What we all need (Wes Kelley)

Title: What We All Need
Text: Luke 23:33-43
Date: November 21, 2010
Place: Hurricane United Methodist Church and Slocomb First United Methodist Church (Alabama-West Florida Conference of the UMC)
Author: Wes Kelley

I want to talk today about the need that people have to be ruled. God made humankind, and put them on earth, and ever since then, our human story has been a story of us coming apart at the seams. No matter how hard we try to govern ourselves, we can never get to the point where we feel safe, secure, and free. In human government you can’t ever really be both perfectly secure and perfectly free at the same time. There are tradeoffs that have to be made. You can see this in our own nation, that we live in an age where fear rules, and so we become suspicious and needy for a feeling of safety.

You can also see this with the people of Israel in the Old Testament. They wanted kings, like every other nation around them had a king, because a king – they thought – would keep them safe. A king would help them fight their battles. But what they didn’t understand was that battles aren’t for men to fight, the battle is the Lord’s (1 Sam. 17:47).

The other day I saw a map on the Internet that had put a pinpoint on where every death had happened in the country of Iraq—the deaths of our soldiers, of terrorists, of Iraqi civilians. I and a friend were talking about this, and we said, “You know? With all that death, I don’t feel any safer than I did on Sept. 11. If anything, I feel less safe.”

In every Christian’s life, there comes a point where you have to abandon the search for security in a world that is not your home. There is no such thing as homeland security in a land that you are just a pilgrim in—just passing through.

For those of us who follow after Jesus, the only hope we have is not to hope for safety in this life. Anytime I hear in the news about how a criminal, or a terrorist, has been caught, or killed, or put to death, I don’t feel one bit less safe. For all we know, there’s ten out there for every one that is caught.

There is only one death that has ever made me feel secure. It is not the death of a criminal, but the death of a king. What we all need in the church—we need a king who is willing to die for his people. A king is what we all need. Let’s look at this account of Jesus’ crucifixion for three signs that Jesus is the king who meets our needs.

He is a king who forgives us – he meets the human need for forgiveness. Do you believe that you need forgiveness in your heart more than you need food and water? I’ve known people who got physically sick either because they didn’t feel forgiven or they couldn’t forgive somebody else. Jesus shows us the way here, he says in v. 34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And he forgives one of the thieves on the cross who has a deathbed confession, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus tells the thief that he’ll join him in Paradise that same day. Forgiveness – that’s what we need from our king.

Jesus meets our need for consistent truth. What do I mean by that? I mean that who Jesus is does not depend on how you feel about him. Even the people who mocked him on the cross, could only refer to him as the king that he was. They could not conceive of mocking him without still calling him Lord. The religious leaders said, “if he is the Messiah of God, let him save himself.” The Roman soldiers said, “if you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” And the criminal who didn’t repent said to him, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” C.S. Lewis once said there are only three things you can think about Jesus: either he was a liar, he was a lunatic, or he is Lord. He never left any room for doubt about who he claimed to be.

When people mocked him, they could only mock him by calling him Lord. They knew of no other way to talk about him, because that is how Jesus made himself known to everyone when he preached and taught. Consistent truth – that’s what we need to believe in a king for.

Jesus fulfilled the words of Ps. 22:18, “they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” In Luke 23:34, they “cast lots to divide his clothing.” He is the poorest king you will ever meet.

The things that we own start to own us, but Christ had no place to lay his head, and so he transcended the rat race that we all play, to have more things than we can ever use, appreciate, or be thankful for. And at the end, they divided up his clothes, because he was leaving all earthly attachments behind. Jesus did not need anything from this world in order to accomplish his victory on the cross. All he had was his body and his blood. And it turns out, that’s what we need. The thing about Jesus being king is that he is king over everything. He is king over all the Christians living in America. And before you pledge allegiance to the flag, you had first better bow at the throne of the Lamb. You have to join that multitude around the throne of the Lamb that sings “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!” (Rev. 19:6).

We all need a king, but we don’t know what to do with one once we’ve got one. I fear that if Jesus came again like he did the first time, the church would be the first ones to crucify him. In this passage, everyone is asking things of Jesus, and they are bitter. Not because of Jesus, but because of their own world weariness. They bite the hand that feeds them. Don’t let that become the state of your soul, that you are too weary to see Jesus dying for you right in front of your eyes. But thank God that Jesus intercedes on our behalf, and says “Father forgive them.” As Thanksgiving approaches, and we visit with family, stop to consider what you are thankful for, and consider whether the things that you’re most thankful for are the things that cost Jesus the most.

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