He is the KingPastor Lutzer | December 29, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
It was prophesied long ago that Jesus would be King, and we are still awaiting the fullness of His reign in the coming Millennium. Even now, He is the King, though His rule is not recognized by the earthly regimes.
But why is His reign important? Our King came with humility, victory and authority in order that we might be set free from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light. Since He is the King of Kings, we can trust Him with our daily troubles and pains!
Jesus is the King! What does that mean for us and why should our lives be changed as a result of that truth? I’ve been praying that as a result of this message that we are going to be presenting today that after it’s over our burdens are going to be lighter, and our troubled conscience is going to be at rest.
This is number four in a series of messages entitled Who Is He In Yonder Stall? We’ve learned that the baby in the manger is the Son of God. He is the Savior. He’s a light to the Gentiles. And today we’re going to learn that He is indeed the King, not just the King of the Jews, but also ultimately the King of the Universe.
In order to get into the text would you take your Bibles and turn to that passage in the second chapter of the book of Matthew. It’s very familiar. It’s one that takes places after Christmas, as all of us know, but in Matthew 2 we have this amazing story that oftentimes has intrigued us.
It says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? (There’s the phrase – King of the Jews.) For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”’”
I’m going to read just that far in this marvelous, intriguing story. We don’t know a lot about these wise men, the Magi. For example, we don’t know how many there were. Oftentimes we sing about three, you know “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Three kings? I don’t believe that for a moment. I think that there was a whole entourage. And the reason we must believe that is if they came from Persia, which is modern day Iran, actually as a plane flies it’s about 500 miles, but by caravan it would be a thousand miles because of the winding roads and the hills that are in between the two areas of the world.
And so they perhaps were traveling for months. I can imagine 50 or 60 people coming, and they had servants, they had to bring food and they had to bring their tents. This was a huge project, and I can’t imagine that Herod would be troubled and all Jerusalem with him because three guys show up on camels. I think that this was a group of people coming from the east.
Now we don’t understand exactly why it is that they learned that Jesus would be likened unto a star. We find that prophesy in the book of Numbers when Balaam, the false prophet you remember spoke and said, “Behold, a star shall arise out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel.” And of course they picked up on that. It could well be because Esther, you remember, was in the land of Persia, and she was the queen there, and the Bible tells us there were many people who believed in the Jewish God, the God Jehovah as a result of her witness. And of course, you have Daniel and the other men who were in Babylon after the time of what we call The Babylonian Captivity. And so from generation to generation tradition may have developed and was passed on that from the Jews a king would arise who would be the King of the Jews.
At any rate, they show up, and I want you to realize that God never bypasses His Holy Word. The star did not take them directly to Bethlehem. In fact, the star took them to Jerusalem, and it’s in Jerusalem where they opened the Scriptures and the scribes and the Pharisees looked into God’s Word. Remember the prophet Micah’s prophecy. He quoted that it was from Bethlehem that the Redeemer was to come. He was to be born in Bethlehem, and so what we have here in the text is that the star took them to Jerusalem.
You know, throughout the Middle East today you find many people who are being saved, or being brought to faith in Christ as a result of dreams. They have dreams about Jesus, but those dreams do not introduce them directly to Jesus. They only prepare the way for the introduction. Many years ago there was a student studying at Trinity Seminary, a Palestinian, and I interviewed him at length because he had a very interesting story of when he was in Jerusalem. He had a dream one night and he awakened and could not get out of bed. He felt himself pinned down to the bed and he knew that this had something to do with Jesus. So finally he said, “Jesus, if You allow me to get out of bed, I promise I’ll investigate and find out about You.” Well, the rest of the story is that a few days later he met a Christian. He was introduced to the Bible and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior, and is ministering in the Bethlehem–Jerusalem area today. The stars and the dreams never take you directly to Christ. They only lead you to the Scriptures, and there you find out about Him, and that was learned by these wise men.
Well, all that to introduce the topic of the Kingship of Jesus. Where is the King of the Jews? The message that I’m going to give you today is going to be from about 30,000 feet. In other words, it’s going to cover a lot of territory in a very short period of time – in just a few minutes. So sometimes I’ll quote the Scripture. There will be one or two times when I’ll ask you to turn to the Scripture, but I want you to understand the Kingship of Jesus, and then we’ll talk about its relevance and the way in which it applies to our situation, to our need, to our struggles, to our disappointments, and why it is that it is such a great message of hope.
