THE KING OF THE JEWS, AND REALLY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS IS TELLING HIM. THE KINGDOM OF CAESAR, LIKE ALL EARTHLY KINGDOMS, WAS BASED ON POWER; THE SWORDS OF THE LEGIONS. THE KINGDOM OF JESUS IS BASED ON TRUTH; THE TRUTH THAT GOD IS ULTIMATELY IN CHARGE OF ALL THAT EXISTS.

THIS IS THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR; KIND OF LIKE OUR NEW YEAR’S EVE. AS WE PREPARE FOR THE NEW YEAR, WE ARE REMINDED THAT WE ARE CITIZENS OF ANOTHER REALM, WITH A DIFFERENT RULER AND DIFFERENT RULES. WHEN IT COMES TO SPIRITUAL THINGS, TRUTH IS CHRIST. TRUSTING IN HIM, WE LEAVE BEHIND ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAS POWER OVER US, AND WE FOLLOW THE ONE WHO GIVES US THE FREEDOM THAT NO EARTHLY POWER CAN GRANT. JESUS RULES OVER OUR LIVES NOW, JUST AS HE WILL RULE OVER THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH WHEN HE COMES IN GLORY. UNTIL HE COMES IN GLORY, HIS KINGDOM FOCUSES ON REDEEMING THE HEARTS OF ALL PEOPLE WITH HIS LOVE AND GRACE; AND WE ARE CALLED TO BE THE AMBASSADORS OF HIS LOVE AND GRACE. THAT MEANS THAT WE CHRISTIANS ARE TO REPRESENT JESUS HERE ON EARTH IN THIS BROKEN AND OFTEN OPPRESSIVE WORLD.

LET ME TELL YOU ONE MORE STORY ABOUT A KING; ONE WHO TRULY DESERVED THE NAME OF CHRISTIAN. HE WAS CHRISTIAN X OF DENMARK. HE RODE IN AN OPEN CARRIAGE WITHOUT BODYGUARDS, BECAUSE HE LOVED AND TRUSTED HIS PEOPLE. HE WANTED THEM TO FEEL FREE TO COME UP TO HIM AND SHAKE HIS HAND. WHEN THE NAZIS OCCUPIED DENMARK, HE CONTINUED THIS PRACTICE, AND IN SO DOING INSPIRED A SUBTLE RESISTANCE MOVEMENT AGAINST THE NAZIS. ON ONE OF HIS RIDES, HE NOTICED A NAZI FLAG FLYING FROM A GOVERNMENT BUILDING. HE WENT TO THE NAZI COMMANDANT AND TOLD HIM TO TAKE DOWN THE FLAG. THE COMMANDANT REFUSED, SAYING, “IT IS THERE BECAUSE I PUT IT THERE; IT STAYS!” THE KING THEN SAID, “THEN A DANISH SOLDIER WILL COME TO TAKE IT DOWN.” INCENSED, THE NAZI SAID, “THEN HE WILL BE SHOT!” “I DON’T THINK SO,” REPLIED THE KING, “FOR I WILL BE THAT SOLDIER.”
THE FLAG CAME DOWN.

WHEN THE NAZIS DEMANDED ALL JEWS WEAR AN ARMBAND WITH A YELLOW STAR OF DAVID, THE FIRST PERSON TO PUT ON THE ARMBAND WAS KING CHRISTIAN, FOLLOWED BY THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF DENMARK. WHEN THE NAZIS LATER PLANNED TO REMOVE ALL EIGHT THOUSAND DANISH JEWS TO THE DEATH CAMPS IN CENTRAL EUROPE, THE KING ORGANIZED A RESISTANCE MOVEMENT THAT RELOCATED 7,500 JEWS TO SWEDEN WITHIN A SINGLE TWO WEEK PERIOD. WHEN THE NAZIS ROUNDED UP THE REMAINING FIVE HUNDRED JEWS, THE KING’S INTERCESSION FORCED THE NAZIS TO MOVE THEM TO A LABOR CAMP IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA, AND ALL BUT 51 SURVIVED THE WAR. FINALLY FRUSTRATED WITH KING CHRISTIAN, THE NAZIS THREW HIM INTO PRISON IN 1943, WHERE HE REMAINED UNTIL THE COLLAPSE OF THE EVIL EMPIRE. IN ILL HEALTH, THE OLD MAN DIED TWO YEARS LATER, BUT HE WILLINGLY PAID THE PRICE FOR THE TRUTH.

LIKE KING CHRISTIAN, WE ARE CALLED TO FIGHT FOR THE TRUTH AND TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD; TO FREE THE SLAVE, FEED THE HUNGRY, HEAL THE SICK, CLOTHE THE NAKED, RESCUE THE OPPRESSED. WE, LIKE KING CHRISTIAN, MIGHT PAY A HIGH PRICE FOR SERVING OUR KING INSTEAD OF THE KINGS OF THIS WORLD, BUT THAT IS THE MISSION TO WHICH OUR KING CALLS US; AND CHRIST IS INDEED KING OF ALL THAT IS. HE IS THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA. AMEN