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LSB Proper 29C Sermon – Luke 23:27-43

November 29, 2016

November 20, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.’”

Today, the Church marks the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Some of you may also know of another title given to this day by the Roman Catholic Church: Christ the King Sunday. After spending an entire year tracing the life, teaching, and work of Jesus through the Gospel Readings, we wholeheartedly make the claim that this Jesus, true God and true man, is indeed the King of all creation. Through the Holy Spirit that we make this confession: “Jesus is Lord, the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

But as essential this confession is to our identity as Christians now, we are also presented with the cold truth that we have not always made nor did we even want to make this proclamation. That was made clear this Sunday in the assigned Scripture Readings. For in them, we were presented a tale of two kingdoms with two different kings and two different groups of citizens.

The first of these two kingdoms is the “Domain of Darkness” that Paul mentions in his letter to the Colossians. This kingdom is ruled by a revolutionary, Satan who rebelled against God. That revolutionary has become a despot. His kingdom is inhabited by other rebels, both angelic and human. This “Domain of Darkness” is also a domain of death. Yet, it is full of worldly goods and wealth that are appealing.

In the Domain of Darkness, Satan is the supreme ruler. Not only does he rule this kingdom, but he is referred to as “the god of this world” and “the ruler of this world.” Jesus speaks of him: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” This Prince of Darkness deceived God’s creation into abandoning its proper place to follow him. That deception continues to this very day. And even we must admit that we have been fooled as well.

Using the temptations of riches, wisdom, and pleasure, Satan is able to deceive many into following him and entering his realm. They turn their back on and abandon their Creator, and instead follow their desires and obey creation. So while they may enjoy much in this life on earth, they have nothing in the future to look towards except punishment for their rebellion and rejection of their Creator. Death awaits all who are subjects of Satan’s kingdom. While his power and wealth on earth seems great, it is only temporary. Though Satan has much wealth at his disposal, his kingdom is a domain of death. It will end on the day that God brings His righteous judgment to the earth. When Satan and his subjects both are judged and found lacking, they will be cast into eternal damnation. The Domain of Darkness will be ended.

Another kingdom, a greater kingdom, stands in opposition to the Domain of Darkness. This is Christ’s kingdom, the Kingdom of Light. It is a kingdom where Christ has full dominion and is Lord of All. It is a kingdom full of life for all who are in it, a kingdom with no end. In the Epistle Reading, Paul describes the majesty of Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

It is true that Jesus is supreme over all Creation, but He also has a more exclusive kingdom. It is a kingdom, as He Himself testifies, “not of this world.” It is not an earthly, but a spiritual realm in which He brings faith in Himself and His work to the world. This is what we confess about Jesus, when we speak about what He has done, just as Paul writes: “He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” 

The Domain of Darkness is not unknown to us; once we were its inhabitants. But instead of leaving us dying in our rebellion, Jesus came to the aid of His enemies, forgiving them just as He forgave those who crucified Him. That is what Paul noted: “[The Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” It was His right to judge all people guilty and to exact punishment, yet Jesus set aside His right and took upon Himself the task of reconciling all people to Himself. Rather than condemn the creation He loved, it was His will “to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” This act of humility—suffering ignominious death by crucifixion—becomes the way that peace is made between God and mankind.

Jesus’ exclusive kingdom comes through preaching of what He has done in His atoning sacrifice, so that people on earth may believe and trust in what He has done for them and receive the benefits. By His kingdom coming, Jesus brings eternal life to all who confess Him to be Lord. He who defeated death will not allow death to have dominion over Him or His realm. He who is ruler over all will put to an end Satan’s rebellion against God and heaven. He who can make all earthly things exist will bestow heavenly, eternal things upon His subjects—gifts that have no end or limit.

Jesus desires all people to be His loving subjects and to bestow His gifts upon them. Though the entire creation and all humanity are under His rule, many live who want to be independent, to be kings themselves, and to join in Satan’s rebellion. Even now, there are people who speak about the LORD and His ways like we heard in the Old Testament Reading: “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” Each of us here in this sanctuary were rebels desiring to be free from God, despite all that He provides for humanity.

The mocking of Jesus by the crowds, soldiers, and criminal—all who thought Jesus to be nothing but an impostor king—actually ends up being a testimony of truth. The punishment deserved by humanity was taken by God Himself. This exchange delivered us from the Domain of Darkness and transferred us to the Jesus’ Kingdom of Light. The supposed execution of a revolutionary is how Jesus obtains a kingdom. We are joined to that act through Baptism, where we die and rise with Jesus. That washing of regeneration, has changed our citizenship. We move from being slaves to sin and Satan to subjects of Christ the King. We who once were rebels and enemies of God have now been made children and heirs of the kingdom.

Those who still are enemies of Jesus point to the crucifixion and say mockingly, “There is your king, your master whom you serve. Look, he isn’t even able to save himself from death.” But we say, “Yes, there is my king, my Lord and my God.” Proudly, we point to the cross and say, “That’s where I should hang for my rebellion, but my Lord is crucified to make me His subject and to save me from death. That’s how He purchased and won me and made me His own.” For we also know that our King did not remain crucified on Calvary. No Pharisee, no Roman soldier, no spiritual entity could keep Jesus in death. Though He once wore a crown of thorns, He now wears the crowns of all kingdoms. Once He was stripped and wore a shabby scarlet robe, now He is robed in glorious splendor. Once He bled blood and water, but now He uses blood and water to draw people to Himself. Crowds cried out for His death, but on the Last Day they will cry out for His mercy.

That’s why we can boldly say: “Yes, there is my king and Lord on that cross. Yes, He was hanged on a cross and laid in a tomb, but He was raised back to life. His resurrection demonstrated His mastery over all things, even death. His majesty and glory was further shown by His ascension into heaven and His cession at the right hand of God almighty. The pitiful sight of a Jewish man hanging on a cross has been replaced by the glorious scene of the resurrected, perfect Son of Man who now sits in heavenly glory.”

So today, the Church, Christ’s dominion, rejoices in its King. We honor the King who came to earth in the lowliest form of an infant born in a building meant for animals. We worship the King who humbled Himself to the point of death. We pledge our allegiance to the King who remains with His people. We place all our hope in the King who creates and sustains the entire world. We trust the King  who continues to serve us by bringing His benefits in simple, earthly forms of water and bread and wine. And we praise the King who is worshiped eternally by the choirs of angels: risen, ascended, and glorified.

Fellow subjects of Jesus, join in the worship with all angels, heavens, powers, cherubim, and seraphim; the apostles, prophets, and martyrs. Join them in their worship of Christ the King, your King.  For worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be His people, His royal priesthood, His faithful subjects. To Christ the King be glory now and forever!

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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