Talk for 22nd November

Reflection for Sunday 22nd November 2020

Rev Margaret Cranston: Christ the King


Today is the last Sunday before Advent Sunday, a day when the church celebrates ‘Christ the King’.

We have the benefit of hindsight, teaching and knowledge  about Jesus resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit but if we look in the gospels it must have been very confusing to those first disciples. There wasn’t much evidence that Jesus was a king, just a few hints towards the fact.

One instance at the beginning of Jesus life was when the wise men turn up at Herod’s palace asking,  “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [Matthew 2:2] They find the baby and even though he is not in a palace and doesn’t seem to have royal parents they have no doubt that this is the king they have been sent to worship.

At the beginning of Jesus ministry, as he is calling his disciples, Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” [John 1:49]

And nearing the end of his life Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. As Jesus hung on the cross “There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.” [Luke 23:3, 38]

But what sort of a King was Jesus? He didn’t live like a king, speak like a king, rule like a king or act like a king.

Graham Kendrick sums it up like this

From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King

We are called to follow Jesus’ example of being a ‘Servant King’

Let’s look at our gospel reading.

In this passage Jesus is referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’ who will return one day as king and ruler of all the earth. Judgement Day!

Many people in the world say that if God is a God of love then how can he allow people to go to eternal hell? But God gave us ‘free choice’. We are not robots. We can choose to go our own way or to go God’s way.

We also need to take this passage in context with other passages in the Bible. The New Testament clearly teaches that we are saved by the grace of God because of what Jesus did when he died for us on the cross. We are not saved by our good works. This passage is not telling us that we need to earn our Salvation!

Rather, I think this passage is saying that if we are a saved people we will love God because of what he has done for us and the way we behave will reflect what is going on in our hearts.

Here, the righteous are those who are so much in the habit of caring for other people that they don’t even realise they are doing it. There is no boasting about what they have done. ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The unrighteous are those who don’t notice the needs of those around them and don’t think about helping them.  ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

To me, it seems that it is not so much a conscious decision but a way of life.

It is difficult for us in this country to picture a shepherd separating sheep and goats – sheep are big white woolly things that live in flocks in fields, goats are thin brown scrawny things that eccentrics keep and that roam free in Valley of the Rocks. But in Nepal sheep and goats look very similar, kept for their meat and milk and they graze together on the hillsides. Sometimes they are very difficult to tell apart. One clue is that goat’s tails go up and sheep’s tails go down. Only the shepherd can separate them.

I’ve had people say to me “So and so is a good person and always helping people but won’t have anything to do with church and doesn’t believe in God.” What will happen to them when they die?

I don’t think Jesus is telling us this story so that we can judge our neighbour. No one knows what is in the heart of another. Christ the King, is the only judge and there will be surprises in heaven who is there and who is not. But rather it is for each one of us to stop and take note as to which side we would stand on judgement day.

Our reading from Ephesians gives us enormous encouragement. Paul, having heard of their faith is praying constantly for the Ephesians. He talks about the power that each one of us who believes has. “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.” [Ephesians 1:19-21]

As we look forward to Advent and Christmas let’s pause and think of one or two people to pray for using Paul’s prayer.

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

This our God, The Servant King, He calls us now to follow Him                      


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