Christ the King Sunday - 25 November 2018
Rev. John Derme
Wouldn't you love to be the queen or the king? I'm not talking about being in a fairy tale. I am talking about being a real ruler who has real authority over a nation and its people. I know that many of you would say that you don't want that kind of pressure and responsibility. I wouldn't want that, either. Some of you would even tell me that you have no interest in the money and luxuries and servants. I would say that, too. But don't you think that, if you had those comforts, you could get used to them pretty quickly? And couldn't you get used to the idea of having the power to run a nation the way that you've always thought best? And people saying what a wise leader you are, once they see the benefit of your policies? And shaping the history of your nation? And history books telling about what a great ruler you were for hundreds, even thousands of years in the future? Wouldn't you love to be truly significant?
As it is, you and I are common, average citizens. I don't know about you, but I don't anticipate that books will be written about me. If the world lasts another thousand years, people aren't going to remember us then. History will simply forget us. There is a part of all of us that would rather be remembered as great. Some of us dream about being truly significant. Others of us act as if we were really important. But to the powerful in this world – to presidents and kings and the like – we are insignificant. The powers that be don't notice the little people like you and me. Don't you wonder what it would be like to be important? Don't you wish that your life would be considered significant?
The prophet Daniel witnessed a vision about some of the greatest empires that this world has ever seen. The kings who ruled these kingdoms are still remembered to this day as truly great men. Daniel was a Jew who lived about 500 years before Jesus. He had been taken captive from his home and put to work for the Babylonians, who had conquered his own kingdom of Judah. Daniel served some powerful kings, including Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Cyrus of the Medes and Persians. These are kings about whom books are still written, who actively shaped the history of the world.
In Daniel's vision, the Lord showed him the roles of these empires in the world's future. He told Daniel about the Babylonians, who were in power at the time he saw this vision. And the rise of the Medes and the Persians, who would soon conquer the Babylonians. And the Macedonian Greeks, who would eventually conquer the Persians. And the Romans, who would one day rise to be the greatest empire the world had ever seen.
The vision portrayed these kingdoms as terrifying and powerful. Indeed, we still study their might over two thousand years later. Yet each kingdom in the vision came to an end. That is, until, the final king was installed. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
No matter how great the kingdoms of the world appeared, the vision that God gave Daniel revealed the reality: they were actually insignificant. Their important kings were short-lived. Once they died they were gone. The Lord used these kingdoms for his purpose. But once he was done with them, he disposed of them. The one king who is truly significant is the Son of Man, whom Daniel saw coming on the clouds of heaven before the Ancient of Days, who is God the Father. This Son of Man was clearly more than a man, because to him was given all authority and power and glory, so that people from every part of the earth would worship him. He was the Son of God, whose kingdom is forever.
From a human perspective, there was a series of powerful earthly empires in the 1000 years following Daniel. As time has passed, other powerful empires have risen to take their place, even to our time. One of the most famous was the British Empire, which controlled nations and colonies all over the world, so that it was said that the sun never set on Great Britain. The most powerful empire in the world today has to be the United States of America. We don't call it an empire, but the US military patrols and controls nations all over the world.
What was true of the great kingdoms in Daniel's time is true of the great kingdoms today: they come and they go. God uses them to accomplish his will, and then he disposes of them. With that in mind, should we trust in the rulers of this world? Should we trust in the leaders of the United States? Shall we assume that although great nations have risen and fallen before us, our nation is somehow invincible, so that it will stand forever? Shall we trust that our country's leaders will somehow avoid the mistakes that other nations' rulers made in the past, so that they will not fall? If we trust in rulers, we will be disappointed.
Even though a kingdom may have the strongest military, when God decides that its time is up, its time is up. They can't do anything to stop his decision and judgment. Now, if that is how insignificant the kings, even the elected leaders of this world are, what are you and I? We're just the pawns who fight in their armies and the peons who pay their taxes. If we are insignificant to the leaders of this world, how do we compare to the almighty King who rules over the entire world? Do we have the power to do what we want against him? Can we intimidate him by acting important? If we trust in ourselves, we will be disappointed.
There is only one ruler who is truly powerful. There is only one King whose kingdom will never end. He is the one who rides on the clouds of heaven. The one to whom all authority and glory belong. The one that people from all nations worship. He is the Son of God. He is the Son of Man. Who is this King that appeared in Daniel's vision? Jesus tells us. Throughout his ministry on earth he called himself "the Son of Man." Especially toward the end of his ministry, including the night before he was crucified, when the Jewish leaders placed him under oath and asked him whether he was the Son of God, he answered, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." Jesus identifies himself as the true King who rules over all the kingdoms of the world.
This world's leaders may think that they themselves are important, but we know who the only truly powerful ruler is. And there is another difference between Jesus and the rulers of this world: he thinks that you and I are important. He doesn't just say it to get you to vote for him. He has proved it again and again throughout the history of the world. Your King showed that you are important by ruling history from the creation of the world to make sure that everything was prepared for him to be born into this world to live for you. He showed that you are important by fighting the devil on behalf of you during his life here. He showed that you are important by submitting himself to the power of the world leaders that he himself put in place, including the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. He submitted to them even when they unjustly condemned him, in order that he could rescue you from your sins by his death. Your King showed that you are important when he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven so that he could live and reign over all things for your good. Your King will show that you are important when rules forever over the new heavens and new earth that he will create for you.
He didn't look like much of a king during his ministry on earth. Jesus hid his authority so that he could live, so that he could fight, so that he could die, in order to win victory for you. This Son of Man, who lived such a humble life, who appeared so lowly before Pontius Pilate, truly is the Son of God, whose kingdom will never end. So also, Jesus doesn't look like much of a king right now. It is hard to see his authority over the world when human rulers and governments look like they're in charge. Very often it looks like they are rebelling against Jesus and defeating his people.
Although we don't always recognize his power right now, Jesus is still ruling history. And when he returns on the last day, he will reveal his kingship for all to see. Then you will see the one who is Son of God and Son of Man. You will see his divine power, and you will see his human body. Jesus is and always will be God, but Jesus also is and always will be a human being. That's another way that your King shows that you are important. He wanted to become a human to be just like you, and he wants to be your human brother forever.
No matter who looks powerful in this world, the Son of Man is ruling for your good. No matter who was elected on Election Day, the Son of God is the one who is in control of your world. No matter how insignificant you are in the eyes of this world's rulers, you are important to King Jesus.
The world's rulers are in power today. Tomorrow they may be gone. New ones rise up, and old ones fall. The true King of the entire world, however, lived for you, died for you, rose for you, reigns for you, and will come back for you. Everything he has done and everything he ever will do is all because you are significant to him. Your King is the all-powerful Son of God and Son of Man. Your King's kingdom will never end.