Reading Ramblings – Christ the King Sunday

Reading Ramblings

Date: Christ the King Sunday, November 24, 2019

Texts: Malachi 3:13-18; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43

Context: Traditionally a feast day, Christ the King Sunday concludes the liturgical church year, focused on our Lord’s return in glory, the culmination of his victory over sin, death and Satan. It provides the perfect pivot point of continuity with the beginning of the new church year in Advent, focused on our Lord’s arrival. The readings this morning are bound together around this theme of the Kingship of our Lord, though they may seem odd at first blush, particularly the Gospel reading from the crucifixion. But these passages are pertinent to us today, just as they were pertinent to God’s people when the Holy Spirit first inspired and caused them to be written down. We are in need of reminding that though evil appears to have carried the day, the battle has already been won, and our God – Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier – is victorious. It is necessary to remind us, as we conclude the church year, that our ultimate and final allegiance belongs to the King of kings and Lord of lords and to nobody and nothing else.

Malachi 3:13-18 – Once more we hear from the final prophet of the Old Testament. In this section, faithlessness is contrasted with faithfulness. Faithlessness sees love of God and obedience to his ways as pointless, unprofitable. Unsatisfied with lives as God directs us to live – in love of him and love of neighbor – faithlessness substitutes self-seeking and personal glory. Those who arrogantly flaunt their wealth or power are the admired ones, rather than those of faith and piety. In such a situation the evil prosper. The limits of their self-worship seem to know no boundaries or limits, and face no circumstances. But God watches and sees and knows. But He watches not just those who flout his name and will, but those who cling to him in faithfulness. Who encourage one another with the Word of the Lord, and recall his promises to them rather than seeking the favor of worldly celebrities. Their faithfulness is noted and not forgotten, though the world may laugh at them and spit on their graves. They shall not lose their reward, and their faithfulness will one day be vindicated by the God of glory himself.

Psalm 46 – This psalm matches the book of Revelation, composed roughly 1000 years later, incredibly well. Descriptions there of great natural disasters may shake even the most faithful heart. But in the midst of this we are called to remember our Lord’s power and strength. He who afflicts creation in the final days, driving people towards repentance or apostasy is also capable of keeping and sustaining his faithful. Likewise the book of Revelation describes the city of God descending form heaven to become the abode of God’s faithful people. Revelation 22 describes the river that flows through this city, and describes the effects of God’s perfect restored reign, as nations are healed. God is exalted once again above all creation, now as the one who has restored perfection to creation eternally. It is fitting and necessary that God’s people remember these things despite the apparent crumbling of the world around them. They will not be lost!

Colossians 1:13-20 – Paul praises God the Father who has gifted us with faith in the salvific work of his Son which provides us with forgiveness of sins and buys us back from the penalty of the Law with his own perfect obedience. Then at verse 15 Paul launches into an eloquent, poetic description of this Son of God. As the Word of God He is the source of all creation (John 1), whether physical and material or spiritual and immaterial. No power in all of creation is above him. Nothing precedes him in chronology or eminence. He is the head of the Church, the first to be raised from the dead to eternal life, according to his human nature, so that even in eternity Jesus remains first, preeminent, unchallenged in glory or honor. In his divine and human natures Jesus accomplishes the redemption of all creation. This is done through his blood, the final blood sacrifice that incorporates and exceeds all other sacrifices. Our redemption has a cost, and it is the very human blood of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. For this He is worthy truly to be King of kings and Lord of lords.

Luke 23: 27-43 – This may seem to be an odd text for Christ the King Sunday. Jesus hanging on the cross? Disgraced? Beaten? Rejected? Mocked? Yet it is through this final experience of his life that Jesus earns the crown of glory, that He might convey it to you and I. It is in his obedience, to even this most miserable of deaths that fulfills his mission and work and accomplishes the perfect will of God the Father on behalf of fallen creation. It is here, near death on the cross, that the King of Glory promises to a lowly thief on a cross eternal life. It is here the King is already bequeathing the blessings and benefits of the victory He has nearly won. This thief does nothing to merit this other than express the hope that Jesus is who they mock him for being. That He truly is the Son of God, and that He truly has a kingdom to welcome this rebel and perhaps murderer into. The first deathbed conversion. A confession of faith so bare bones many Christians might even deny it was adequate, had Jesus not himself affirmed it to be adequate.

This is our hope. That if the thief on the cross can be saved, then we can as well. We cling to Jesus’ promises to that nameless man for ourselves. We echo the thief’s words – remember us. And He does. Now and for all eternity, we are remembered, we are promised, we are saved.

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