35The people stood watching. The rulers were ridiculing him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, the Chosen One!”
36The soldiers also made fun of him. Coming up to him, they offered him sour wine, 37saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38There was also an inscription written above him: “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals hanging there was blaspheming him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same condemnation? 41We are punished justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”
43Jesus said to him, “Amen I tell you: Today you will be with me in paradise.”Luke 23:35-43
Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year. During the year we’ve talked about Jesus’ birth, his suffering and death, resurrection, ascension and received practical application to our lives during the year. Today we get to talk about Christ the King! Do you find it somewhat surprising that we should have Luke’s account of Jesus on the cross as the Word we meditate on for Christ the King? How can this be a celebration? Wouldn’t it make more sense to for us to read about Jesus turning water into wine, feeding the 5 thousand, raising Jairus daughter from the dead or even hear about Peter, James and John with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration? Now, these are accounts of Jesus where we can see his power and glory worthy of a King!
But, if you think the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is the perfect account to meditate on today, you’re in the minority. Most casual observers of the cross would think it horrific that a Father would send his Son to die on a cross. We can’t help looking at the cross and remembering that it was our sins that placed him there. The cross is the place where Jesus shows us his selflessness, service and sacrifice! So, why are we climbing the hill back to Golgotha, Calvary, the Place of the Skull on Christ the King Sunday? Because here Jesus did something that no one else could. Because here at the cross Jesus our King won the greatest victory and shows the greatest power of his kingdom! Yes, let’s go approach Jesus under the shadow of the cross and
Celebrate His Crowns At The Cross!
Crowns he wears as King
The past few weeks the leaders of our nation have been in the spotlight for governing our nation. No matter who the president is there are those who like his rule and those who don’t. Same in Jesus’ day. There were also those who recognized that when Jesus came, fulfilling all the OT prophecies, that he was that promised Messiah. Yet, when Jesus formally announced that he was the Son of God from heaven and gained lots of attention, many lost their faith in him as their bread king, political king, Commander in Chief, and powerful king. Those who once followed him turned on Jesus to be heard screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). Jesus’ crucifixion was the obvious sign of being rejected as their Savior, promised Prophet, mediating Priest and glorious King. In their eyes, and in the eyes of the casual observer today, Jesus came, but didn’t do his job.
But, thanks be to God, there were witnesses to the facts of what Jesus’ did, and those who also had been taught by God’s Word so they could see what God saw happening. Luke was like a cameraman who captured how the various people around the cross worked to rip away the crowns from Jesus. His camera zooms out to a wide angle and captures this for us: “35The people stood watching.” Imagine their thoughts. “What has happened to the forceful hands that healed us? They are now nailed to a cross! OR What happened to the vibrant voice that cast our demons? Now, you can barely hear him gasping for air!” The people standing around physically watching him die saw the Bread King Crown they have fashioned for Jesus tumbling off his head into the dust under the cross through their eyes of faith.
Luke zooms in a little closer: “The rulers were ridiculing him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, the Chosen One!” These religious leaders didn’t doubt at all what happened to Jesus’ crown. They knew Scriptures, after all! Maybe they recalled Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I am placing my Spirit on him. He will announce a just verdict for the nations.” Since the Jewish nation was under Roman rule, these leaders were not convinced Jesus was their Messiah. But, wait, Jesus had saved others from difficult situations before. If he could just save himself now, maybe they’d be impressed. Sadly, they physically watched him die and saw political crown they had fashioned for Jesus tumbling off his head into the dust under the cross through their eyes of faith.
Luke zooms out some more and what do we find: “36The soldiers also made fun of him. Coming up to him, they offered him sour wine, 37saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Can you imagine a battle at sea with the enemy ship about to sink with a banner hanging off the stern that read, “We won!” That is laughable. Well, Luke zoomed into to the place over Jesus’ head that had such a banner: “38There was also an inscription written above him: “This is the King of the Jews.” No doubt Pilate thought he would have a little fun with the Jewish leaders. You see, every criminal would have a sign over their heads so people would know for which crimes they were being crucified. He and the soldiers were mocking Jesus and all the Jews with this sign: “Here’s your king. Of all the people you puny Jews decide to pick on for being your king, you force me to crucify this man! Really!” The message for those standing around was this: This Jesus is not king, he’s a joke… and sadly, they watched him die and saw the Commander and Chief crown they had fashioned for Jesus tumbling off his head into the dust under the cross through their eyes of faith.