So we see the kingship of Jesus in various phases. First of all, it was predicted in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 7 God comes to David and says, “You are going to have a Son who is going to rule and His kingdom shall be established, and His throne shall be established forever.” Well I have to ask you, has that been fulfilled? I don’t think so. Dr. Rydelnik and I led a tour to Israel several months ago, and while we didn’t go everywhere in Jerusalem, we saw no palace and we saw no king ruling. We saw no descendant of David on the throne in Jerusalem, yet God says, “I’m going to establish it forever.” Psalm 2 says, “Yet have I set my King on My holy hill of Zion.” Zion, of course, is representative of the entire city of Jerusalem. Is there a king ruling today from Zion – from Jerusalem? No, there isn’t a king ruling from Jerusalem.
You ask the question, “Is Jesus a king today?” Yes, Jesus is a king. He’s been crowned in heaven, but He’s unrecognized on earth, and so His kingship on this earth has not yet been established as predicted. You know, the Bible says in the book of Hebrews that Jesus has been exalted, waiting until His enemies are a footstool for His feet, so in a sense He is King. He is Lord and all things are under His feet legally but He’s not yet fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament to rule this world and to bring justice to the nations. That is future.
Now I want you to think about this and to see the continuity of Scripture. When Gabriel came to Mary, you remember what he said. He said regarding Jesus, “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father, David. And He shall rule over the House of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” Has that been fulfilled? Once again, no, it’s not been fulfilled. Jesus is not on the throne of David today. Now there are some people who say, “Oh, the throne of David was transferred up to heaven. He rules in heaven.” Is that the way Mary would have understood that? Knowing the Old Testament and knowing the promises given in the Old Testament to David, she’d have understood that the child that she is bearing is going to rule over the House of David – on the Throne of David, that is to say the lineage of David and the kingship of David ruling where David ruled, namely Jerusalem. That has not yet been fulfilled.
So there’s a second phase that we need to understand regarding the kingship of Jesus, and that is what is known as the millennial kingdom, when I believe all these prophecies will be literally fulfilled. They’ll be fulfilled in the millennium.
Take your Bibles and I want you to turn to Isaiah 2. There are so many references, not only throughout Isaiah but all the prophets. They speak of a time of glory of the city of Jerusalem. They talk about a time of peace that will be established and we can see this in the second chapter of Isaiah and its prediction. It says in Isaiah 2, “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days (I don’t believe those days are here yet.) that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; (By the way, whenever you come across that kind of terminology it’s referring to Jerusalem which is really established on the hills.) and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion (That’s Jerusalem.) shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
That certainly has not happened in Jerusalem. Go to Jerusalem today and it is a time of tension, a time of conflict and a time when they are trying negotiations which of necessity must ultimately fail, and you will discover that that’s not where the law is going forth and all the nations are obeying the King. That will be yet fulfilled.
Now here’s something interesting. Your Bibles are open to verse 4. It says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples.” If you go to the United Nations building in New York, and then you walk across the street to what is known as the Isaiah Wall, this snatch from the book of Isaiah (the last half of verse 4) is there. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
There are two things of interest about the Isaiah Wall across the street from the United Nations. Number one, it does not quote the whole verse because, you see, if it quoted the whole verse, “He shall judge among the nations,” this is clearly Messianic. It’s a reference to Jesus fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament, which He will eventually do. That’s what it is and so they leave that out. They take this verse and then they don’t even write beneath it Isaiah 2:4 lest apparently somebody actually look it up in the text and read it in context.
So what you have is simply the Isaiah Wall. You have half of the verse and then under it, it says Isaiah. Well, what the United Nations is attempting to do, and God bless them, is to do (without Christ) what eventually can only be done by the power of Christ, namely to bring peace to the world. That still is future.
If your Bibles are open to Isaiah 2 you can also turn to chapter 11. And as I mentioned, all throughout the prophets you have predictions such as this. I am picking it up, for example, in verse 3. “And His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide disputes by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His waist, and faithfulness the belt of His loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.”
Would you today take a wolf and put it in the same fold as a lamb? Today if you take a wolf and a lamb and they both lie down together, if you notice carefully, when the wolf stands up the lamb is missing. But in that day, and this will satisfy all the animal lovers, the tooth and claw, the raw selfishness of animals where they kill one another, and so forth, even that will be lifted. This will be a time when the curse actually is partially lifted, not entirely lifted but partially lifted.
