Summary: Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
What Do You See When You Look At The Cross? Christ the King Sunday November 21, 2004
Luke 23:33-43 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his life. Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him, "Don’t you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus remember me when you come into you kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ;
Why are you here this morning? You woke up early this morning, got dressed, got in your car and drove here. There must have been a reason. Hopefully, it wasn’t just for the post-service donuts. Every Sunday, believers all around the world come together and gather around the cross of Christ. But why do they do it? This morning, we are going to look at a group of people gathered at the foot of the cross—religious leaders, soldiers, and thieves— all gazing at the crucified Christ. But why were they there? What did they see?
Most of the people who viewed the cross that day saw Christ the Failure. A man who was not able to live up to the title that was inscribed above his head—The King of the Jews. The first people we run into at the foot of the cross are the religious rulers. These are the men who held the power in the Jewish church. They were thought of as very religious and they all knew their Bibles very well. But although they knew the words of Scripture, they clearly did not know what they meant. They had read of the Messiah who was coming, but they thought of him as an earthly king—a ruler who would deliver the Jewish people out of the hands of their Roman conquerors. When they saw Jesus hanging on the cross, it was clear that he was not the conqueror they were looking for. So they taunted him: "If you really are the Chosen One, prove it to us once and for all by coming down from the cross." And Jesus did nothing. What a failure.
Next we see the Roman soldiers looking at the cross. They joined in mocking Jesus. They must have felt very superior seeing yet another pretender king brought to his knees by the Roman Empire. They mocked him by giving him wine vinegar to drink. They played the part of butlers offering their king a glass of wine. But their purpose was plain and simple—humiliation. "Oh great king—where is your power? Clearly you are nothing compared to our mighty Caesar! If you really are powerful, come down from the cross." And Jesus did nothing. What a failure.
As if the taunts of the rulers and solders were not enough, Jesus also faced the insults of a common criminal who hung on a cross next to him. The criminal was looking for one thing from Jesus—salvation. He wasn’t seeking salvation in a spiritual sense, but in a physical sense. He wanted Jesus to get him down from his cross and end his suffering. His taunt was even more personal than the others: "Aren’t you really the Christ? Then why don’t you end this suffering for us, huh?" And Jesus did nothing. What a failure.
So which of these mockers are you standing with? Hopefully, none of us are able to identify with those Roman soldiers, who saw Christ as some sort of joke. This is an idea that is prevalent in some areas of our society. They see religion as a weakness—a crutch for the uneducated to lean upon. Look at all the advancements we’ve made in science in technology. This idea of a Supreme Being is really kind of foolish, isn’t it? We probably would never want to admit to letting these kind of thoughts creep into our minds, but I wonder how many of us would trust our computer more than the power of prayer? How many of us would sooner rely on the strength of the U.S. military than the right arm of the almighty God?