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"The Twisted Throne - and Roll-out of the Kingdom"

Easter Sunday Mar.31/13 1Cor.15:19-26


The stone is rolled away! But sometimes it's easier to move a huge boulder than to get a person to change their mind. Jesus died to pay the price for our stubborn sinful wilfulness.

It starts young, and carries on through all stages of life, this stubborn wilfulness. Our grandson Malachi is just over a year old, about 13 months. This week our daughter Meredith posted on Facebook, "Hello tantrums.Anyone have tips on how best to handle / avoid meltdowns? Chi is especially upset when we take things away from him." If you have any solutions to that one, you could probably write a bestseller! God created us humans with souls capable of willing and determining; when sinful desires latch onto us, we can be very stubborn - we "want what we want when we want it." Parents throw their hands up over rebellious teens; there's that saying, "leave home at 16 while you still know everything." At the other end of the age spectrum, retirees can be very demanding on the next generation, or resist leaving their homes when they honestly do need a higher level of care. We're quite capable of being stubborn at every point in our lifespan.

At the collective level, wilfulness breeds discontent in people groups and can cause governments and nations to collapse. Canada is called a "dominion" which recognizes a "queen" in distinction from its southern neighbour which is a "republic"; but our thinking is more republican than monarchist, we want to run our own show. In the Middle East, several rulers and governments have been undermined by the "Arab Spring", with Syria being the most recent tragic example. And Egyptians' protests reveal that even post-revolutionary regimes have their problems garnering widespread public support.

Yet the New Testament clearly ascribes to Jesus the titles of "Christ" and "King", even though these were politically dangerous to mention in the decades it was being written. The apostles hail the Easter event as signalling the in-breaking of Jesus' kingdom in a powerful way. Are we ready for it? Do we really understand and accept the implications of the resurrection, or will it cramp our style?


From the start, there were people with vested interests who tried to deny a physical resurrection had taken place. The Jewish authorities paid the guards "hush money" and seeded a fabricated tale that the disciples stole the body while they were sleeping - doing the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be doing [ie guarding] (Mt 28:13). Within 20 years Paul notes at Corinth in Greece some were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead (1Cor 15:12). Paul points out the massive implications if this were true in verse 13-19. Not only would the apostles, who underwent such severe persecution and even martyrdom for their beliefs, be found to be false witnesses; the Corinthians faith would be "useless" (v14), "futile" (v17). Like believing in leprechauns or fairies. More serious than that, if there's no resurrection, v17 "you are still in your sins." Resurrection is interpreted as God's vindication of Christ's offering, that His sacrifice of Himself in sinners' stead was acceptable; if Christ wasn't raised, there's no payment for our sinful transgression that would ever be good enough to atone for offending an infinitely good and holy God. To not have our sins forgiven would mean we're cut off from a perfect and righteous God - no reconciliation ever possible.

And what are the wages of sin? Death (Rom 6:23). If Christ is not raised, v18 those who've fallen asleep in Christ (Christians who've died) are "lost". Not only will they not have eternal life to look forward to; judgment and condemnation await. Remember Paul's solemn warning in Galatians 5:19-21, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Likewise in Ephesians 5:5, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-- such a man is an idolater-- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Without Christ's mediation, we sinners could never stand in God's presence. So the stakes are VERY HIGH if those teaching that there is no resurrection are correct.


While Jesus didn't use the term "king" much in His earthly ministry, the events of His trial make it very clear this is a key point at issue. Luke notes the Jews accuse Jesus of subverting their nation, opposing payment of taxes, and claiming "to be Christ, a king" (Lk 23:2). In Mark's account, Pilate the governor's first question of Jesus is, "Are you the king of the Jews?" - Mk 15:2; see also John 18:33, and Pilate's exclamation in 18:37 "You are a king, then!" and the soldiers' mocking in 19:3 "Hail, king of the Jews!" and Pilate's signboard hung above the cross in 3 languages - "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." (Jn 19:19) What clinches the trial is Pilate asking the Jewish mob, "Shall I crucify your king?" and their response, "We have no king but Caesar." (Jn 19:15) That's our human rebellion summed up in a nutshell! We don't want Jesus to be our king; we want to be in charge of picking who we consent to have in positions of power. Caesar we understand and can live with - somebody's got to be at the top, "lording it over" the rest of us. We resent it but at least Caesar lets us get on with the rest of our lives, he doesn't claim to be more than just another man, a political leader for a few years. The Herodians and Sadducees had worked out quite an amicable arrangement with the roman overlords. They couldn't tolerate a Messiah who was actually righteous and threatened to introduce change.

The dying words of the penitent thief on the cross next to Jesus also focus on the latter's kingship. Lk 23:42 "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He anticipates the coming era when Jesus will be in power, not pinned. But speaking to the disciples in John 12(31f) Jesus seems to interpret being on the cross as the place where He is exuding power to drive out Satan and to draw people to Himself: "Now [when He is glorified / crucified] is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

Normally a king or queen sits on a plush and impressive throne, elevated so they are still higher than their subjects even when they are seated. But imagine the cross as sort of a twisted throne: sticks of wood, yes, supporting a person - though most horrifically, and bent out of shape. Jesus' cross is a twisted throne. That's the place His saving power pours forth to drive out "the prince of this world" and to draw us sinners to Himself.

