A STRANGE KIND OF KING
November 22, 2015
A five-year-old boy was stalling going to bed. He asked for a glass of juice.
“No, sir,” his father answered. “No more juice. I’m king of the juice in this house.”
“That’s not right, Daddy,” the young fellow retorted. “Our Sunday school teacher said Jesus is the King of the juice.”
Pilate summoned Jesus to his palace and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. How could he? The title “King of the Jews” hardly sums up his mission. But finally he does concede that, yes, he is a king. That is why he came into the world. That is why he was born …
Today is known as Christ the King Sunday in many churches. In 1925 Pope Pius XI wanted people to know that this is Christ’s world, not the emerging dictators of that day. Mussolini had been in power for three years. Adolf Hitler had been out of jail only a year, and was finding great popular support for his fledgling Nazi party. The Pope had the audacity to declare, despite dictators, that Christ was King, reminding Christians where their ultimate loyalty lay! I wish more of them had listened.
Christ the King. Let’s begin with a radical idea: Our first allegiance is to Christ. That shouldn’t be a radical idea, I suppose, but in today’s world it is. Our first allegiance is to Christ. Not to our political party. Not to the opinions of our family, friends and neighbors. Not even to our nation. But to Christ.
This is a risky thing to say from a pulpit in 2015. There are some people today who confuse their political views with their allegiance to Christ, and they are not bashful about branding those who disagree with them as enemies of the Gospel. We’ve seen it happen before. In earlier generations, the battle to keep African-Americans out of schools, libraries, and even away from public drinking fountains, was framed by some people in religious terms. In their eyes it was God’s will to keep the races separated.
Be careful when you baptize your political views. You may one day discover that you are on the opposite side from Christ. The first question we should always ask is that time-honored one, W W J D, What would Jesus do? Then we might be able to guess what side of a political issue we should embrace. Not always, of course, since many political positions are very complicated, but most of the time we can ask what would Jesus do.
Don’t misunderstand. Christian people ought to be involved in politics. Just don’t expect the kingdom to come through the dealings of politicians. Politics is about compromise, not principled discipleship.
You may have heard the story of the member of the United States Senate who was hit by a truck and dies. He arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see politicians, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in,” says the man.
“Well, I’d like to but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one day in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.” “Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the senator.
“I’m sorry but we have our rules.” And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is an impressive clubhouse and standing in front of all of it are all of his friends, most of them politicians as well. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of their constituents. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that, before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises. The elevator goes up and the door reopens on heaven were St. Peter is waiting. Now it’s time to visit heaven. So, 24 hours pass with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
“Well then, you spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”
The senator reflects for a minute, then answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees his friends, dressed in rags, picking up trash and putting it back in the black bags. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.
“I don’t understand,” stammers the senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and we had a great time. Now all there is is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday you were attending a campaign event. Today you voted us into power!”
Anybody who expects members of Congress to keep all their campaign promises deserves to be deceived. Our first allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom.
We demonstrate this allegiance by the quality of our lives.
It is interesting to witness how Christians seek to publicize their allegiance to Christ. Some do it with bumper stickers. Others do it by carrying their Bible with them.
A church in Ohio did it with a large icon–a 62 foot tall statue of Jesus with up-praised arms, installed in a cornfield just north of Monroe, Ohio on Interstate 75. The statue–dubbed “Super Savior”–was erected by the Solid Rock Church, in Middletown.
Here is what is interesting. Traffic fatalities on this notorious stretch of road began to drop dramatically since the Super Savior statue was raised. Is that pure coincidence or has the Styrofoam and fiberglass Christ really aided road safety? Nobody knows.
Certainly a giant statue of Christ does no harm and if it improves traffic, that’s fine. But do not be confused. This is not the best way to express our allegiance to Christ. The best way to express our allegiance to Christ is to make our lives worthy of the name Christian.
Sportsman and best-selling author Pat Williams, in his book The Paradox of Power, tells about one man who deserved to bear the name Christian. In fact, that was his name, Christian X, King of Denmark during World War II.
The people of Denmark remember him the way any of us would want to be remembered, as a person of character, courage, and principle.
