He is Risen
He is Risen
He is Risen
The Resurrected King
I want to thank you Tim, for last Sunday focussing on Jesus as the King.
Twice during last week , I found two references to how Jesus entered from the East, on the donkey, and how Jesus may have timed his ride to exactly match Caesar's representative Pontius Pilate arrival with all the pomp of the Roman Empire approached from the West. Jesus was directly contrasted to Caesar's power. And just as sunrise comes from the East, Jesus will be King, just as surely as the sun would set on the Roman Empire. I love that thought!
So we see that all of what comes from Friday to Sunday must be in light of Jesus as the King. Tim showed us three facets of Jesus as the King:
The triumphant King
The humble servant King
The Polarising Transforming King.
There is a big question here, that I would like to ask:
We heard from George and from our ten readers the just awful story of the crucifixion of Jesus. I watched again last night the passion of the Christ. This movie really helps me. It helps me truly lament.
Up until that point, Jesus bought good news, even great news. He was shown to be the prophet within whom the Holy Spirit would come and enter. The one promised from times past. He would forgive sins, he would bring a message of salvation to the poor. He would break the chains of prisoners. Release the power of those under Satan’s dominion. He had power over the wind and the waves! These are all tremendous things. Not only that, but Jesus brought a message of salvation. A message of joy! Not only that, but Jesus was the Christ. Think of the blind man - the first people that Jesus tells that He is the Christ - A Gentile lady, and a blind man. The Messiah, the liberator.
But the gospels tells us that there will be a price to pay. The world was under the sway of Satan in so, so many ways. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians - All Creation groans, wanting justice to come, but we groan he tells us, with courage because we know that there is a perfect judge coming.
So Why did Jesus the King have to die? And then why the resurrection. I want to express then these two questions in the light
The triumphant King
The humble servant King
The Polarising Transforming King.
Yesterday morning, I gave myself an exercise - I read all the accounts from Palm Sunday onwards on each of the accounts. All those accounts when added together, here is what I see:
I see a man Jesus, who is completely in control of what is happening. He starts with all the power - revolutionary power, people power, and religious power.
And then, just as deliberately, he relinquishes this power. He sets in motion the complete opposite. From a position of power, he adopts a position of complete vulnerability.
George took us through the last part of Matthew, and on Friday we traced its path:
Firstly the Triumphant King:
, Jesus had that incredible victories when he answered all their questions, then came into the temple, cleaned it up, seemed ready to replace the system that the religious ruling elite had established. He had them on the ropes!
Well, those on the ropes priests, scribes and elders: they came and used one of his own to betray them into their system. Jesus was brought down.
Jesus condemned their use of money in the sacrificial system, called them a den of robbers. Well they bribe one of his own, using Jesus condemned tactics against him. And guess what - it works! Jesus is betrayed in a huge injustice. It completely wins. Jesus calls them a Den of Robbers, and now Jesus asks them at Gethsemane - do you come after me with clubs, as if I am a robber? A complete reversal.
Secondly, you see it legally. The leaders take Jesus into their council, and they charge Jesus - God Himself - with Blasphemy. A religious system that was full of blasphemy itself, charges Jesus to God-Man with blasphemy. And they win! What is the judgement? He deserves death!
Secondly: The Humble Servant King.
Here Jesus had painstakingly taken his disciples through a new way of the heart. He washed each of their feet. And the person who was taught the most - was Peter. He got all the special attention. And he was confident: Even if everyone leaves you, I never will.
He hears the mocking words of the priest attendants - Prophesy to us Christ, who hit you. And it is Peter himself, who first declares that Jesus is the Christ - revealed to him by God Himself. Surely this is the chance for the King to have his number one supporter back him.
NO. This is a three time failure, three indicates completeness. The third time Peter swears an oath that he doesn't know Jesus. Complete failure. The oath typically would be - may God deal with me severely if I do know him. Jesus has failed. This new way was a loser way. He has now lost Judas to the religious system, and now Peter has denied him and cursed himself in the meantime. His disciples then, are complete failures. Jesus as Messiah failed as a religious system, and now he has failed individually, among those who he spent three years tutoring! Jesus is twice a failure.
