Worthy is the Lamb – November 20, 2022, Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-14, John 18:33-37, Revelation 5:11-14
November 20, 2022
As we’ve been saying, today is Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. And as I’ve said, the liturgical year is the celebration of the various events in the life and ministry of Jesus, spread out over a year’s time. It starts with Advent, the foretelling of his coming, and it ends with Christ the King. And so this celebration today is the culmination of all the other events we’ve been celebrating. It’s all led up to Christ the King.
As you think about that, let me remind you that we see Jesus as king in two ways. One way is that he is King at the end of all time. He will rule in the eternal kingdom that is to come. But at the same time, he is also king in the here and now.
That’s the kingdom Pontius Pilate struggled to understand when Jesus stood before him, bound and bleeding. Here he was a prisoner, accused of many things, including the accusation that “He said he was the king of the Jews.” So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king?”
Now that may not be as preposterous as it sounds. Because kings of this world have often come from a lineage. In other words, royalty comes through family lines. We’ve just seen an example of that with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, and the succession of King Charles. And it’s all that “Royal family” thing. And many of the empires and kingdoms of the earth have been like that. So even with this man standing before him, who was not looking very much like a king, Pilate’s question may actually have been a very practical one. “Are you a king?”
Of course we know that Pilot was also concerned about the whole “kingly power” thing. Could this beaten man possibly hold some kind of kingly power, power that might be a threat to Roman? Given this scene, that part doesn’t make sense, but it was a concern to Pilate. And if that wasn’t concerning enough, Jesus gives him this answer. “My kingship is not of this world, or my followers would have fought to keep me from being brought before you this way.”
Now we know what Jesus meant by that, at least to a certain extent. Because we know that Jesus did have that kind of power! And we also know that Jesus did talk about his kingship. He told the people that the kingdom of heaven is, where? It’s among you. It’d in your midst. It’s in the here and now! But it’s not a kingship as the world understands that term.
That’s the kingdom we’re a part of. We’re part of Jesus’ kingdom in the here and now. And yes we look to the future kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom at the end of all time. But Jesus is king now just as much as he will be king then. I hope we believe that.
There are many passages in the Bible that speak about Christ the king. And about God as king. I’ve chosen these two from the New Testament, and both of them come to us from John. The first is from John’s Gospel, where Pilate is wrestling with the charge that was brought against Jesus. “He said he was the King of the Jews.”
Then there’s this second passage. This is from the vision of John, which we know as the book of Revelation. And I read from the part where John see’s Jesus, the lamb of God, receiving “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” It’s hard to read such passages without hearing the lofty strains of Handel’s “Messiah.” We’ll end this service today with his chorus of “Hallelujah.” And I hope it will make you think of that eternal kingdom of Jesus that we all look to.
I also read a passage today that is a foretelling of that. Daniel saw his “version” of John’s “vision” hundreds of years before, when he beheld “with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man. And he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
That passage has traditionally been seen as Daniel’s vision of the Messiah, again, a foretelling of “Christ the king.” It has a similar “flavor” to it as the vision of John. Doesn’t it? And when we read it, we may also remember that Jesus often referred to himself in “Daniel-ian” terms, calling himself “the Son of Man.” Do you remember that? And those people in his time would have known that reference. They would have known their messianic prophecies – especially the priests! I wonder how they felt when they heard him refer to himself that way! They would have known what he was saying about himself!
So you see that there are many things to think about when we consider “Christ the King Sunday.” And I hope we are thinking of all of that. And I hope you can get your own feelings of Jesus’ kingship here in this sacrament. Because here we get a different vision of a king than we might see anywhere else. Remember again the two visions of the Messiah in the Old Testament. One was the “Conquering King.” That’s the Messiah the people were really hoping for when Jesus was here on earth. But the other is the “Suffering Servant.” That’s the vision we get here at this table.
And I think that’s the one that’s the more powerful vision of the Messiah. That’s what Pilate struggled with that day. He had power! He could defeat armies! But what of this suffering and beaten man, standing before him in chains. What an incredible contrast that picture was! And the question I always ask myself when I read this is “Who really held the power that day?
I hope you see that Jesus was the real power! This sacrament is the real power! Through this sacrifice we commemorate here, Jesus defeated death itself! And here is where this Suffering Servant” is truly king! And here we think of that victory. Here we think of Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room, but we also have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, the wedding supper of the Lamb!
And so, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Worthy is he to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
Eternal God, as we come to this sacrament, help us to have visions of Christ the King. Help us to know that, though in the world we have tribulation, he has truly conquered the world. May we rejoice in this foretaste of the wedding supper of the Lamb, for we pray in his name, and for the sake of his kingdom, both now and in the world to come, Amen.