Last Sunday of End Time – Christ the King November 25, 2018
Text: Matthew 27:27-31 ILCW Series A 18:2095
Theme: Hail! My Heavenly King!
It was early in the morning. The first faint light crept into the eastern sky when the man they called Jesus was led through Jerusalem to the governor’s judgment hall. Soon the streets were crowded with thousands of pilgrims on their way to the temple. Mingled with the crowd were lambs, thousands of them too, bleating out cries on their way to be sacrificed at the temple. For this was the Passover.
It was the festival on which all Israel set aside its work to remember and give thanks, in some ways like our own Thanksgiving. Families came together to recall how God had saved them long ago when they were slaves in Egypt. Even more, it was to impress upon their hearts that no one else but God could save them from sin, death, and the devil, which strive to enslave all people eternally. But praise God, the Lord had promised that He Himself would provide a divine Lamb who would pay the price of death for all sin and its damning consequences. After years of waiting, it was to happen this day.
The soldiers, with their prisoner, came at last to the Praetorium, where the Roman governor Pilate and his soldiers were housed. Pounding on the gates, the guards let the soldiers in. For the next 3 hours the world’s most unjust trial was held, for the prisoner, Christ Jesus, was guilty of no crime at all – and the governor knew it. Try as he might, he could not convince the Jews to set Jesus free. Finally, afraid that the raucous crowd would cause him such trouble that he would lose his governorship, Pilate condemned Jesus to death.
While the captain of the Roman guard made preparations for the execution, the soldiers amused themselves in making fun of Jesus. The Praetorium housed over 600 soldiers. Dragging Jesus into the courtyard where all the soldiers passed by, they dressed him in an old, faded soldier’s cape. It looked sort of purplish, the color that kings would wear. Grabbing branches from a thorn bush that grew along the garrison wall, they plated a crown and pushed it down on His head. They thrust a stick into his hand to represent a king’s scepter. Bending on their knees before him, they mocked Him with cruel laughter: “Hail, King of the Jews!” Grabbing the stick from His hand they repeatedly beat His body with it and drove the thorns deeper into His skull.
Why did they do it? Why did the soldiers humiliate Jesus with their words and deface Him by their actions? Did they do all of this just for fun, to have a few kicks at the expense of a condemned man? Was it something soldiers always did with prisoners when they carried out so-called Roman justice? Maybe Pontius Pilate had ordered such treatment? No, no. There was more behind it, more than any of them at the time could begin to realize.
In the Old Testament times God commanded that the little Passover lamb should be slaughtered in such a way that the blood flowed freely from it. The Hebrew word for slaughter is used of something which is severely beaten, the body stretched out and extended so that the blood pours from it. Then that blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt was liberally painted over the doors of the Israelite homes to mark the inhabitants as those who belonged to God’s people.
Since the Bible declares Christ Jesus to be the true Passover lamb sacrificed for us (1 Co.5:7), Jesus did not want to let Himself be killed in a simple way. Rather, He was to suffer a horrendous death in which His entire body was stretched out and from which the blood poured abundantly.
It was here, even more than on Calvary, that the holy, innocent blood of God’s Son flowed freely for us to wash away our sin. It was here that he was despised, spit upon, and utterly humiliated so that He might suffer sufficiently for our sake. The soldiers knew what they were doing. The crowd cheered them on. Yet, in another way, all were completely ignorant of that which was really taking place in heaven. And their words exposed their ignorance.
Here was a man calling himself a king. For that he was on trial. But look at Him. Kings have armies; where is His? Kings wear royal clothes; where are His? Kings carry symbols of ruling authority; where are His? This was the one who just a few days earlier had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. Not very king-like was it. So the soldiers determined to give Him a king’s welcome. What humiliation the King of heaven received!
Here is where we see the prophet’s words about the Lord Christ richly fulfilled (Is.50:5ff): “I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting….”
Does it hurt you to see God your Savior standing there, the butt of the Roman soldier’s jokes – blood and spit running down His face? It hurts me so that I can hardly bear to look. And why, why on this last day of the present Church Year, a day which we call Christ the King Sunday, a day which is meant as a grand finale to the entire Church Year when we wish to give thanks and praise to God for our salvation, a day which is to be a happy one as we begin to turn our attention to the joyful celebration of Christmas, why am I looking at this spectacle?
Because this is that to which it all comes down – this entire Church Year. This is where it all has meaning. And I need to look at it, not just once a year, but all through the year. For this dreadful treatment, this shameful abuse that Jesus bore so quietly and willingly on Good Friday should have been meant for me.
Mine is the heart that is black with sin. Ours are the lives that have too often rebelled against God. We deserve this and more for our disobedience. And Jesus knew this. That is the reason He chose in grace to bear this for us – for me, for you, for all. So very much He loves us! He did this for us that we might be His people forever. Hail, my King!
The Prophet Isaiah explains (53:5): “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement that brought us peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed.”
One of the early church fathers put it this way: “He was whipped for you, so that He could free you from the whipping of eternal wrath. He was wounded for you, so that He could heal you. He was crowned with thorns for you, so that He could crown you in heaven.” (St. Bernhard, p.191, Gerhard).
I must view this in no other way than that God in heaven had the whip in His hand and so punished His own divine Son in my place. This is the One by whom all things were created. This is the One in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. This is the One who is the head over every power and authority (Col.2). Oh, that I would daily understand and contemplate the trouble I made for the Lord of heaven and earth with my sins! Oh, that we would all understand how we multiplied His sorrows!
But there is more. It is through the means of all those sorrows which He bore that we have been washed clean of all sin – all of it! Had Christ Jesus not so willingly endured such treatment, He could not have assembled a people to Himself, all who believe, who love and revere Him as their Savior. Only heaven’s King could do it. Only heaven’s King could endure it. Only heaven’s King could accomplish it in a way that counts for us all. And He did it out of heavenly love, kingly love, cleansing love – for me, for you, for all.
The soldier’s words reveal Him as king, but God’s Word reveals the true kingship of a divine Savior to us. This is what the entire Church Year through which we have passed has revealed, and this is what the new year which we enter next Sunday will again display for our souls’ comfort, strength, and eternal joy. Here is my salvation! Here is yours. Lord, Christ, we are yours. Hail, Our Heavenly King! God grant such faith for Jesus’ sake; Amen.