Third picture is the Transforming King:
Jesus is bought to Pilate, representing the current power.
The picture here couldn't be starker: Jesus has come in from the East, on a donkey, bearing the palm branches of the King of the Jews - to liberate his people, who have been without a King for generations, in fulfilment of . Here is Pilate, and he can see that Jesus is indeed powerful. Jesus has an effect on him. Yet Pilate’s power wins out. Jesus claims that his power is based on truth. It doesn't work. Pilate allows self-interest and self-protection to rule over truth. “What is Truth”. The people respond: "We have no King, but Caesar". Listen to this description of Pilate from the book “Behold His Love”:
"Pilate was responsible for Jesus scourging, for he it was who handed Him over to the soldiers. It is frightening to see that his behaviour towards Jesus was determined by his desire to avoid criticism. In every decision Pilate considered only himself. Nothing mattered to him. He did not care what happened to Jesus. His interest lay only in making certain that no one would find fault with him. “
“We should surely tremble when we look at Pilate. When we make decisions in order to look innocent and blameless, we may become doubly guilty. Pilate caused Jesus great torture, through his hesitation. how often we deceive ourselves when we do not want to acknowledge ulterior motives. We like to appear pious, but we really have only ourselves in mind, not Jesus.”
The Transforming King is a failure. Even weak Pilate was stronger than him.
Jesus is three times a loser. He is condemned, he is flogged, he is crucified. And the Bible tells us, that He is alone. He has been forsaken even by his Father.
So it is with urgency that we ask the question: So why did Jesus have to die?
Man's fallenness was much, much more than just the things they had done wrong. All of creation was groaning under the weight of man's fallenness. Do a study on the word Groaning. Whether it is paul in romans or 2nd Corinthians.
Sometimes that weight just seems insurmountable. The suffering of the world seems without end! Sometimes our failure just hits you and the injustice just cries out.
You know of course that God has laid on my heart our African children. I visited a place where the young children are used as prostitutes in a village. Shocking! The vulnerability is just incredible. A grandma offering her 5 year old grandaughter! Let’s consider life for this girl? How can it get worse, can it get more evil than that? Well it can. We supply funds to help this girl, so she can have a meal prepared at a school, so she can learn. Hope is born! But hope is dashed: The man who runs our charity: He is caught using children's education money for himself. We have to stop sending the funds and close the whole community support framework. What about the lostness in that? Dwell on the evil in the heart of someone who would do that. Could it get any worse than that? Yes it can! The government comes in August 2015, and on 24 hours notice bulldozes the girls one-room home, because they want to take even this land away from the dispossessed so the land can be sold to a developer. So now that little one doesn't even have a house! Sadly, it can get even worse. Hands has a plan - we have people who hear of this little one's plight, and will provide emergency water and food, to try to keep this little one alive.
In despair, we go back to the embezzler, the one who used to look after that child to find mercy to give water and food to this little one and the ones like her in the community. The reason she is putting her body on the line, is because this man was using funds for education. We tell him that we will even pay him again, even though he was corrupt last time. What does he say? He says pay me for two years up front, and I will give them water and food.
Corruption has won. It is the last straw. Justice just screams out, doesn't it? You can see that this little one has been abused by the government, abused by individuals, and shockingly abused by the church. Many little ones, I’m sure, pay the price, and lose their lives.
On that Good Friday, Jesus took on everything, from the most trivial lie that I have told to my most heinous life deeds, all the injustices that governments, churches and individuals have perpetrated. He took on all the diseases that ravage the world, represented in his friend Lazarus.
Finally, he took on our black hearts of rebellion and the black hearts of us as nations - as it says in psalm 8. Why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed.
And he lost. Jesus lost.
In that moment, the lot of that little 5 year old girl, is the lot of all of us. Jesus is dead. They have won. The enemy Satan, he has the first victory, and now he has the final victory.
Little wonder that tells the story of those two disciples. They didn't understand all the theological implications. They couldn’t see all the brokenness of what would happen over the next two thousand years. But they knew that Jesus was the answer, and then he wasn't. Death won.
