Sermon in a nutshell: “This Jesus that I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:1-9)
As you know, I went to Thailand last week. Thailand is a kingdom where a king reigns. If you go there, you will see the picture of the king and queen and the prayer, “Long live the King, His Majesty!” Although there was a military revolution, the king did not endorse the party, and so the coup d’état failed. The king’s power is still great in modern Thailand.
In ancient Israel and in other countries, the kings’ power was absolute. The Roman emperor was elevated to the status of a divine being, a god, as were many other emperors in the ancient empires. They claimed to be the sons of gods. In these cultures, Jesus was a problem when he claimed that he was the Son of God. Such a statement could be interpreted as political revolution.
However, we know that Jesus never intended to establish a kingdom on earth. Jesus even explicitly answered Pilate, saying, “My kingdom does not belong to this earth.” So Jesus was and is the King but a different kind of king! This has been the basic misunderstanding about Jesus. Jesus is the Lord and King but he never uses force or violence. He knocks on the door. “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is patiently awaiting our response. Jesus does not want to conquer our heart with force.
In ancient Israel, however, the Messiah was interpreted as the conqueror. The literal meaning of Messiah is “the anointed one.” Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed. In that sense, the Messiah can be a king, a prophet, or a priest. Actually, we believe that Jesus is the High Priest who intercedes for us in front of God and the Prophet who proclaims God’s will to humankind, and the King of kings who reigns forever. In the recovering Davidic kingdom, however, the ancient people of Israel were waiting for the Messiah who could be their king, like David. So, they could not understand how a man who died on the cross could be the Messiah!
Paul had to introduce a new image and concept of the Messiah to the Jews. As stated in Isaiah 53, the Messiah had to go through suffering. He would win the cosmic battle not by conquering the empires but by sacrificing Himself. He would not pursue His own dreams but fulfill God’s dreams and sacrifice His will in the process. However, through this ultimate sacrifice, He would reveal God’s will and God’s glory. He would achieve the ultimate victory over the power of sin and death. His Kingdom would be established in the hearts of everyone and in all communities where they accepted Jesus as the Lord.
This was a totally different king and a strange kingdom. Many people did not understand it and based their reactions on misunderstandings. That was what happened in the biblical passages that we read today. However, the real question is this: Do we understand Jesus correctly and follow Him in the biblical sense?
- Because I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, what have I sacrificed in my life?
- In what way have I demonstrated the Lordship of Jesus in my life?