Summary: Holy living and discipleship mean following Jesus.
There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." (Luke 23:38 ESV). Today is the last day of the Christian Year, it is known as Christ the King Sunday, we recognize today that Christ is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Of course for many of us there is a distinct problem, namely we don’t know a whole lot about kings, except of course what we read in the papers and see on the news about the Queen of England and Prince Charles and his sons who are in line to become King of England.
You have to admit that Prince Charles doesn’t print a very pretty picture of what it means to be a prince much less a king. When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus, we come to this reading in each of the gospels and find that he did not act very much like a king either. He died as a criminal on that cross at Calvary, not as a king going into battle. The people of his day did not recognize him as a king either. It is interesting that just a week earlier he had entered Jerusalem riding on a colt of a donkey, which was the traditional way of entering the city for the kings of old. It meant that they came not as conquerors but in peace to accept the mantle of King of Israel. They also came as saviors not as destroyers.
Yet here we are on Christ the King Sunday, reading not that he was crowned as a king, but rather was killed as a common criminal. OK, what does it mean? I think we need to look at others in history who also were leaders of people. Some were indeed kings, others were generals and led armies into battle. Others, well let us take a stroll through the history of Israel and of this nation in which we live.
The first King of Israel was Saul, he made many mistakes, but he led his armies into battle, he did not sit in the background and wait for them to win or lose. King Saul died in battle, the story is found in 1 Samuel 31. Saul went up to fight against the Philistines and was badly defeated by them, so badly that his army was wiped out. The interesting thing about this is that he knew it would happen, and yet went out anyway. He did go out and fight with the rest of his army, and they all died that day.
We all know that David was the next King in Israel. That he was a man after God’s own heart, yet David was also a sinner. He had many wives and concubines. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, who later became the mother of Solomon. The worst sin though to his people was that he did not face Uriah, rather he sent a note to his general and told the general to be sure and place Uriah where he would be killed. David stayed behind in the city while his army was out fighting against the enemies of Israel. That is why he was in a position to commit that adulterous act in the first place, then to have his general arrange to kill this man who was not even an Israelite, but gave his all in the service of the country that saved him from sin and death. Uriah was the righteous one in this encounter.
The stories of the kings of Israel are for the most part dark stories. The story of the death of Jesus is also a dark one. Yet it is also a story of light, a story of salvation rather than of death and darkness. Jesus also went out ahead of His people. He did not ask that anyone else give what he was about to give, His life. The word of God tells us that whoever believes in the name of Jesus shall have eternal life.
General and President, George Washington, went with his troops into battle. Spent the winter in Valley Forge with the troops not at home with his wife in their well heated home place. As a general he said: "We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our won Country’s Honor, all call upon us for vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. " -- George Washington (General Orders, 2 July 1776) (Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W. B. Allen, ed. (71))
As President Washington proclaimed the 26th of November 1789 to be a day of thanksgiving. The last paragraph reads as follows: "And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best."