Now I don’t want to scare up more rabbits here than I can shoot today but what I’d like to do is to just outline for you again a sequence of events so that you might be able to see when I believe this will happen in context.
First of all, Jesus Christ comes and the Church is raptured. Now many people believe that the Church goes through the Tribulation and will not be raptured at that time, but I’ll tell you this. If they go through the Tribulation they’ll wish that they had believed in the pre-Tribulation rapture, so that day is still coming. Everybody will hope for the pre-Tribulation rapture. But if we have to go through the Tribulation, God will be with us through it.
So here you have the rapture of the Church. You have the Tribulation period, and then Jesus returns in glory. And this is one of my favorite passages. It is breathtaking, but I won’t take time to read it today, but it is there in Revelation 19 where we are going to be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, enjoying the company of Jesus, and then we, His saints, are going to be returning with Him to the Mount of Olives. As it says in Zechariah, “His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, and the Mount shall cleave in the midst throughout and break apart,” and there will be a whole different topography in the Jerusalem area. And we are going to come back with Him, and it says that as Jesus is descending, on His robe and on His thigh is written, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Wow! And, we’re going to be there. That’s why I told you that if you can’t go to Israel during this period of time, don’t feel too badly because someday if you are a believer you are going to get the royal tour by an incredible tour guide.
He is going to return to the Mount of Olives and that’s when the Kingdom will be established, and that’s when there will be a separation of the sheep and the goats, and those who are still living in their earthly bodies will go into the millennial kingdom, and righteousness and justice shall prevail. And Jesus will be sitting, and He has all of the qualifications, both through His lineage and because of other factors that have to do with who He is. He is going to be sitting on the throne of David. He will rule over the House of David, and I believe that the Scriptures will be literally fulfilled.
Now I have to ask you what would Christ be if it were not for “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” the great song by Isaac Watts? But I do have to try to get into his mind a little bit here because you know that one of those stanzas, in fact, the last one says,
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
Are you kidding me? That’s millennial. He’s not making the nations prove anything today. Isaac Watts was thinking of the millennial kingdom when he said, “He makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness.”
And another stanza says, “No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” When I was a farm boy back in Canada we used to spray for thistles. We used to spray for bugs. We used to spray for all of these things, and they are spraying for more things today than they did back then. That was a long time ago, of course. And the time is going to come though in the millennial kingdom where the farmers will not need all of these sprays that contaminate our food. I thought I’d just kind of throw that out there, but no letters please. But all that won’t be needed in the Millennial Kingdom.
Now maybe Isaac Watts thought, as some people thought, that this is the millennium. Well no, this is not the millennium. The millennium is going to come and Jesus is going to rule from Jerusalem, and all of the prophecies made in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament will someday be fulfilled, and when He returns it is as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Now we have to ask this question. What is the relevance of the kingship of Jesus to us today? Many of you came with great burdens. Christmas has been difficult. You’ve gone through a period of loneliness. There has been strife maybe between members of the family. Economically you are going through a difficult time. How does the kingship of Jesus relate to us?
Well let’s just back off for a moment, but before we do that, by the way, there was a phase that I actually missed, that I don’t think I have much time to comment on at all, and that is the eternal kingdom. You see, Jesus is going to be reigning here on earth, and that eventually will morph into an eternal kingdom, and the New Jerusalem, which comes down from God out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. And I need to mention this. There in the book of Revelation the Bible says that all the kings of the earth will bring their glory and honor into the city. That is to say that they’ll surrender all their glory and honor to Jesus. And in Matthew 19 when it says that Jesus is descending, it says, “On His head were many diadems.”
The imagery is this. In ancient times when a king lost and had to submit to the victorious king, he took the crown from his head and he gave it to the victor. When Jesus returns, every king that has ever existed, every glory that has ever been given to kings will be surrendered to the King of kings, Jesus Christ, Lord of lord, King of all kings.