Every morning, King Christian rode without bodyguards in an open carriage through the streets of Copenhagen. He trusted his people and wanted them to feel free to come to him, greet him, and shake his hand.
In 1940 Germany invaded Denmark. Like so many other European nations, this small Scandinavian country was quickly conquered. But the spirit of the Danish people and their king proved unquenchable. Even after the Germans had taken control of the nation, King Christian X continued his morning carriage rides. He boldly led his people in a quiet but courageous resistance movement.
On one occasion, the king noticed a German flag flying over a public building in Copenhagen. He went to the German Commandant and asked that the flag be removed.
“The flag flies,” the Commandant replied, “because I ordered it flown. Request denied.”
“I demand that it come down,” said the King. “If you do not have it removed, a Danish soldier will go and remove it.”
“Then he will be shot,” said the Commandant
“I don’t think so,” said King Christian, “for I shall be that soldier.”
The flag was removed.
You are already familiar with the most famous story about Christian. The order came from the Germans that all Jews were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with the yellow Star of David. King Christian said that one Danish person was exactly the same as the next one. So the king donned the first star of David, and let it be known that he expected every loyal Dane would do the same. The next day in Copenhagen, almost the entire population wore armbands showing the Star of David. The Danes saved 90% of their Jewish population.
Later, the Germans decided that all 8000 Jews in Denmark would be rounded up and sent to concentration camps in central Europe. George Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German diplomat with a troubled conscience, secretly informed King Christian of the German plans. So the King organized a resistance effort that smuggled 7500 Jews to Sweden within a single two week period. The remaining 500 Jews were rounded up by the Germans sent to Theresienstadt, an internment ghetto in Czechoslovakia. King Christian interceded on their behalf and all but 51 survived their treatment at the hands of the Germans.
King Christian paid a price for his bold courage. The Germans imprisoned him from 1943 until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. An old man in his 70s, imprisonment was hard on his health. He died two years after his release.
I don’t know anything about King Christian’s religious beliefs. But I do know the quality of life he lived. Such a life does credit to the name Christian.
Our primary allegiance is to Christ. We demonstrate that allegiance by how we live. But here’s the most important piece of information that we need on this Christ the King Sunday: Christ demonstrated his allegiance to us by his life, death and resurrection.
Bruce Marciano was speaking to inmates in a prison chapel in South Africa. This is what he said about Jesus:
“You think you had it rough as a kid? This Jesus was born in a barn. His first bed was a feed trough. He wasn’t even two years old and people were trying to kill him. He has to hide out with his mom and dad on the run, and just a baby. And that went on his entire life. Folks were always plotting to kill him–eventually they did.
“Did you grow up being laughed at and kicked around? Imagine Jesus hearing the laughs about his mom being pregnant before she was married, getting teased and spit at by other kids because of it.
“Did you grow up without a father or mother? Divorce, death, or maybe one just walked out on you? You know, Joseph is never mentioned after Jesus is 12. Nobody knows for sure what happened to him, but most experts figure he must’ve died when Jesus was just a kid. Yeah, guys, Jesus knows that heartbreak. Imagine him standing at his dad’s grave. And as the oldest son, he did have to carry on and support the family. See him at his dad’s workshop that first day, reaching for his father’s tools, tears streaming down his face–and just a kid.
“Ever had no place to sleep? ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’–the words of Jesus. He even knows what it’s like to have no place to live–sleeping around campfires. Or on people’s floors. Ever had anyone beat your face in? You guessed it–the Bible says they beat Jesus so badly he couldn’t even tell he was a human being.
“Friends run out on you? Jesus had a couple choice buddies named Judas and Peter.
“And he even knows what it’s like to be in a place like this, he knows because they locked him up once.
“Yeah, Jesus knows, guys. He knows every struggle, every heartache. And not just because he’s God and God knows everything, but because when he was a man; he went through the same things you and I go through and more. He knows because he lived it. He’s been there, done that.”
And here’s the amazing thing. He did it for you and me. No wonder we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We owe him our allegiance. We demonstrate that allegiance by how we live. We love him because he first loved us. He demonstrated that love through his life, death and resurrection.