Good Friday Sermon preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Good Friday, April 19, 2019
Pilate said to [Jesus], “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world…” (Jn 18:37).
We hear the Passion of our Lord again tonight and we’re reminded of His sufferings. We’re reminded of the beatings and mockery He suffered at the hands of soldiers. We’re reminded of the crown of thorns that was pushed into His head causing blood to run down His face. We’re reminded of the royal purple robe placed on His shoulders in jest. We’re reminded of the soldiers kneeling before our Lord and laughingly saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” We’re reminded of the inscription that hung over Christ’s head on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” All of these words and actions, even though they were insincere and meant to be mockery, actually proclaimed the truth. Jesus is the King of the Jews. He is the King of all people. He is your Servant King who gives you His crown of everlasting life.
Christ’s kingship was the bases for the Jews accusation against Him. The Jews brought Him before Pilate and said Jesus was forbidding the people to give tribute to Caesar and that He was setting Himself up as a king. So Pilate plainly asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33). Christ’s response was yes, but His kingdom wasn’t of this world.
Christ didn’t come to establish an earthly throne. He wasn’t concerned with government and borders; with palaces and walls. He didn’t come to set Himself up as a rival king against Caesar and Rome. But if He had, the Jews would’ve supported Him in that.
The Jews wanted an earthly king. They would’ve happily followed Christ if He promised to free them from Roman occupation. The people wanted an earthly Messiah. They always wanted an earthly king, going all the way back to their first king: Saul.
The people of Israel came to the prophet Samuel who was leading and judging Israel according to the Word of the Lord at that time and they demanded him to give them a king. They refused the Lord as their king. They wanted to be like everyone else, like the pagan nations that surrounded them. And so, the LORD gave them a king, but He also warned them that this king would take everything from them: “he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots...He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. (1 Sam 8:11b, 13-17). The people heard this warning, but they refused to listen to it. They still wanted a king, and so the Lord gave them a king...and over the centuries, the kings lead the people of Israel into sin and idolatry.
The purpose of a king is to care for his people. Good kings give; they don’t take for selfish gain. Faithful kings look to the needs of the people. They fight for them and for their safety, not for their own glory. Everything a good king does is for his people. Good kings are servants.
The kings of Israel’s history fell short of this. To be certain, there were times when Israel’s kings were faithful, like King David, but even he sinned and fell short of a perfect rule. And yet, the Lord promised to give His people a perfect king, the Son of David, who wouldn’t take from His people, but who would be a Servant and give His people everlasting life. Christ Jesus is that King. He is your Servant King who gave Himself completely.
Christ is the Servant King who laid down His life on the cross for you. He is the Servant prophesied in Isaiah, the One who “was pierced for our transgressions; [who] was crushed for our iniquities; upon [him] was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5). Christ is your Servant King who took your place upon the cross, dying a criminal’s death, dying a sinner’s death, the death you and I rightly deserve. Christ fought and battled with your enemies of sin and death and Satan; and He won victory with His death. He defeated death by His death, just as God promised to our first parents in the Garden (Gen 3:15). This was the purpose for Christ’s birth. This is why He was born.
At Christ’s birth, Magi from the east came to worship Him as the new born King of the Jews. They brought Him gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But now it was different. No one was bowing before our Lord. No one was offering Him gifts. Instead, He hung naked on the cross with the full weight of the world’s quilt on His shoulders. On the cross, He was fulfilling His duty as your Servant King. On the cross, He took nothing, but gave you everything.
Christ on the cross doesn’t look like the king of our pictures. He doesn’t stand in splendor and glory with a gold crown and royal robe. Instead, He wears a crown of thorns and blood stained robe. He hangs with nails in His hands and feet, receiving the death sentence of a sinner, although He was sinless. CHRIST IS YOUR SERVANT KING WHO LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR YOU. He died your death. He wore the crown of thorns, so that you would receive His crown of life. In Jesus’ name...Amen.