In modern parlance we like to describe Christianity as all about "relationship", but in New Testament terminology, the apostles describe the kingdom more in terms of power. Mark 9:1 Jesus predicted some standing there would not taste death "before they see the kingdom of God come with power." Paul told the Corinthians, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." (1Cor 4:20) The heavy stone that blocked the tomb could only be rolled away by a mighty angel (Mt 28:2). At the outset of his letter to the Romans, Paul points out that Jesus "as to His human nature was a descendant of David" - ie of kingly stock, with kingly potential; and, 1:4, "through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead..." Unpack that phrase carefully: the miraculous event of the resurrection was the means by which God declared or announced to the whole universe that Jesus was "IT" - His Son - with power. So the Risen Jesus could approach His followers just before the Great Commission in Mt 28(18ff) and state, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." ALL authority / power / exousia! Does that not sound like the ultimate KING talking?

In 1Cor 15 Paul offers a "sneak peek" of Jesus' mopping-up operations at the end of time. Vv23-26 "...when he [Christ] comes, those who belong to him.Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he [King Jesus] has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." There's a lot of power, domination, overcoming, conquest, and subjugation between-the-lines in these few short phrases! Respect the power-terminology; fear and revere the Lord who wields it.

Aren't you glad Jesus is not a brute? It would be so easy for someone who has "all power and authority" given to them - as evidenced by the empty tomb - to be a crushing tyrant, an intolerable bullying overlord. But that's not His style toward us! Rev 1:5 "Jesus Christ...is...the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood..." The King of the universe LOVES you and let His life-essence - His blood - be poured out to bring you back to God. Jesus welcomes believers into the loving eternal fellowship of the Trinity; Colossians 1:13, God "has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." He to whom we owe everything paid the price to draw you near, to deliver you from the powerful forces that would have condemned and destroyed you.


Our King has given His perfect holy and infinitely valuable self in our place to rescue us from sin, death, and judgment; what ought we to offer in response? The apostle Peter writes, "If you do these things...you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom [there it is again!] of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Do WHAT things? Peter acknowledges "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness..." then exhorts us to "make every effort" (here comes our part!) to add to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2Pet 1:5-8). By way of response to His grace, the Lord wants you to work on your CHARACTER - with His help.

Can Jesus be King of your attitude? Those times when, like my 13-month-old grandson, you don't get just what you want and are tempted to throw a temper tantrum? "Self-control...perseverance..." Those aren't easy; they're developed in the tough times. God isn't out to maximize our COMFORT but to build our CHARACTER.

What else do we owe Jesus? To see ourselves not as our own, but HIS - He is the King of us. Paul in 1Cor 15:23 said when Jesus comes those will be made alive "who BELONG to Him." Addressing the church at Rome (1:6) Paul notes "you also are among those who are called to BELONG to Jesus Christ." Think of something that "belongs" to you; would you not get pretty irritated if somebody else came along and started using it as if it was theirs exclusively rather than yours? Don't you own your things? "Hey, that's mine, it belongs to me!" Yet how often do we forget that we BELONG to King Jesus? Do we act like we're His, or like the "prince of this world" has more pull in our lives?

Our actions, in addition to our character, need to reflect Christ's lordship of our lives. (an illustration...) One night a clergyman was walking to church when a thief pulled a gun on him and demanded his money or his life. When he reached in his pocket to hand over his wallet, the robber noticed the man's clerical collar and said: "I see you are a priest.Never mind, you can go." The clergyman, surprised by the robber's unexpected act of piety, offered him a candy bar. The robber said, "No thank you - I don't eat candy during Lent!" (D'you think that man had some conflict between his religion and his actions?!)

Paul summarizes the yieldedness our actions SHOULD display in Romans 6(12ff) - listen for the power and "yielding / controlling" terminology: "Therefore [if we died with Christ and believe we will also live with Him, v8] do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Next time somebody calls you a "tool" you can say, yup! The Lord's tool, His "instrument of righteousness", that's me!


Sophie, the cleaning lady, was a Christian. One of the gentlemen in the large building where she worked said to her, "Say, Sophie, I understand that you are a Christian." "Yes, sir, I am a child of the King," was her immediate reply. "Oh! So you must be a princess, since God is your King?' "I sure am." "Well, if God is your Father, and you are a princess and a child of the King, do you not think that it is beneath your dignity to be found here scrubbing these dirty steps?" Not being daunted Sophie replied, "There is no humiliation whatsoever.You see, I am not scrubbing these steps for my boss, Mr.Brown - I am scrubbing them for Jesus Christ, my Saviour!"

Easter means we can have confidence trusting in Jesus as our Risen Lord and King. Belonging to Him lends a certain dignity and significance to all we do. "In Christ" we serve our Lord, no longer just other humans. Because He rolled away the stone, the Kingdom is being "rolled out", and our own work has new value. As Paul closed the chapter writing to the Corinthians, "Therefore, my dear brothers [and sisters], stand firm.Let nothing move you.Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." (1Co 15:58) Let's pray.