And that is the way that it has been from the beginning of the world. I asked the question: Why did Jesus have to die?
You add up the heartache of the world, including our contributions, and if that doesn't drive us to our knees then nothing will. It was last year, I think, that I learned of the the WWI poet Edward Shilto who composed "Jesus of the Scars".
“Jesus of the Scars” by Edward Shillito
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Your Scars, we claim Your grace.
If, when the doors are shut, You draw near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Your Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but you were weak;
They rode, but You didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but You alone.
That is why Jesus had to die – Because we needed it!
You know that sometimes the world has a deep understanding of injustice. It isn't only limited to Christians.
God has built eternity in our hearts.
Stephen King is a US author. He is not a Christian. But when I think of life, I think of a picture that he painted. I am deeply aware that I don't really have skills in being a great changer of hearts or orator. But I think Stephen King has done me a great service with his film The Green Mile. He shows us all the great enemies of our times.
The Green Mile tells of the lives of a group of men who are guards in charge of an execution section of a jail in Kentucky. They are an island of dignity at the end of chaos. It is where men come to live out their last days before receiving their justice. And there plays out one of the great movie-made injustices of the screen. Two little innocent girls are raped and slain by an evil man. A gentle black giant of a man tries to help the girls, to bring them back, but because of racism and circumstances, is instead convicted unfairly of the crime. Then we meet the animal of a man who did the crime in all his horror. We meet the cruelty of sinful authority in a guard who is looking to use his position to explore torture and his own excesses. We also meet the curse of cancer. The way that it strikes randomly, indiscriminately.
And the answer, is met in this unlearned black man. Completely gentle, yet possessed of unearthly wisdom, but weighed down with all the cares of a broken, broken world. The other character in the story, Tom Hanks character Paul Edgecombe, has revealed to him all this injustice in a moment. He is stunned by it. Honestly, I experience that scene and it takes me back to that village. How can the world endure such injustice?
Well, the man John Coffee sacrifices himself, but not before administering justice, healing, even bringing life itself back, and reconciling racial divides through his own self-sacrifice. The ending for this gentle man is the curses placed on him for a crime he didn't commit by the parents of the two girls. It is a beautifully crafted movie. But the burden and brokenness of life is there - still unbroken despite the temporary respite of this man John Coffee.
And that is where it is with Jesus after Good Friday. Jesus has shown that he has mastery over disease. Jesus has shown hope to those who can't get their act together. He draws them in. He speaks words of life - so that even his enemies confess – “Never has any man spoken words like this” we read. But now Jesus is dead. The promise has come to nothing. The respite was temporary. We think of a nightmare as being something bad that you wake up in the dawn into the light. But here with Jesus, we are confronted with the nightmare is the daytime: All the brokenness of the world, and we had a dream that justice could reign, but we woke up from the dream, and find that the nightmare is still all around us, its power temporarily bent, but ultimately unbroken.
Paul speaks for me when sees the deep sadness in such a temporary hope.
In , he says, that if the resurrection didn't happen, then Christians, followers of Jesus, are to be pitied more than all men.
But on Sunday morning, Jesus comes back to life. Resurrection!!!! All the words of Jesus: They are not just words. They are truth.
And suddenly everything - all the blackness - has become light. Suddenly everything that Jesus has said - I am the WAY the truth and the LIFE. It suddenly makes sense. becomes gloriously true: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who hopes in me will live again even as he dies.”
The Bible speaks about such hope right through the Old Testament, even in the midst of shocking loss.
speaks about the King who comes in Judgement:
We think of the awfulness of being judged for what we have done wrong. Judgement Day, sounds like it is a bad thing, a very bad thing. But we have lived our lives in extraordinary privilege and plenty. What does judgement mean for that little 5 year old girl in Nigeria. Judgement means justice. It means that God will wipe away every tear from her eyes, and from the eyes of everyone like her. That is a cause for great celebration!
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
So Jesus' resurrection on that morning is so significant. It is significant because ultimately, He will come down, and he will establish his reign on earth.
