Christ the King
Christ the King
Today is New Year’s Eve!
Every calendar that we follow has a rhythm. Think about the school calendar for example. September is the beginning of the year, filled with back to school shopping, orientation, and much anticipation. The mundane is broken by Xmas break and spring break, and then we get to June, which is the end of the year. By then the kids are all but checked out (especially the seniors), and they’re ready for summer. The same is true for the Western calendar year. We begin in January with new years resolutions. We follow the rhythm of winter, spring, summer, and fall, until we find our selves back in the holidays preparing for another new year.
Historically the Christian church has kept a liturgical calendar. It begins every year with Advent. Advent begins next Sunday as we spend four weeks anticipating the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then we move into Xmas-tide, or what has become known popularly as the 12 days of Xmas. That ends on Epiphany, which leads us to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is a span of 40 days where we intentionally identify with the suffering of Christ. The culmination of Lent is Holy week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and of course, Easter Sunday. The Easter season then lasts 6 weeks until Pentecost. Pentecost begins ordinary time, which lasts all the way until today.
This morning is the last Sunday in the season of Pentecost. Ordinary time ends next Sunday as we begin a new church year with Advent. And the church historically has always celebrated the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar as Christ the King Sunday. This morning we stand in that great tradition with believers from the past who served King Jesus. So let’s look at the most quoted OT passage in the NT and see what the Scripture has to reveal to us about Christ our King.
The first thing we notice is the superscript. It’s important to remember that superscripts in the Psalter are inspired Scripture. Often times they help us interpret the Psalms. We see 2 things in this superscript. First it is a psalm. Psalms are songs or poems that were used in Israel’s congregational worship. This would’ve been sung just as we sang this morning. But the second item of note is that it is of David. David was the greatest king Israel has ever known. He was their greatest military mind, and more importantly, the Scripture says that he was a man after God’s own heart. Psalm 110 was a congregational song written by the king of Israel.
We live at a unique point in human history. The American story begins with rebellion against a king, and we’ve lived some 240 years now without a king. The theme of king and kingdom are dominant in the story of the Bible. When God created everything in Genesis 1-2, he gave Adam dominion over the world. Adam was to be the image of the true king YHWH, and rule as his vice-regent. After the fall everything changes. While man is still charged with the cultural mandate, it is now from a fallen position.
When Israel was led out of slavery in Egypt and made a nation by YHWH, they were given no king for the LORD was to be there king. When God allows them to have a king they choose poorly and Saul doesn’t last long. At this point we’re introduced to David who enters the story as an unimpressive shepherd. God turns David into a mighty king and now from a place of unprecedented military and geographic power, David pens these words.
Verse 1 says, The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” At this point an Israelite singing in congregational worship had to be a bit confused. This verse can be a bit confusing in English, it will be helpful for us to hear it in Hebrew: יְהוָ֨ה says to my אָדוֹן:”Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” YHWH says to my Lord. Again this was a baffling statement because David uses the 1st person singular pronoun. He says YHWH says to my Lord. In Israel David would have no “Lord;” he would have no king or ruler, historically and existentially speaking.
David says that this true and better King will be powerful. His mighty scepter will come from YHWH in Zion. He will rule in the midst of enemies. The gates of his enemies will not prevail against his kingdom. He will garner the affections of his own people. They will offer themselves freely. Not only that, but they will be in holy garments. This king will sanctify his people. How is that possible? David tells us that this king will not merely be a king, but he will also be a priest. In Israel these were 2 separate offices. The monarchy descended from the line of Judah, and the priesthood from the line of Levi. But this king-priest will not be Levitical, he will be after the order of Melchizedek. He will be of a line that precedes the nation of Israel. This king will not just be a blessing to his own people, but he will also be a destroyer of evil. He will shatter the evil kings; he will execute judgment among the rebellious nations.
Israel sang this song for years, but no one dared to ask the question, why does David call him my Lord? Until one day there was an Israelite who did. Luke tells us in chapter 20.41-42 that Jesus of Nazareth spoke up one day:
41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”
Jesus asks how can there be a son of David who is greater than David? No one yet has an answer. In Matthew’s Gospel the scribes and Pharisees get upset and they quit asking him questions. In Mark’s Gospel, the followers of Jesus rejoice, but no answer is given. Until after Jesus dies on the cross, resurrects from the dead, and ascends to heaven. At that point Luke tells us of the sermon that Peter preached at Pentecost.
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Jesus Christ is the true and final king. He is the one who is currently sitting at the right hand of God, a position he earned because he lived the sinless life, died as a substitute for his people, and resurrected and ascended in power. Jesus is the true king who rules now in the midst of his enemies. He rules in his church, even as the world rejects him. His people freely offer themselves to him after he changes their hearts. We are the ones now dressed in holy garments as we are sanctified by his word. Jesus is the eternal priest from the order of Melchizedek. He intercedes for his people, as he is in session at the right hand of the Father almighty.
Jesus is the true righteous king who destroys evil. He’s doing it now as he kills sin in our hearts. He’s done it for centuries, as his church has been a light in the darkness, preaching the word and administering the sacraments. He’s been destroying evil through the mercy ministry that his church has done for 2 millennia. It’s no coincidence that a majority of hospitals around the world have names like “Saint so-and-so,” ascension, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist. The church has been serving the world since its inception.
But all of this still happens in a fallen world. It is not until King Jesus returns that he will execute perfect and final justice. He will finally destroy Satan, sin, and death, and make everything sad untrue. You’ll notice in verse 6 the ESV says that the king will shatter chiefs over the wide earth, but look at the note next to the word chiefs. There at the bottom it says that the word can be translated “head.” That’s the Hebrew word רֹ֝֗אשׁ. For a Jew singing this in Hebrew that word would’ve been familiar. He will bruise your head (Gen 3.15). The serpent and all of his seed will be brought to justice when King Jesus arrives. He is the true and better David.
At this point I have only one question for us this morning, are you following King Jesus. He is the king; no one makes him king. Verse 3 says that his people offer themselves freely. Have you offered yourself to King Jesus? Are you trusting in his rule as your king and priest? Has he made your garments holy? If not, hear the good news, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. Transfer your trust this morning and follow the king you were created to worship.
Jesus Christ is the King. He’s not simply the king of my heart, though he is that, he is also the King of the world. As the great Xmas carol declares, “”He rules the world with truth and grace.” Not only is Jesus the king of my heart, and the king of the world, but most importantly, he’s the king of his church. The reason that we end the liturgical year with Christ the King Sunday is because this is the teleological and eschatological reality. Jesus is the king now, and he will return to rule the world forever. So next week as we consider Advent together, as we celebrate this baby who has come, let us never divorce the manger from the throne. Baby Jesus is Christ the King. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. And because that’s true, we can truly say that this is a happy New Years Eve!