And then the Bible says this. And I have to read it because you may think that I’m making it up. But that’s not true. I’m not! I want to be clear today. You’ll notice in Revelation 22:3-5 it says, “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it and His servants will worship Him. They shall see His face and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
I just reread that this morning and I thought to myself how incredible this is, that in eternity we are going to worship the throne of God and of the Lamb, that is the Lamb and God the Father. We are going to worship, but we are also going to reign with Him forever and ever. The undeserved exultation of humanity, the kingship of Jesus, and what He had by divine right He is going to share because of divine grace, and we will be there with Him recognizing His sovereignty and His kingship.
Now how does all of this relate to us as individuals? And as I mentioned, how does the kingship of Jesus change our lives today? So let’s just back off and think about this for a moment. First of all, I want you to see the humility of the King. Remember with me the manger scene there in Bethlehem where Jesus is laid in a manger. And now when the wise men come, as the passage that we began with today says, they actually come to the house. This is way after the time that Jesus was born, maybe a year or so after He was born. There are reasons to believe that. It may have been 18 months after Jesus was born. And Joseph and Mary are now in a house in Bethlehem, and that’s where the wise men come, and they worship Him there.
But notice the humility of the King. Here is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and He is born in such humble surroundings, and then lives and ultimately is brought up in Nazareth, a city that is despised. I think that it was Augustine, the great theologian, who said, “God has humbled Himself, but we as men remain proud.” You know, this ought to really shock us almost. The fact that God became man, the fact that the King was so humble that He came to redeem us immediately sends an important signal, namely that we are in desperate need – desperate need. What could possibly cause the King of glory to leave His glories in heaven and to come to redeem us unless our needs were absolutely huge? But it is only God who can redeem us from our sins. And therefore, God comes to this earth, and He comes humbly. And don’t we all struggle with pride? God humbled Himself.
There’s something else we must learn about the Kingship of Jesus, and that is the victory of the King. When Jesus came to this earth, He came to a world of darkness. He came into hostile territory. The Bible says that the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one. And so Jesus entered into this conflict, and as a parable indicates, He bound the strong man. He bound Satan’s power so that we would be delivered, and the Bible says in Colossians 1:13 that we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His Son for we have redemption through His blood – the forgiveness of sins.
This is huge. You see you and I are actually born in darkness but we don’t know it so we try to manage the darkness and pretend that it is light. And yet we are slaves. The Bible says that Jesus came to deliver those who have been captured. He came to set the prisoners free. Some of us may be in prison to our own sense of significance, and we spend our whole lives trying to make people believe that we are better than we really are. And this becomes so huge and we look over our shoulders at those who have more significance than us, and we are plotting and thinking of ways as to why their significance is really not that great after all. And so we spend our entire lives imprisoned, trying to make ourselves look good, believing that we must always be right. But the Gospel comes along and tells us that we don’t always have to be right because Jesus was right for us, and He came to set us free.
Sometimes we think that Jesus came to set good people free. Only good people come to church and are set free. Let me assure you today that if your life is a train wreck, Jesus came for you. He came to those who really needed Him, those who recognized that they were prisoners to their own feelings, to their own desires, to their own aspirations. God comes to us and He transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son by redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. And God can forgive you today, and God can totally blot out the guilt that is against you.
Some of you may be bound because of your own anger, and because of your own bitterness, but you can forgive today and you can be free because God has come to forgive, and God has come to set us free. Remember this. The greater you recognize your need and your desperation, the greater candidate you are for God’s marvelous forgiveness and His grace. Some of the consequences of your sin may continue, but the sense of guilt and despair and alienation is lifted when you come to the King who transferred us from one kingdom to another. He transferred all those who believe in Him and has given them hope and life.
There’s something else about the King. Not only is He a victorious King. He is also a King with authority. This is what Isaiah said in chapter 9. It says this regarding Christ. “The government shall be upon his shoulder.” The governments of the world upon His shoulder! Imagine having that much authority and power that all the world is upon His shoulders and He bears it easily and He bears it gladly because He is the King of kings and the Lord of hosts.
Now don’t you think that Jesus, who is strong enough to bear the governments of the world, can bear your grief, your sorrow, your disappointment and your pain? I believe that He can, and I invite you today to make that transfer. “Cast all of your care upon Him for He cares for you.” At the end of the day what we must do is to realize that the anxiety and the burdens that we bear that are far too heavy for us to bear must be given to Him. But you can’t do that just by saying, “Yes, that’s a nice idea.” There must be an actual transfer.