It shows yet another answer as to why Jesus had to die:
Jesus had to die so that he could defeat death for all of us, then reign in life!
And what an upside-down reign it will be! You know the coronation ceremony for this King? It is way different to the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I saw Jesus coronation again last night when I re-watched The Passion of the Christ. Not the crown jewels in his crown. His were thorns.
If you have your Bible there, turn to , and let Paul assure our hearts together. Remember from Tim last week about our King:
Humble, serving King
Transforming, Polarising King
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Now that is triumph isn't it!!! He destroyed in that moment everything else. We sang just a week or two ago a really old song - Len gave it to us. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.
Jesus will triumph over everything. You know the most hopeful thing for me? I think of that little girl, and I love that Justice will come, and that Jesus will wipe every tear from her eye. But I rejoice that finally Jesus will triumph in my heart. That the battles that started when he came into my life, that He has fought with me - will finally be one. Jesus will triumph over me completely. My prayer is that you will submit your life to him now. As Peter said when many of the disciples left Jesus in the gospels. Jesus asks them, are you going to leave too? Peter answers: Where else have we to go? You have the words of eternal life.
So we have the triumphant King.
But we also have a humble, serving King. We saw the powerful poem Jesus of the Scars. It reminds me of the passage in . The disciples are meeting in the room for fear of the Jews. Jesus appears among them and says to the principal doubter Thomas. He shows Thomas the scars on his hands. He tells him to put his hand into his side! Jesus will never lose those scars. Even in his highest glory, the scars remain. Why is that? Well, I think it is because when Jesus was crowned and put on that cross, that forever more, the world's values were turned upside down.
It is why for me, the deepest truth is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus didn't achieve victory by sending in the tanks to conquer evil. He actually allowed evil to exhaust itself on him. Like a puncher who has exhausted himself dishing out the punishment. In killing Jesus, Satan, had nothing left. I love that. I love that now we approach Jesus, not by going higher, more elevated. But we approach Jesus now by going lower. We learned that lesson didn't we in Philippians. We are told by Paul to imitate Jesus - to empty ourselves and become nothing. points to it. "I dwell in the highest heaven, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit".
So we have Jesus the Triumphant King Resurrected
We have Jesus the servant King Resurrected
Now Thirdly we have the transforming King Resurrected
Thirdly, and this is so exciting, he is the Transforming King. One of the most amazing symbols in the Easter narrative, is when the temple is torn from top to bottom. I don't really know the theological correctness of this. I know that at one level, there was only supposed to be access into that holiest place once per year by the high priest. And the temple itself was nothing without the presence of God. The temple was truly destroyed in that time by Jesus. I think some time between Gethsemane and the cross, God the Father withdrew from the temple. Its sanctity was forever gone. Like a germ-free environment when you open the bag, it was now polluted, and in ripping open the curtain, God was showing the word that he abandoned the temple.
But as Jesus himself prophesied: He replaced the temple in just three days with a new temple. Himself. Listen to Paul describe it:
45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
Jesus is the transforming King that offers us NEW LIFE RESURRECTED LIFE REAL LIFE. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. Just think of everything being put right. Think of God wiping every tear from every eye.
"Death is swallowed up in victory: O Death where is your victor, o death, where is your sting?"
I invite you to imagine now, like I did with that little girl, like I did with my own still broken heart: What victory are you most looking for? Dare to think that the victory will happen. As I look around at you all, I can make my own guesses. I know that I will be way short of the reality. We each need victories – victories that for now seem a long way away. But let us just pray for a minute. I want each one of us to consider our relationship to this King. Is he really our King? Do we just conveniently call him our Saviour, but he is just a saviour of convenience, an insurance policy so we can 'go to heaven'?
Like that thief on the cross. "Remember me Lord, when you come into your Kingdom."
Let us just focus on our King together, privately, for a minute, the I will close:
When Jesus arose from the dead, He showed us that there is no wound too deep, no scar too unbearable that He cannot heal. As we await His triumphant return, challenge yourself to give your heart completely to God.