“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Amen.” (Revelation 5:12)

 

This is the King’s Chapel located in the heart of Boston:

 

This is the King’s Chapel burial ground, formerly the public cemetery (right), located right next to the chapel. Do you notice anything strange about the cemetery?

 

The grave stones are all squished together! Here’s what happened. Back in 1688, after the city had been settled, King James II thought he should probably have a church in the city. So he offered to buy land from any of the residents so he could build a church, but they refused. So what would you expect a king with power to do? Use his power to get his way! And that’s exactly what James did. He took the public burial ground, dug up the grave stones and squished them altogether. There, now there’s land to build a chapel on! The King always gets his way. Right?

 

Today, we’re celebrating “Christ the King” Sunday. We are celebrating Jesus’ rule of all things all for our good. We are celebrating how Jesus is in control of all things and nothing is outside of his control…it begs the question, doesn’t it? If nothing is outside of Jesus’ control as King, then how is there so much bad, evil stuff out there? “If you’re in control, Jesus, how come houses don’t crumble on the heads of Isis terrorists before they can unleash their evil? Why don’t you inflict fatal heart attacks on corrupt cops and judges and pastors? Why can’t you fix the emotional, physical or mental issues that afflict me or my kid? Why did you let her die? Why can’t you just move some gravestones in my life like James II so that I can have what I want? If you are King, explain yourself!” And we put our King, Jesus, on trial for his kingship and how he rules.

 

If you really think about it, that’s a little like an infant challenging his mother on her parenting technique, but here’s something beautiful: Jesus allows us to put him on trial today just like he allowed Pilate to do so long ago.  It’s so backwards. Pilate sits on the judgement seat and Jesus sits in the defendant’s chair. But Jesus lets the trial go down anyway.  Pilate says, “Tell me, are you the king of the Jews?” All Pilate cares about is “Are you a threat to my power?” Pilate doesn’t get it. Jesus is not like any other king in this world. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world (i.e. I’m not a threat to Caesar!). If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus’ goal has nothing to do with earthly power. And neither does his goal for you. This is the first thing we need to realize when answering “Why doesn’t Jesus use his power to do away with evil?” Because his goal for you in not a palace here, but a mansion in heaven. And he loves you enough to allow whatever it takes to break you away from this world and get you there!  

 

It’s not a concept Jesus would expect Pilate to get on the first hearing, but he does expect us to…even if we’re a little slow to pick up on it. Remember when Jesus was arrested that night? The soldiers show up in Gethsemane and Jesus shows he’s in total control, making the soldiers fall back at the mere mention of his name. Then Jesus gives the firm command to those arresting him to let his disciples go. Jesus was in total control. Certainly it should have been comforting to his disciples who had been with him for three years and knew that this is what Jesus said must happen to him. But then Peter takes a sword and lops off one of the soldier’s ears. How encouraging it is that Jesus didn’t turn to the soldiers and say, “I changed my mind, take him.” Instead he says to Peter, “Okay, Peter. Let’s go over the Gospel one more time.  I must drink the cup my Father has given me…” If Jesus had wanted fighting, he could have called on legions of angels to make quick work of those soldiers. But he didn’t. Because that wasn’t  Jesus’ goal. His goal was to get you to heaven, remember? Peter’s not the only one who forgets that.  

 

That means that Jesus, our King, doesn’t always move the grave stones away so that you can get what you want. He loves you too much for that. If Jesus goal for your life was this temporal world and giving you your best life now, then we could fully expect him to do away with evil and give us everything our heart desires. But Jesus kingdom is not of this world and neither are his designs for you. Jesus sees this world as a sinking ship and he has dear children, you and me, on this ship. If he made life on this sinking ship totally free from trouble and pain, would we ever want to leave? No. Instead, like a good King who wants to lead his people home, he allows troubles to slide our feet across the deck toward the lifeboat; he allows death and sickness into our lives to pry our fingers off the guard rails of the ship; he allows atrocities of the worst kind to happen to change our view of this world, to get us to realize, this ship is sinking and Jesus, our King, is the only one who can save us.

Friends, Jesus needs us to realize, as one Christian author put it, that everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date. Let me say that again: Everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date. What is eternal? In one word: souls. Jesus, my king, help me to do all I can to feed my soul, the souls of my kids, the souls of my friends and family and neighbors because I know that house and car and marriage and friends and reputation and job and land will all pass away, but the souls in my life will not. Help me to follow you, O King, in your saving goal. So, one part of the answer to “Why doesn’t Jesus use his power to do away with evil” is because his goal is for you to be in heaven no matter what.

