Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 11-24-19 Sermon – “Christ The King”

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Luke 23:33-43; Jeremiah 23:1-6

Here we are, on the last Sunday of Pentecost, and we end this season celebrating Christ the King Sunday. This is the last Sunday before Advent begins. We are on the verge of Advent, but before we can get to all our favorite Advent stories, here we are with this story of Christ on the Cross. It seems surprising, unexpected to be hearing about this in late November: this is something we read during Easter Week. Nevertheless, the cross is according to the lectionary the bridge between the season of the Spirit and the season of announcement of the soon-to-be-born infant Jesus.

The season that begun in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, 5 months ago on June 10, ends outside Jerusalem, in a place called “Skull.” To end this season with Jesus hanging on the cross is unexpected. For the past five months we have celebrated the power of the Holy Spirit, and all the great miracles performed by the disciples in the name of Jesus deserves a better ending. But unexpected is what describes the gospel of Luke. Time and again in the Gospel of Luke, we have seen the same unexpected and surprising story: In the Gospel according to Luke, those who are supposed to understand and receive the message of Christ, just do not. Unexpectable the outsiders, the less expected are the ones who open their eyes and their hearts and recognize the kingship of Jesus, and what that kingship means and what it requires.

This Sunday we are reading the brief conversation Jesus had on the cross with a thief dying beside him. Two thieves were hanging with him, one, understood Jesus was innocent, and the other, saw himself as the victim; even when “he was punished justly.” Luke organized this passage around three instances of mockery against Jesus (verses 35, 36, 39). Stating only that Jesus was crucified alongside two criminals, Luke does not deal with the details of crucifixion. He does not need to; his audience would had been aware of the horrific details. Nevertheless, the mockeries included in his Gospel tells how bad things have become for Jesus. Luke in his mention of the first act of mockery says that the Jewish leaders were close enough for Jesus to hear what they were saying; in the second act, the soldiers who had already taken his garments, come up to Jesus as they mock him; and the final act of mockery comes from someone right next to Jesus; someone in the same condition.

Each of these groups challenged Jesus to save himself as a demonstration of his identity. In their calls for Jesus to demonstrate his power to save, the leaders, the soldiers, and the criminal addressed him with titles that from their perspective added to the ridicule. But, also represented valid affirmations of Jesus’ identity for Luke and his readers. Titles as “Messiah of God,” “chosen one,” “King of the Jews.” Those titles are intended to humiliate Jesus and His condition because in the Jewish imagery all these titles have power inherent. The “Messiah of God” as well as the “Chosen One” would have power to destroy their enemies. To call by these titles at someone hanging on the cross was ironic. Nevertheless, the salvation Jesus offered to the thief and to all the world is only possible through the cross, thru all this mockery, thru his suffering, not apart from it; that is also ironic. Another irony is that an outsider, a criminal saw who really Jesus was-The King-, and asked Jesus “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 But, why celebrate Christ the King Sunday with Jesus on the cross? Why not Jesus seated on His throne with all his enemies defeated at his feet? Well, in John 18:36, Jesus stated that his “kingdom is not of this world” or, is not an “earthly kingdom” meaning that it is different from all the kingdoms or governments of this world. Jesus’ kingdom in Luke is contrary to the kingdoms of this world. The lectionary for this Sunday put together Luke 23:33-42 with Jeremiah 23:1-6, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

In what I just read the word shepherd gets a different meaning, it means, “Kings or leader”. In the worldly kingdom described by Jeremiah 23:1-3, the shepherds did not tend the sheep; in this worldly kingdom the sheep were afraid, terrified and missing, and God was looking, and He promises a new kingdom. Verses 5 and 6 say “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Jeremiah promises the coming of a new and good king in the line of David; Jeremiah is promising a new opportunity, a new chance to a people who were defeated and scattered because of the unfaithfulness of their leaders. The promise comes from the same God who had saved their ancestors from bondage in Egypt.

Christians know that the promise was ultimately fulfilled in the coming of Jesus whose name means, “God’s salvation.” In the event of the life of Jesus, God again acted to show us what God is always doing, always reaching out to us with a new possibility, with a new chance.

 The crucifixion is an example of this Kingdom of new possibilities. The obvious one, of course, is that in this Gospel Jesus forgives those who crucified him.  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”In other words, Father give them a second chance. A second chance was given to the thief on the cross; a thief who confessed to be a sinner and asked to be remembered; he asked for a second chance, and Jesus promises that he will join him in paradise, he received and eternal second change.

But that’s not all. Earlier in the story Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him and told him he would also have a second chance to return and strengthen the other disciples. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32).

Second chance is the Good News for all of us today when we celebrate Thanksgiving. Luke’s crucifixion scene shows the wide scope of Jesus’ offer of salvation. Whatever evil or crime one has done is not a barrier for acceptance into Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus offers direct access to salvation to persons worthy of the most extreme punishment for their sins. Even those carrying out the crucifixion and the mockeries, can be forgiven by Jesus (Luke 23:34). The same second chance given to the thief and to those who carried the crucifixion, is offered to us this morning because the One anointed by the Holy Spirit, the One who died on the cross was sent by God, and in Him, God the Father was “reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against them…” As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:19.

Salvation is for anyone who confesses his or her guilt and see in Jesus the One who can save, the One who can give salvation; Salvation is for whoever can see in Jesus The way to the eternal kingdom of God. Many times, we believe that we are the only ones who have failed God. But the Bible says that we all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. This Sunday when we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to God for the second chances He has given us and let us celebrate a Sunday of new possibilities. If you believe that you have done something against God’s will, today he is telling you “I want you to be with me in paradise.” Today He is interceding before the Father saying, “Father forgive her or him for they did not know what they were doing. Confess to Him, what you have done; let Him know that you repent, and remember, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins. If you by any reasons have been away from God and would like to receive a second chance pray this prayer with me:

“Loving God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life away from You; I need your forgiveness. I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin to Your Holy presence.

You said in Your Holy Word, that if we confess Jesus as the Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved. Right now, I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept the second chance God is giving me. Thank you, Jesus, for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace always leads to repentance. Therefore, Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and help me to never again walk away from your side.” Amen

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