Roger's Postings

Friday, November 19, 2010

Luke 23:33-43. Christ the King! 21/11/10

(33) 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 left. {34} Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. {35} 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." {36} The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar {37} and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." {38} There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. {39} One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" {40} But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? {41} We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." {42} Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." {43} Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Here we are at the last Sunday of the Church year; and the focus has shifted to the end of time – the final outcome of life - the fulfilment of all things; and that of course, leads us to think about who and what is ultimately important for us all as we live out our lives every day.

Now, of course, this is something that most people do not want to think about: They would prefer to live for the moment – to live for what they can get and have here and now. They would prefer to make up their own rules, and do as they please, without any real regard for the future – for they have fallen for the devil’s lies that suggests there is no real truth and reality. So when it comes to the end; well they will take their chances and hope for the best. And as to who and what is important in life; well naturally it is me and my freedom and happiness that is of greatest importance. Everything revolves around ourselves and what we want.

Now this thinking is very much in line with … this guy who had inherited his way into a hardware store. He had been raised with all the trappings of a moderately wealthy lifestyle and had been spoilt along the way. Now it was his turn to take over the running of the store and training up the next generation.

Well, he thought this was it and a bit. He was strutting around in his self-importance; telling the workers and others what he thought – even though in reality, he had little idea. In everything, he would spend on the outward and showy things that would be seen, in order to make a good impression; often at the expense of that which was truly good and important. He would also take time off, again and again, to do his own pleasurable things; but never taking the time to think about and manage the important aspects of the business; and he never listened to others and particularly the people who knew what was good and important and who kept trying to remind him of his obligations.

So as the money came in, he spent up. His accountants told him he must put aside for the tax man, because he would have to expect to pay big dollars at the end of the day. But, of course, he had it all under control - it would all work out, so don’t worry. Instead, he kept thinking of the moment and himself and what he wanted from life. Well tax time came around and with it a bill of a 1/4 million dollars; and he hardly had a dollar in the till to pay it. He was in trouble. He ended up being brought before the courts and was about to be declared bankrupt – when his father steps in and pays the debt and averts disaster.

With that, he goes back to the store and continues on just as before. Not listening to his father and others around him. Not thinking about his near disaster; until, of course, next tax time came around. But this time he was left to his own devices; and so he finished up out on the street with nothing – not even a friend in the world.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Surely, very few people would be that stupid, would they? Yet that is just the attitude that many, many people have; and particularly in a far more important area of life. They think that they can go through this life without any significant consideration and thought for the spiritual things of life – to that which has lasting value. There they think that life is free and easy - that somehow it will work out in the end.

They are like many of those who were there at Jesus’ crucifixion. Some are there watching, but not involved. Looking on from the sidelines – but don’t ask them to commit themselves. There were those who were caught up in the moment and went with the crowd in calling for Jesus to be crucified. Then there were those who mocked and scoffed; openly ridiculing Christ and the things that were important. There were the criminals and the religiously self-righteous.

Yet for all of that which is wrong and bad in all of this, did Jesus stop being the Christ? Did all of this falseness stop Jesus being the King of the Jews, and of all of us? Did he pull the pin on dying on cross for us? And does the indifference and laxness of so many today, even those within the churches, mean that the end and Judgement Day; heaven and hell ceases to be a reality? Does our self-centred approach to what is good and right mean that God’s views on what is important and what will happen at that time, change to suite us? Well, no it won’t! None of it!

The end will come. We will have to face the Day of Reckoning; and at that point, we all will have to face reality. There, we will not be able stand on our good name and reputation, or our reasonably good life. We will not be able to face that day simply with the attitude that we will take our chances with some sort of assurance that we will be let off somehow, even though we have chosen to please ourselves. Me, and my desire for freedom and happiness, will count for nothing.

The only thing that will count on that day will be the Lord Jesus Christ himself and what he has done for our salvation. This account of Jesus death on the cross here is the only thing that can give any one us any hope, and any certainty when it comes to that day. Jesus death on the cross is the one single thing that will enable us to face that day with confidence: Confidence not in ourselves or any other single thing other than Jesus and his death for the forgiveness of our sins.

It will be no good us saying simply that we are members of his church: as much as that is important for us as we live between now and then, so that we can be continually strengthened and encouraged through the Word and Sacraments. Also, so that we can support and encourage one another as we live in the midst of the difficulties and hardships of life in a sinful world.

Nor will our thoughts that we have followed his example in living the good life help us stand with confidence on that Day. Again, yes this is something that we need to strive after, since Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. But it will not gain us ‘brownie points’ to help us on that day.

Nor will the understanding that we know a certain amount of stories about Jesus and that we have done our confirmation lessons, ensure that we will be accepted into heaven. However, here again it is to be another of our aims along the way through this life, to know and understand all that we can about Jesus and what he has done for us. All of those kinds of things ultimately amount to nothing on that last day.

All that we can then and now do is to say. ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ All we can do is to look to him and trust in him; knowing that because of his death and resurrection there is forgiveness of sins; for our selfishness and rebellion against God. And that it is he alone who gives us the assurance of eternal life in heaven with our gracious Lord and Saviour. Here remember, that on Judgement Day, Jesus Christ will be seen by all, to be the true King of all: Some to their benefit and others to their damnation.

Now if that is the situation then on that last day – the Day of fulfilment - then surely, now we can and will hold him as King above all kings and Lord of all lords. We will look to him now as our saviour and friend. We will hold up the cross as central to our lives as Christians. We will regularly gather together in God’s house to be strengthened and encouraged by him through his Word and Sacraments. We will seek to live and be his people each and every day of our lives. We will trust him in the present and for the future.

Yes, as we think of what is important in life, and of what is important with regard to the end of life we are here again reminded that it is Jesus Christ alone who is the one who holds our destiny in his hands. He is King for us now, and most importantly on that last Day. That is our encouragement here today as we look forward in life. So remember always that the Lord Jesus Christ is King: and to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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