Summary: A sermon based on Revelation 1:4-8, focussing on the reign of Christ our King.
Sermon for Christ the King Sunday Yr B, 26/11/2006
Based on Rev 1:4-8
By Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Sometimes, when writing exams, stressed-out students can come up with humorous answers, like the following: David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. Solomon, his son, had three hundred wives and five hundred porcupines. The Romans were called Romans because they never stayed in one place very long. Nero was a cruel tyrant who tortured his subjects by playing the fiddle. Then came the Middle Ages, when King Alfred conquered the Dames and the Magna Charta proved that no free person should be hanged twice for the same crime. The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knees. Queen Elizabeth was the Virgin Queen. When she exposed herself before the troops, they all shouted, ‘Hurray!’ Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for sixty-three years.1
Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year, known as Christ the King Sunday, and Reign of Christ Sunday. In our second lesson today from the last book of the Bible, we learn something of Christ our King and his reign over us. Although some today are rather sceptical of kings and the exercise of their rule—and, unfortunately, the pages of history reveal the evil, corruption and tyranny of many kings to confirm such scepticism—nevertheless, the picture of Christ our King and his reign in our passage from Revelation is different and more full of hope. Unlike all the other kings of this world, Christ did not exercise his authority and power by becoming a tyrant like far too many other kings down through the ages. No, he is a different kind of King, and his reign is in stark contrast to that of all other kings. His power and authority are exercised much differently than other kings.
Some tell us that Jesus’ earthly life was not very important. They say he wrote no books, composed no songs, drew no pictures, carved no statues, amassed no fortune, commanded no army, ruled no nation. And yet…He who never wrote a line has been made the hero of unnumbered volumes. He who never wrote a song has put music into the hearts of nameless multitudes. He who never established an institution is the foundation of the Church that bears his name. He who refused the kingdoms of this world has become the Lord of millions. Yes, He whose shameful death scarcely produced a ripple on the pool of history in his day has become a mighty current in the vast ocean of the centuries since He died.2
This is the irony of Christ our King and his reign. He is, without doubt, the most famous King of all history in spite of the differences with which we measure greatness according to worldly standards; his greatness fills the universe through his self-giving love, while dying on the cross.
John, writing Revelation in exile on the island of Patmos, desires to encourage his audience, the churches in the Roman province of Asia. They lived under persecution, and faced many difficulties. So John wrote Revelation employing a symbolic, code-language. An underground language, which might reach his audience, the persecuted churches, without it being destroyed or censored by the secular authorities. That’s why the language of Revelation seems so strange to us and difficult to understand. There are many direct and indirect references to the Hebrew Bible. The descriptions of Christ are often unusual. Yet, John’s encouraging words emphasise who Jesus is and what he has done. When people of faith suffer and are persecuted by tyrannical kings, they may have the tendency give up on God or to forget that God is still the ultimate Ruler of history. God is in control of history. God is directing the events of history. This point is made in a creative way by John who speaks of God as “him who is and who was and who is to come,” and “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In other words, God is the God of the past, present and future. God is the Ruler over all time and history. The alpha and omega of course are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and here they symbolize that God has been God from the beginning of time to the end of time, and beyond that into all of eternity.
Christ, says John, is King and reigns because he is God’s “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” All three of these descriptions of Christ seem to emphasise his death, resurrection and the power and authority of Christ over earthly kings by virtue of his death and resurrection.