“Christ the King”
Grace, Mercy & Peace be multiplied to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am John Tape, a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and a member here at Holy Cross. I serve as the director of the Lutheran Student Center. We recently started the best coffee shop in town as a new outreach to the WSU students. So if you want a delicious cup of coffee, a sandwich or a salad, stop in at the Fairmount Coffee Co that is part of the Lutheran Student Center on 17th Street.
Occasionally I get to preach here at Holy Cross, when both of our pastors have to be gone. Today is such a day.
I would like to focus on our attention on our Old Testament lesson for today which tells us about a very special king—King Cyrus. We are going to look at kings today and take a special look at the greatest King of all—our Lord Jesus, the King of Kings. But before we get into that, let’s look briefly at a few other kings.
Here are some trivia questions for you about different kings. We’ll see how well you do. If you know the answer to any of these questions, you can just shout it out:
- In the 40’s who was the King of Swing? Benny Goodman
- In the late 50’s and throughout the 60’s, who was the King of Rock & Roll? Elvis Presley
- In 1964 who was King of the Road? Roger Miller
- In the 80’s who was King of Pop? Michel Jackson
- From 1998 to 2007, on CBS, who was King of Queens? Kevin James as Doug Heffernan
- And last and certainly least, if you are into cartoon sitcoms who is King of the Hill? Hank Hill of Arlen, Texas—salesman of propane and propane accessories.
(Those probably aren’t the kings you thought I was going to ask you about, are they?)
The rising and reigning of those kings was not prophesied ahead of time by anyone—unlike King Cyrus in our text.
In Isaiah 45:1-2 we read:
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron.
The fascinating thing about this passage is that it was written 200 years before Cyrus! Calling Cyrus by name, Isaiah is saying God will choose this one special man to be king. God will raise this man, give him the reigns of the kingdom. And he will do God’s will. Two hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words, a man by the name of Cyrus did indeed become king and guess what he did? He wrote a decree saying that all the Israelites in Babylonian captivity could return him to Jerusalem.
Isaiah’s prophecy came true, because it was a promise from God and God always keeps His word. This passage shows us that God is trustworthy, but it also shows us more than that. For this prophecy, the kingship, and the deliverance from slavery, all point us to a greater king whose coming was also foretold, one who would deliver His people from sin, death and the power of Satan. This was the greater king Isaiah was writing about in Isaiah 9:6-7:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
So when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary she was going to have a baby he said to her,
And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
But there was a problem here. Jesus never seemed like much of a king did he? And the cross certainly wasn’t much of a throne. Throughout history God’s people have struggled with this notion of kingship and who should reign as the supreme ruler over their lives. There are many kings who seek to dethrone Jesus and reign over His people. What king you have reigning in your life makes a big difference now, and for eternity. When the ancient Israelites first came to the Promised Land they had no king. God ruled directly over them. They had a series of leaders called Judges such as Deborah, Gideon, Samson and Samuel. And this made them different from everyone else. All the other nations had kings. And Israel did not like being different. So they complained to Samuel. Listen to a portion of 1 Samuel 8, starting with verse 4:
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel …. They said to him, ….. Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses . . . He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks . . . . He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves . . . He will take a tenth of your grain . . . . Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. . . . . But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations.”
Do you see how good the Israelites had it, and what they wanted instead? God was their king. He was ruling over them in kindness and mercy. He was generously providing for all their needs. He had freed them from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the Promised Land, given them victory over their enemies. But what did the Israelites want? They didn’t want the Lord for their king. They didn’t want all He had to give them. They wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted another king to rule over them.
The Lord warned them. “A different king will take your sons, and take your daughters, and take your fields and take your servants and take your cattle and eventually take your freedom and make you slaves”. “We don’t care,” they said, “This is what we want. We want to be like everybody else.” So the Lord reluctantly gave them the king they wanted in King Saul. And he did exactly what the Lord said he would do. And their life became miserable.
Isn’t that the way it is with us today? We are not so different from the ancient Israelites. We have the Prince of Peace reigning over us—the Lord of Lords—the King of Kings. He who loves us so much that He gave up His own life for us on the cross, now lives and reigns to all eternity to supply our every need.
But like the Israelites we are often tempted to turn our back on our reigning Lord. Because we want to be like everyone else. We get so tired of not fitting in. We are often worn down with the accusations people make.
- We are accused of being narrow minded when we say the Bible is the inspired word of God.
- We are accused of being politically incorrect when we say Hell and eternal damnation are real.
- We are accused of being old fashion when we say Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Such accusations hurt. They cut deeply down to our souls and may even cause us to question our faith. Then we are tempted to find another King to reign over our life.
- Perhaps the King of popular opinion.
- Or the King of Self and personal desires.
- Maybe it is the King of material wealth and earthly possessions.
But remember what Samuel said about other kings—remember what they do. They don’t give. They take your sons and daughters and fields. They take and they take and they take. And they eventually turn you into their slaves.
- So many people today search for wisdom and they go to The king of popular opinion. But he will not give you wisdom—the king of popular opinion will only rob you of God’s eternal truth
- So many people today want freedom and they go to the King of Self and personal desires. But he will not give you freedom—the king of Self and personal desires will only make you a slave to your passions.
- So many people today want happiness, so they turn to the King of material wealth and earthly possession. But he will not give you happiness—the King of wealth and material possessions will rob you of your tender heart, your generosity and your love for others.
These false Kings all use a bait and switch tactic. They promise you wonderful things. They claim they will give you, life and peace and wealth and happiness and all kinds of good and glamorous things.
But then, after you let such a King rule in your life for a while the time comes when you eventually discover—wait a minute this is not what I expected at all. This is completely different. But by then you are firmly in it clutches.
It is like taking cocaine. I assure you that I am not speaking from personal experience. But I read an article that explained; when a person first uses cocaine they fell absolutely wonderful. It’s a feeling they want to have again and again. But each time they take it and every time they feel wonderful the drug is secretly doing damage to their brain. Eventually the user realizes wait a minute my life is in the pits. Because of my drug use, I have lost my money, my job, and my family. My life is in an uncontrollable downward spiral. But by that point they are firmly addicted and all they can think about is getting high again to keep their mind off all they have lost.
This is what the other kings are like. They promise you the world, but they lie. They give you nothing; rather, they take and they take and they take and eventually make you their slave.
There is only one King who gives and gives and gives. In fact He gave until it killed him when he gave his very life for you on Calvary’s cross. And because He is risen from the dead, He still reigns today to continue to give countless blessings to all who believe in Him and live in his kingdom.
- He gives light to those in darkness saying, “I am the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
- He gives rest to all who labor and are heaven laden saying, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
- He gives forgiveness to all sinners saying, “Be of good cheer your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)
- He gives eternal life to all who die, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25)
- He gives courage to those who fear the uncertainties of life saying, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
- He gives peace to those whose life is in turmoil saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
- He gives direction to all who are lost saying, “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)
That’s the kind of King we have in Jesus—One who gives and gives and gives. May He alone reign in our hearts and lives, now and forever. Amen
Pastor John Tape