Sometimes I like to give this illustration of Rebecca and me flying from here say to Frankfort on American Airlines. And let us suppose (and this is more true or more possible before the days when security was an issue) that after the plane took off in Chicago and the night began to descend that I was concerned because I thought that maybe the pilots were falling asleep. And so I talk to a flight attendant and I say, “Would you make sure that the pilots are awake?” So let’s suppose she does, and then she comes back to me and she says, “They are awake.” But an hour later I think to myself, “You know, I know people who have fallen asleep in a hour’s time.” So what I do is I ask her again, and say, “I wonder if you’d check and see whether or not the pilots are asleep.” She does that and she comes back and she assures me that they are wide-awake.
An hour or two later I’m talking with her about when the plane lands in Frankfort. We talk about her schedule. Does she fly back the next day? And then I say, “Well you know now that we’re talking, would you check to see whether or not the pilots are awake?” I can imagine her saying, “I want to make a deal with you. How about if I pour you a cup of coffee and then you step outside to drink it? Okay?” (laughter) And then she says, “You are insulting the American Airlines pilots,” and I am. But I’m speaking to my own heart first, and now I speak to yours. We insult God like that everyday. We give Him a burden and we say, “I wonder if God’s awake. I wonder if He solved it yet. I wonder if He’s taking care of this. Why hasn’t He taken care of it this way? This seems to be the best way? Why isn’t He doing it?” And what we’re really saying is that the governments of the world are upon His shoulders but our anxieties are not. We bear them. He cares for you.
Would you take out a moment and transfer all the weight that you brought with you today? Genuinely give it to Him because it’s too much for any one of us. And remember the story of the wise men in Jerusalem.
I want you to think for just a moment about three different responses that people had to Jesus. First of all, there was Herod. Herod was very indifferent. Herod was so intimidated because his sense of significance seemed to be eroded because of the birth of a baby. “Maybe they’re going to start to call Him the king, and I won’t be called the king,” and so what he does is he lashes out, and he wants to kill eventually all those who he thinks might qualify to be Jesus. You know the rest of the story, and so you know when Herod got a cold, all of Jerusalem shivered. And they were all up in arms because they knew that this could be bad news. He had a very hard heart. Don’t be like Herod.
The scribes had a very indifferent heart, didn’t they? You know they said, “Well, He’s to be born in Bethlehem.” Well they could have walked the five miles to Bethlehem, but they don’t. So you see that represents those who know all the things, they are brought up in the Church, they know the Gospel stories, and they think that they know them better than perhaps they do, but it’s all just old hat to them and they become indifferent – tragically indifferent!
The wise men were the ones who were seeking and they bring Him gold and frankincense and myrrh. They bring Him these gifts and the Bible says that they fell down and they worshiped Him because they knew that they were in the presence of a King – not just in the presence of the King of Jews, but the King of the Universe.
Notice how the Kingship of Jesus played itself out even on the cross. You remember Jesus was hanging there between two thieves and people walked by and they shouted, “Hey, King of the Jews! Come down from the cross.” Pilate had put up what could be called a Gospel tract. He wrote above the cross of Jesus, “The King of the Jews,” and it was written in three different languages, sarcastically putting it up there to show or say, “Oh, you’re a king! Look at how you are dying.” One of the thieves thought, “You know, if He’s a king, He must have a kingdom.” And so perhaps being able to look back and seeing what was written and hearing what was being shouted at Jesus sarcastically, he said, “Remember me when You come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Even on the cross Jesus still remained King - King of Paradise, King of Hades, King of the world.
And today Jesus invites you and me into His Kingdom to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. I invite you today to think of Jesus.
Who is He in yonder stall?
At His feet the shepherds fall.
It is Christ, oh wondrous story,
It is Christ, the King of glory.
At His feet we humbly fall.
Crown Him, Crown Him, Lord of all.
Let’s pray together.
Father, the needs among us are diverse, but we thank You that they are all known to You, and we thank You, Father, that Your King, Jesus, is adequate for each of us – for the person who is going through a time of relational strife, for the person going through health issues, and all kinds of internal victories and losses. We pray today that You would show Your glory. Help us to understand that we can transfer all of our concern to Him as we worship Him.
And now before I close I’m going to pause for just a moment. What do you need to say to God today? Would you say it right now?
Father, help us. Meet us in our need and may we gladly worship the King, in whose name we pray, Amen.