 

The other part of the answer has to do with this: Power doesn’t do away with evil. Only truth can do that. Listen to how Jesus goes on: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Truth is the only thing that can truly change hearts and minds. Jesus is saying that only truth can have a profound impact on this world.  

 

You can make all the laws in the world, but if people’s hearts and minds are unconvinced that they want to follow them, laws do no good. You must first convince them at their core. Laws don’t change hearts, truth does. And we need to remember that. Look back just at the history of our country to see how true that is. Just because laws were enacted that gave civil rights to all races, did that mean that all were convinced in their hearts. No, it took preachers like Martin Luther King Jr. proclaiming the truth to change hearts.

Notice he carried no sword. I just saw this story about Brazil’s government tightening restrictions on legal abortions. Outside picketing for abortion rights are mothers carrying their apparently unwanted children. Do you think those laws change attitudes toward murder in the womb? No, in fact, a Brazilian woman dies every 4 days from an illegal abortion. What is the one thing that can change hearts, the one truly powerful thing? Truth. Not picket signs, not legislation, not the right people in office. It’s you and me, holding out Jesus’ loving hand of truth. It’s how our King rules. 

 

A Pastor and parishioner walked to the gallows together. The parishioner stood above the trap door. Moments later, it would open to rope him into eternity. An officer asked him if he had any final words. “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,” he said. He turned toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul and he said, “I’ll see you again.” Then he dropped out of this world into another. What does that have to do with this sermon? Just this: the parishioner was among the most hated men in human history, one of Hitler’s confidants, guilty of some of the worst atrocities. Yet in the months in prison awaiting trial, a visiting Lutheran pastor used Jesus’ truth to transform him from Hitler’s wolf into Christ’s lamb.

 

It’s the very thing Jesus was trying to do in our text for his own murderer. Watch him reach for one more last second disciple as he says to Pontius Pilate: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” As if to say, this truth is for you, too. Then hours later, watch him reach for you when he reached for the cross, gripping it like a prize. Jesus is the only One in the history of the world who had the power to stop the pain, but he didn’t. He gave up his power for you. Jesus loves you beyond all telling. He was willing to stand there before Pilate, kneel there before the crowds, and hang there from a tree. Here is a true King. One that doesn’t force me to believe with his power, but wins my heart with his love and truth. And now he shows us how to please him and extend his rule: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

 

Listen to me. If you try to get kids to listen to you, it can feel like a losing battle (I know parents, I really blew your mind with that one ). But every once in a while, the kid will listen and do it just right and you’ll see dad’s face light up and they’ll say something like “That’s my girl…that’s my boy.” When the child see the delight in dad’s eyes, the child will squeal and jump into his arms – there is nothing more satisfying than seeing delight on the face of mom or dad. And the Bible says you were built to get that from God – we were built as sons and daughters on the side of truth to listen to him. He delights in it…and he uses it.

 

What do we do when our world gets shaken by terrible tragedies like the Isis attacks in Paris this week? Do we fight the evil? Certainly God gives us government to protect its people and punish the wrong doer. Yes, justice needs to be served. But as individual citizens? I don’t know if you saw the touching interview of a French father with his young son. The son says, “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really, really mean daddy.” The father says looking at all of the floral bouquets being laid down, “They might have guns, but we have flowers.” “But flowers don’t do anything?” Objects the son. “Sure they do,” said the father, “they are to fight against the guns.” The son thought about it for a moment and said, “So the flowers are here to protect us…I feel better.” Do you see what the father was saying there? Guns and force aren’t going to change things, only truth and love will. Its way more powerful than power. And Jesus delights in it.

 

This Monday, I asked for prayer requests in confirmation class. Students requested prayers for the victims of the Paris attacks. That’s a beautiful thing. Then one student asked for a prayer for the terrorists still out there that they would come to know what they’re doing is wrong and to hear about Jesus so they know they are forgiven…And the King smiled because his child understood the answer to “Why.”  We have a King like no other. We have a King from out of this world. His goal is to get you and as many as possible to heaven. His way to get us there is through his truth. Long live the King! Amen. 

 

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever! Amen.”   (Revelation 5:13)