St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Behold Your King

Sermon on Matthew 27:27-31

Text: Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

It is hard for us in the United States to understand the concept of a king. We elect our leaders. Our president can, at most, lead for eight years. Kings and queens reign until they step aside for the next king or queen. While we have some pageantry that accompanies the office of the president, it seems minor when compared to what you see when there is a royal wedding or some other occasion. We have difficulties understanding what it means to honor a king. This morning, however, we have opportunity to do just that. We are here to honor a king. Yet, it is not just any king. It is the King of kings, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Dear fellow subjects, BEHOLD YOUR KING 1. In All Of His Humility and 2. In All Of His Majesty.

When we look at Jesus in this account, it is difficult to think of him as a king. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had just ordered that Jesus be crucified. By this point, Jesus had been arrested and falsely accused by his countrymen. He had been mistreated at their hands. He had been found worthy of death, according to them. He had been whipped by the Romans, hoping to evoke sympathy from the crowds. Instead, all that was heard were the words, “Crucify him!” Rather than facing an angry mob, Pilate gave in to their demands. Before the sentence was carried out, the Roman soldiers decided that they were going to have some fun with this prisoner.

The soldiers took Jesus to a part of the governor’s palace and called together the whole company of soldiers. This company would have numbered between six hundred and a thousand men. All of them gathered to make fun of this Jew. They had heard the accusations by his countrymen, that he claimed to be a king. Well, if he was a king, they were going to treat him as a king. Instead of the purple robe of royalty, a faded scarlet robe would do the trick. A king needs a crown, so they gave him a crown. However, instead of the crown being made of gold and decorated with jewels, the soldiers took a thorn plant and wove the branches together. They took that crown and put it on Jesus’ head. A king needs a scepter as a symbol of his power. Instead of a golden scepter, a reed or a stick was placed in Jesus’ hands. When you came into the presence of a king, you would bow low to the ground and honor him. The soldiers, too, bowed before Jesus and cried out, “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Then, we are told that they spit upon him. They took the stick in his hand and struck him on the head again and again, driving the thorns of that crown deeper and deeper into his head. They hit him. They made fun of him. Scriptures do not record for us exactly what was said to him. We shudder to think what may have been said to him and about him. A mob was there mistreating Jesus, making fun of Jesus, abusing Jesus. Finally, the soldiers finished their “fun” with Jesus. They took off the scarlet robe and put his own clothes back on Jesus. It was time to move on to the crucifixion, the most shameful and excruciating execution available under Roman law.

When we hear about these events, we might ask ourselves, “This is a King? He certainly does not look like one to me.” In reality, he does not appear as much of a king, at this point in time, until we do a little further investigating. First of all, we see that all that happened to Jesus was in fulfillment of many different prophecies in the Old Testament. For example, we read in Isaiah 50:6, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Everything that Jesus endured happened as it was supposed to happen. This shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the prophecies going back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, as we are reminded in Isaiah 50:5, this all happened according to his Father’s will. There we read, “The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious; I have not turned away.” Jesus knew that this was all part of his Father’s plan. Because he is an obedient Son, he was willing to do everything that his Father wanted, even though it meant being subjected to this type of mistreatment. He was willing to follow his Father’s will, even though it would mean being put to death on the cross.

This begs the question, “Why? Why would Jesus subject himself to this?” For the answer, we need look no further than the mirror. It was for you that he did all of this. It was because of me that he did this. He did this because, otherwise, we would have had to face the punishment ourselves. The fact is that, though we often like to think we are pretty good people, we are still sinners. We break God’s law time and again. We do so when we put our ways ahead of God’s ways. We know what God wants us to do, but we choose to do the opposite. God says that we are to keep a righteous tongue in our mouths. We say things that should not be said. It might be in the form of running down someone else. It might be in the form of language that should not be used. God wants to have the first place in our hearts and lives. He wants to be King there. Yet, so often we allow other things to take that place. We put the pleasures and treasures of the world there. We put human relationships there. For all of these offenses, as well as a host of others, we deserve to be put out of God’s kingdom forever in hell.

Yet, it is exactly for this reason that the King of kings left his throne of glory and came to earth. He came to live perfectly according to his Father’s will, as we said earlier. He also came to be punished in our place. When all of those insults and other abuses were being heaped upon Jesus, he was suffering for us. When he spent those hours of torture on the cross, he was being punished for us. When he died, he died the death that we deserved. When Jesus rose from the dead, he showed to you and me that our debt of sin before his Father was paid for in full and, as a result, we have eternal life. This is your King, a king who loved you so much that he was willing to do whatever it took so that you would be in his kingdom for all eternity in heaven. Behold your King in all of his humility, so that you can live with him in glory.

The apostle Paul speaks of the fact that Jesus’ humiliation has been completed. We read in Philippians 2:8-11, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Because he has finished his work of rescuing the world from its sins, the Father has exalted Jesus. We also read in Ephesians 1:19-21, “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Jesus rules over all things. He truly is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Our king is not just sitting on some throne somewhere. He is actively ruling in our hearts. He guides and directs our lives. He is also in control of the events of the world. We have this assurance from Ephesians 1:22&23, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Everything that happens to us is not just some sort of unrelated events. Jesus rules the world and everything that happens to us is for our benefit, though we may not always understand how. Yet, we have this assurance that he is not a heartless tyrant, who uses us for his amusement. Because we know how much he loves us, we can confidently say with Paul in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Our King is still active in our lives.

At this moment, we can only partially see the majesty of our King. The time will come when we will be able to see our King in all of his glory. This will be when we stand before his throne in heaven. We get a glimpse of this in Revelation 7:9-12, where John is granted a glimpse into the heavenly throne room: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’” What an amazing sight that we will behold as Jesus Christ, our King, sits in all of his heavenly glory! All of our days we will behold our King in all of his majesty.

It is good for us to be reminded of Jesus Christ as our King. So often, our minds tend to think only of his life of humiliation. Indeed, his life of humiliation is absolutely vital for our salvation. If he had not come to earth in that fashion the first time, we would have every reason to be terrified to think of Jesus as our almighty King. Yet, let us also be reminded that he is our King. Let us, out of thankfulness for all that he has done for us, give ourselves in service to him. May we with our actions and words and thoughts bend the knee and behold our King. We do so, looking forward to the time, when we will behold our King in all of his majesty. Amen.