Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of End Time: Christ the King (November 24, 2019)

COLOSSIANS 1:13-20

JESUS REIGNS OVER AN EVERLASTING KINGDOM.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Late in the reign of King Hezekiah, envoys from Babylon came to visit.  Babylon was not yet a super power nation, but they were on the rise.  “Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses.  There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” (2 Kings 20:13)  Hezekiah wanted to impress them with his wealth and power.  Those are the kinds of things that impress other kingdoms.  But Hezekiah may have failed to make a good confession to these foreign diplomats. 
     Did Hezekiah bring these Babylonian officials to the temple to show them the sacrifices which made atonement for sins?  Did Hezekiah introduce them to the high priest and have him explain how he delivered God's blessing and salvation to the people?  Did Hezekiah confess that God chose Israel to be the people through whom God would bring the Messiah into the world, and that the Messiah was for all the world?  Based on the Lord's response to this visit, it seems that Hezekiah failed to confess Israel's true glory.  Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD.” (2 Kings 20:17)  If Hezekiah was convinced that his glory was to be found in wealth, power, and influence, the Lord assured that it would all be swept away.  It was not to be trusted.
     But we fall into the same trap that ensnared King Hezekiah.  We live in a super power nation, and we reap the benefits of its wealth, power, and influence.  We also get wrapped up in the politics of the day, convinced that the right candidate will make us even better, richer, stronger, and more impressive.  The world is impressed with such things, and politicians play dirty trying to wield as much of that power and wealth as they can.  But those who trust in these things have their faith sorely misplaced.  The kingdoms of this world do not endure.  Hezekiah's kingdom did not last much longer.  All its power proved useless.  All its wealth was carried to Babylon.  But the Babylonian Empire did not last either.  Nor the Greeks.  Nor the Romans.  And if history has taught us anything, the power and prestige of the United States will fade too.  Kingdoms rise and fall.  Therefore, heed the word of the Lord: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)
     You have been given a kingdom which is far greater than the good ol' USA.  And you have a King who is far more righteous, loving, and glorious than anyone who has ever been elected to office here.  Jesus reigns over an everlasting kingdom, which is far superior to any nation or kingdom this world has ever known. 
     Jesus is sovereign over all creation.  St. Paul tells us why: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)  “The firstborn of creation” does not mean that Jesus is the first one created or the most important creature.  It means that he is the source of creation.  God created all things by his Word: “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)  Jesus is the Word, the Logos, God the Son.  He is the Word by whom all things were made, and he is the Word by which all things are held together.  Jesus is king of all creation.
     In the days of King Xerxes of Persia, a couple of Xerxes' guards plotted to assassinate him.  Their plot was revealed to King Xerxes by Mordecai, the uncle of Esther.  They had not publicly acted to murder the king.  They had not proclaimed their plans to the world.  Nevertheless, the intentions of their hearts were exposed.  That was enough to have them executed.  King Xerxes allowed for no rebellion or even rebellious thoughts.  They did not have the freedom to agree to disagree.  If earthly kings have the authority to act this way, what about he who is “the image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15)?  Does not the author of life have authority to decree what is good and evil?  Does not the Word have something to say about the way his creatures live?  And is not the King of creation due the obedience of all he created and which he holds together?
     The wind and the waves may obey him, but the people he has created do not.  He is not loved for the life he gives and sustains.  We all chafe under his commandments.  God tells us what is good and right, but we are drawn to what is wicked.  What dark hearts we have!  We think through scenarios that bring shame to other people.  We envision them suffering embarrassment, poverty, harm, or even death—and it makes us smile.  We want to see others brought to ruin and we call it justice because we actually believe we know all the facts and that our sense of judgment is pure.  This puts us on par with God, which is blasphemy.  Repent.
     When King Hezekiah was visited by Babylonian officials, he wanted to show off how important he was.  He showed them the splendor of his riches and power.  When King Xerxes learned of rebels in his kingdom, he wanted to show the severity of his power and wrath.  He killed his foes.  When the King of heaven and earth wants to show you what he is like, he acts with neither tyranny nor terror.  This is what he has done: (God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)  
     Jesus reigns over an everlasting kingdom.  But he does not reign like other kings.  Though he is the image of the invisible God, Jesus did not flaunt his divine power.  He did not destroy the rebels, but was put to death for them.  Jesus suffered all things to deliver his creation from its corruption.  Just as all things were created through him, so also all things are redeemed through him. 
     If he redeemed you, that means there was a price to pay to rescue you from the domain of darkness.  That price is Jesus' holy, innocent blood.  He became a man in order to shed his blood for all mankind.  He entered our world in order to recover our world for his purposes.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)  He created all things so that he could pour out his love and blessing upon them.  Then he poured out his blood to redeem and to reconcile all things to himself.  He graciously gave himself into death to deliver you from death.  He graciously bore the curse of your sin so that you are forgiven.  He did all this to bring all things back into his gracious reign. 
     As you know, Jesus did more than just die for you.  St. Paul reminds you, “He is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)  Just as being “the firstborn of creation” means he is the source of creation, so also being “the firstborn from the dead” means that he is the source of the resurrection.  Jesus has risen from the dead—the firstborn from the dead.  Therefore, he lives and reigns forever victorious over sin, death, and the devil.  Jesus reigns over an everlasting kingdom.
     And now Jesus has made you a part of this kingdom.  By the blood of Jesus, you are redeemed and reconciled.  By the blood of Jesus, you are marked as a child of the resurrection and an heir of the heavenly kingdom.  By that blood, you already live under his reign of grace and blessing and innocence.  By that blood, you remain connected to Jesus.  And Jesus does not merely give you this blood to think about.  He gives you his body and blood which have conquered sin, death, and the devil in the holy supper.  By his body and blood, he strengthens and keeps you in the true faith unto life everlasting.
     Jesus reigns over an everlasting kingdom.  Do not be impressed with money or military might.  Do not fear oppressive or tyrannical powers.  They will all turn to dust, and they must all stand before the throne of the King of kings to answer for their lives.  But your gracious King is head of the body, the Church.  He has answered for your life by his own.  And nothing will overrule his verdict or overthrow his salvation.  For, Jesus reigns over an everlasting kingdom.  He lives and reigns for you; and so, you will live and reign with him.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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