Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sermon: John 19:14 Behold Your King

I’m sure you’re aware by now that this is the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, sixty years on the throne in this country. It’s been hard to miss the TV coverage, the special documentaries, the news reports as she begins to tour the country. As we approach the special bank holiday weekend in June, we’ll see a lot more of her.

In the United Kingdom, we know what royalty looks like. Just think back to the royal wedding last year - the pomp and ceremony, the royal robes and crowns, the majestic appearance.

Today, as we get near to Good Friday and Easter, I want to focus on just three words from John’s Gospel 19:14. They are words spoken by the Roman governor of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate on the morning of Good Friday, at the trial of a very special prisoner. The words are: ‘Behold your king.’

As he says these words, he points to the man who looks nothing like a king. The man who is a prisoner, having been arrested the night before, who has already faced a trial in front of the Jewish council, and now stands before the governor. The prisoner has been flogged, his back ripped to shreds by the whip; his face and body beaten by the Roman soldiers. Blood runs down his face from the crown of thorns placed on his head; A purple robe is wrapped around him, a mockery of his kingship.

It’s at this moment that Pilate declares those words: ‘Behold your king.’ The words are directed towards the Jewish people, the people of Israel, who had long been expecting and hoping and longing for God’s promised king to come and rescue them. The same people who had welcomed Jesus just a few days before, as he entered Jersualem, declaring ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’

Those voices of praise and hope have turned now to voices of condemnation. The cry now is ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ We shouldn’t be surprised. You see, right back at the very start of John’s Gospel, we’re told that ‘He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.’

Jesus, the rightful king, the long-promised king, is rejected by the people who should have welcomed him. They have turned away, amazingly declaring that ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ In rejecting Jesus, they side with the world, and identify with the hated occupying army. They want nothing to do with Jesus, they want to get rid of him.

If we’re honest, we find ourselves in the same crowd. We too cry out the same thing - ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him.’ We too are rebels against the great king; we too side with the world against God’s king. We too turn away.

‘Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
call out among the scoffers.’

As we hear those words of Pilate, let’s consider this king. Just think for a moment, as we behold our king. Who is this prisoner, this king? This is the Word, who was with God and who is God - the word who became flesh and dwelt among us. The one who describes himself in these ways: ‘I am the bread of life.’ ‘I am the light of the world.’ ‘I am the door for the sheep.’ ‘I am the good shepherd.’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ ‘I am the true vine.’

This is the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, who reigned with the Father from before the foundation of the world. The king long promised, who came into the world that he made because of his great love for us, even when we turned away for him.

This is the king who willingly came to die for the rebels, to save them from his wrath and bring them into his family, into his kingdom. What amazing love, that he would give up his life to save us, as Paul says, ‘when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

Earlier I mentioned John 1 - let me continue there to find the contrast, the great offer of the gospel to each one of us: ‘He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’

So again, as we approach this Easter season, let those words of Pilate go deep into your heart - as you are confronted with the amazing love of Jesus for you, demonstrated by the lengths to which he went in order to save and rescue you - as you marvel at the cost he paid to redeem you, not with gold or silver but his own precious blood - look with the eye of faith and take in the scene, the crown of thorns, the purple robe, the blood and sweat and tears, the agony of the cross: ‘Behold your King!’

I wonder how you will respond to the Lord Jesus. You see, there are just two responses to the king. You can either reject him, and remain as a rebel, or you can receive him as king. To not decide is to decide against him.

It’s up to you to decide on your response to this King. But if you reject him, you must realise that you remain his enemy, and will one day have to deal with him. You see, Jesus is no longer the prisoner; no longer is he clad in the mocking soldier’s robe; no longer does he wear the crown of thorns - the head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now; no longer does he stand on trial in Pilate’s courtyard; now he is seated at the right hand of the Father; the work of redemption complete, he reigns at the Father’s side on his throne, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus is the King, who still bears those wounds of love. Will you recognise him as your king, even today? Will you thank him for his love; his sacrifice of himself to save you? As you behold your king, your life will never be the same again. You must submit to the king, allow him to rule over every aspect of your life - not just your soul, but over your family life, your wallet, your job, your holidays, your free time, the things you watch and read, the places you go. [Is Jesus king of all, or not king at all?]

For all of us, there are strongholds in our hearts and lives, those places we want to hold on to - areas of rebellion and sin where we want to keep Jesus out. Come again, and see the great love and grace of the Lord Jesus, who died for all of your sins, to pay the price and bring you into his kingdom. Submit to him - behold your king!

This talk was preached at the Men's Breakfast in Brookeborough Methodist Church on Saturday 31st March 2012.

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