Saturday, November 21, 2015

Christ the King Sunday: Jesus Christ is the King of kings

Jesus Christ is the King of kings                                                         11/22/115

I Samuel 12, I Timothy 1:15-20

It is hard for us as Americans; to hear this word King.  We are a nation born out of revolution against a King.  It is in our national dna.

But we do not approach this word today as Americans, or as 21st century citizens, but as Christians.  Christian is our most deeply embedded identity, if God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, how much more important is the Holy Spirit, than the spirit of any nation, or any culture, or any way of life.  From the Scripture’s teaching, being Christian should shape every thought, every word, every deed.  All of us, all of who we are, must be in service to the King.

The 1st Samuel passage warns us to not divert from our God, who chose to reveal himself as King to the people throughout Scripture.  God, in his Holy Word, calls himself a King.  In fact, God says that he is King with a capital K, over anyone who calls him or herself a ruler, king with a lower case k.

 I Timothy will help us see how to return to a reverence for God as King.

The Lord made promises to the patriarchs, like Abraham, like Jacob.  He made covenant with them.  And throughout the generations, God would give the people what they needed, when they needed it:  Moses to lead, Aaron to speak, Miriam to bear witness, Joshua to succeed Moses, the Judges to lead locally, the prophets to speak when the people needed correction.  But none of these people were ever more important than God, who had made promises to Israel.  And God alone had the power to fulfill these promises:  of land, and hope, and peace.

God has told the people, through the mouths of prophets, that he would be the King, and the people would be provided for.  We see this in the story of the manna and quails, when a supernatural provision occurs that no human being could conjure.

One of the prophets is Samuel; whose two most important acts from Israel’s history were the anointing of kings.  First, the first king of Israel, Saul, essentially a story of colossal failure.  Second, anointing of young Shepherd named David.   But we must remember that anointing these kings was not the will of God.  The people lacked faith, and didn’t trust in God, who said he was king.

 As Samuel says farewell to the people, he calls them to bear witness, and speak publically about their relationship with him, and with their God.


The LORD had appointed leaders like Moses and Aaron.

The LORD had performed all the righteous acts of the Israel’s forefathers.

Moses and Aaron were an answer to Jacob’s cry for help.

But the people forgot the LORD their God.

The LORD punished the people, by selling them into the hands of Israel’s enemies.

The people cried for help when they were in trouble.

The people acknowledged that they had forsaken their King and turned to idols.

The LORD sent judges to help the people.

The LORD’s representatives delivered the people and returned them to security.

The people panicked yet again when a new enemy rose to power.

The people demanded a king and chose to ignore God’s teaching that he was king.

Samuel reminded the people that they best continue to do good.

Samuel reminded the people that God’s hand would be against them if they did not.

The LORD reminded the people of his power by commanding thunder and rain.

Samuel reminded the people of the great evil of forsaking God as King.

The people stood in awe of the works of God.

The people ask Samuel to intercede, acknowledging their sin of asking for a king when God was their king.

Samuel invites them past fear, into repentance:  “YOU have done all this evil, yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.

Samuel warns the people against returning to idolatry.

Samuel reminds the people of the promises made by God. 

The LORD was pleased to make Israel his people.

The LORD’s great name, and his promise allows for mercy.

Samuel chooses not to sin against God, and promises to pray and teach.

Samuel closes his speech with a caution:  to fear the Lord, to serve him faithfully with all of your heart, to consider the greatness of God the King, and his goodness in all he has done.

If you do not do these things, then you will not endure and continue.

(I highly recommend Walter Brueggeman's Intepretation commentary on I and II Samuel, specifically pages 95, his summer of Chapter 12.  I will share the highlights of his thoughts with the congregation on Sunday morning...)

That is a really wonderful and inspiring description.  It moves me toward our I Timothy passage.

My take on Paul’s writing is that final phrase of verse 15 is the only verse in Scripture that is completely wrong. 

Paul wasn’t the worst of sinners.  I am.   Kenneth Good:  the worst of sinners.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, writes

If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way less detestable in comparison, I am still not recognizing my sin at all.  My sin is of necessity the worst, the most grievious, the most reprehensible.  Brotherly love will find any number of extenuations for the sin of others, only for mysin is there no apology whatsoever.


What I am trying to say, is that each of you should disagree with what I just said.  I put my name in place of Paul’s.  You should put your name in place of Paul’s.

It has to be that way.  We each need to disagree with Paul in his last phrase of verse 15.  It is the only way.   How does the passage read when we put ourselves as the worst?  Most of it stays the same!


  • Jesus Christ remains the Savior, willing to save anybody and everybody.
  • Jesus Christ remains the author of mercy and unlimited patience.
  • Jesus Christ remains the Lord of the Church, directing his followers as salt and light in this world.  We become messengers of the King.
  • Jesus Christ remains King, immortal, invisible, the only God, honored and glorified, forever and  ever.
Understanding ourselves as rescued by the King himself, for his service instantly puts all of life in proper light.

We have breath, a gift from a merciful God.

We have purpose, to lift up the King of kings.

We have strength, to leave wrong and move toward right.

We have work:  to be examples to those around us.


The question then becomes:  what happens if we don’t view Jesus as King?

We have breath, which has come to us by chance.

There is no purpose, and life is meaningless.

There is no moral imperative.

There is no reason to be concerned with anything or anyone other than self.

When we do not view Jesus as King, we are the ones who suffer.  Jesus doesn’t change.  God the Father doesn’t change.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t change.   We suffer.

Rejecting Christ as King, if done often enough, and willingly enough, shipwrecks our faith.  Paul warns us of two that chose shipwreck.   Perhaps it would be better to choose a ship that sails toward discovery, light, adventure, and an eternity of goodness and praise.  Jesus Christ is the Captain of this faith.  Only, there is a far greater title:  Jesus Christ is the King of kings.

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