Luke zooms in some more. To a man crucified next to Jesus. “39One of the criminals hanging there was blaspheming him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” This thief saw power as most other people do. “There is no power over sorrow for sin!” There was no repentance at all. He did get sucked into what the world sees is power. People who get angry with God deep down feel God owes them something. He just wants Jesus to save his skin, not his soul. Sadly, he watched Jesus die and saw the power crown he had fashioned for Jesus tumbling off his head into the dust under the cross through his eyes of faith.
What crowns have you fashioned to put on the head of Jesus? Consider all he has done for you, the promises made and the gifts he has given. Yet, do you chose to be thankful, content and so eager to worship and praise your King, or chose to watch the crowns of grace, providence, health, wealth, forgiveness, eternal life, and deliverance from the devil give way to the crowns you have fashioned for Jesus and watch them tumble off his head in doubt and unbelief? Then, let us repent and come back to the cross of Jesus and see in faith the crowns he wears for you! Remember the crown of his promise to crush Satan’s power for you, the crown to wash all your sins away, and the crown of grace to love you into eternity! Come back to the cross and recognize that it was our sins that caused him to suffer and die. Come back to the cross and believe that Jesus wears the crown of his perfect life that paid the penalty of all our sins so you might live!
Celebrate the Crowns Jesus wears at the Cross for you! Through your eyes of faith see our God of faithful love, of forgiving grace, or eternal joy, hope and peace. Now, if Jesus is willing to wear all of these crowns and suffer and die for you, how joyfully you can celebrate the
Crowns he wins as Crucified
To observe these crowns, Luke, our cameraman pans his view over to one more person near Jesus—the other criminal. We’re not sure what their high crimes were to deserve such a horrible death. We would suspect they were horrible crimes. “40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same condemnation?” Shocking! But, just consider a moment what Luke tells us. This man realized that he was getting his just punishment for his crimes as the nails were being pounded into his hands and feet. But, earlier he heard and saw what happened to Jesus. “32 Two other men, who were criminals, were led away with Jesus to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him there with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:32-34). He heard Jesus ask his Father in heaven to forgive people who did such horrible things. Could he also be forgiven for his horrific sins before a just and holy God? The criminal knew he was getting exactly what he deserved—the crown of punishment then, and fearfully facing the eternal punishment from God—that he also knew full well he deserved! So, he confesses, “41We are punished justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong.” His commentary pierced the fog of unbelievers swarming around the cross. The crown he saw through his eyes of faith on Jesus’ head was the crown of forgiveness Jesus was winning for him as his crucified Savior! He knew what he deserved. He knew how badly he had rebelled against a holy and just God. And there, at the cross his Savior was just a whisper away! “42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”
There on the cross this criminal knew the crown he was earning for himself was just and deserved. There was only one hope—the mercy of Jesus. That was the crown of forgiveness Jesus earned in his place. It was a crown he desperately needed and heard, “43Jesus said to him, “Amen I tell you: Today you will be with me in paradise.” There it is. The Word of Christ the King to this man, and to us all. Jesus gives us the crown of forgiveness! No matter what horrible sin of the past, the petty sins of the present, or the sins of tomorrow—they are all forgiven by Jesus. So, join me at the cross. Celebrate Jesus who won that crown of righteousness for you. Celebrate Jesus who gives you the crowns of forgiveness, eternal life and deliverance from the devil for you. Celebrate the King of Kings!
So, maybe now you’re in agreement with me that on Christ the King Sunday we don’t talk about the glorious miracles Jesus performed while living here, but we get to come close to the cross and see through our eyes of faith the glory of the cross! Today we shout with joy to Celebrate the King of Kings who won our crowns as sons and daughter of the King! Amen!