Christ the King Sunday
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our parable today from the Gospel of Matthew is perhaps one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. And the reason for this is because it serves as a powerful reminder of our calling to care for the most vulnerable members in God’s family (the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the imprisoned).
In the text today, the King reminds us “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” In other words, just as you cared for, and served the least in our society, you lived out your love for me and served me.”
And so, as Redeemed Children in the Kingdom of God we have been given the glorious opportunity to care for and defend the most vulnerable members in God’s family and feed them. We are to be active participants in Gods’ kingdom.
It should come as no surprise then that we read this text on Christ the King Sunday because on Christ the King Sunday we lift up and acknowledge that Jesus is indeed our King who now sits at the right hand of God.
But the text also serves another purpose on Christ the King Sunday, and that is to force us to ask ourselves “What does it mean when we say Christ is King?”
And the first thing that comes to my mind when we profess Christ is King is that Jesus has our allegiance. When the early church confessed, “Jesus is Lord,” they were saying loud and clear that Caesar was not their Lord.
To have Jesus as their Lord, their King, meant that they could not have another Lord. To have Jesus as their Lord and King meant that Jesus is the One to whom they owned their allegiance to before and above any other authority.
And this is important to point out because when we think of human kings, we think of power concentrated in the hands of one person or family.
And we know from history the abuse and the tragic outcome that can happen when people owe their allegiance to earthly kingdoms.
God had even warned His people about the consequences pledging allegiance to earthly kings. In the First Book of Samuel we read that the people of Israel told God that they wanted an earthly king.
The Bible informs us that up until that point Israel had been led by judges, and tribal chiefs, and prophets. But now they wanted God to appoint a king to rule over them.
And how does God respond, God through Samuel tells the people what kings are like. The king (Samuel warns) will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his officials and his attendants. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. See 1 Samuel 8:11-18
Through Samuel, God warned His people that earthly kings are not as great as they are chalked up to be. Kings will send your sons to war and take your daughters to work in the palace. Kings will take your property and your produce; and give it to his supporters. Kings will seek to benefit themselves before they take care of their subjects.
But that is not the kind of King our Lord and Savior is. No… Our King, Christ the King, is - in a word – unexpected. Our King, Christ the King, is unexpected in the way He interacted and dwelt with us.
Let me explain what I mean. When we think of human kings, we expect them to be born in a palace surrounded by nobles and guards and wealth. Our King was born into poverty, wrapped in rags, and put to rest in a manger meant for hay.
A human king has attendants and advisors to help him rule his kingdom. Our King traveled around with fishermen, and foreigners, and women.
A human king associates with the top layer of society, our King associated Himself with the sick, and the outcast, and the desperate.
A human king would die in his bed, and he would be mourned in public, and he would be buried in a place of honor. Our King was brutally executed by the state, nailed to a cross, and buried in a borrowed tomb without a ceremony.
Yes… Christ the King is indeed the Unexpected King. Christ the King is the King who defies every expectation and assumption that we have of what a king should look like.
Which brings us back to this famous parable that we have before us this morning. Did you notice what the sheep and the goats, the people on the king’s right and left, have in common?
Both groups were surprised to learn that they had encountered the king. The sheep say “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?”
The sheep further add: “When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”
The goat’s response is the same, except that they had failed to act. “Lord,” they asked, “when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”
Both groups are surprised. Both groups had no idea that they had encountered their king in the form of someone hungry, or poor, or sick. They had no idea that they had seen their king in the face of a prisoner, a foreigner, or unclothed stranger on the street.
Both the sheep and the goats failed to see the King standing right in front of them. For you see, the King of kings and is an unexpected King. His birth, His life, His ministry, and His death all happened in the most unexpected way.
His resurrection and His ascension were also unexpected. And our parable today teaches us that His return will also be unexpected.
Today, many wait for the Son of Man to come in glory, surrounded by angels, sitting on a throne. What will this look like? We do not know. But what we will discover – what the sheep and goats discovered – is that our King will come to us in a fashion that we had not expected and in a way that we did not imagine.
And so, let us remember that as Redeemed Children in the Kingdom of God we have been given the glorious opportunity to care for and defend the most vulnerable members in God’s family and be active participants in Gods’ kingdom today.
Let us pray: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we do also for Him. Give us the will to serve others as He was the servant of all, who gave up His life and died for us, but lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.