CHRIST IS A KING LIKE NO OTHER
- He rules over all
- He has reconciled all
Based on Colossians 1:13-20
When a new person is put in charge of something—a project or a committee or a company—that person often has an agenda to improve whatever he is in charge of. Politicians run campaigns with the promise of changing things for the better. Look at our current and future presidents; both ran campaigns promising change! A new boss or supervisor comes into our workplace, and we compare them with the previous boss and evaluate which one was better. Packers fans have become so frustrated with our suddenly mediocre team that many have been calling for change at levels as high as the defensive coordinator, head coach, and general manager, and all with the assumption that a new coordinator or coach or G.M. will be better than what we have now. In every case, whether it’s the people who serve us in government, or who oversee our workplaces, or even run our favorite sports teams, we want people who are better than all the rest.
Sometimes people think the same way about God. We live in a place where Christianity is the vastly predominant religion, but throughout our world many identify with other religions and “gods,” all with the hope that their religion and their god will make their lives better.
Thanks to God’s grace and his Word, we know the one and only path to God is through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Son of God has used the Word of God to plant faith in your heart, and as a result, you realize that you don’t need to look for some other “god” out there to rule your heart and guide your life. There is no better option—in fact, there really is no option at all—other than true God who tells about himself in the Bible and who reveals himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. On this final festive Sunday of the church year, our Second Lesson helps us to appreciate and celebrate that point. The only divine influence we need is Jesus Christ, because Christ is a king like no other. He rules over all, and he has reconciled all.
Today’s reading comes from the New Testament book called Colossians. It seems that the apostle Paul wrote this book, at least in part, to warn his readers about a false teaching that was starting to make its way into their minds. This false idea is sometimes called the “Colossian heresy.” So what was the problem? We can’t say with total certainty, but we can gather some information about this issue from Paul’s letter. It seems that there were some people, either in this church or influencing this church, who promoted ideas such as secret spiritual knowledge, or the benefits of a highly ascetic life, or obsession with cosmic, spiritual creatures. What these people failed to understand is that chasing after this spiritual fad would cause them to miss out on the real spiritual blessings that Jesus Christ offered and delivered.
So, what characteristics about Jesus made him so much greater than the mystical, spiritual ideas that some of them were tempted to follow? Paul says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God,” and, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,” that is, in Christ. Jesus not only makes God accessible; he makes God visible. When the people of Jesus’ day saw him, they didn’t only see a human being; they saw the otherwise invisible God in real human flesh. This was a far cry from following a mystical god or obsessing with spiritual beings that they couldn’t see with their own eyes and that never walked a real step in this real world.
Since Jesus is completely and fully God, he ultimately reigns and rules over everything in existence. Paul explains that point starting at verse 15, and we’ll follow his train of thought by looking at some key phrases in verses 15 to 18.
- Paul says that Jesus is the “firstborn over all creation.” Among the Jews, the term “firstborn” wasn’t always a term implying birth sequence. A family with only one child would still refer to that child as the “firstborn.” Among the Jews, this expression referred to a position of honor and importance. Firstborn sons were usually the ones to receive the family’s inheritance, and so the term “firstborn” eventually expanded to mean either birth sequence or simply a position of honor. So when Paul calls Jesus the “firstborn over all creation,” it does not mean that Jesus was the first thing that God created; rather, it means that Jesus has a position of honor and importance over all of the creation.
- In case we had any doubts about Jesus’ origins or importance, Paul goes on to say this: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” The people in this ancient congregation who were tempted to be more interested in other spiritual beings forgot that everything they were obsessed with, seen or unseen, was created by Jesus and in the first place!
- But there was more to consider beyond the fact that Jesus was head over all creation. More importantly, Paul said that “he is the head of the body, the church.” The Holy Christian Church that we talk about in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds is not merely a human institution. It is a body of people who are united to their all-powerful head, Jesus.
- Jesus is the head of the church not only because he created all who are members of this church, but especially for this reason: “He is…the firstborn from among the dead.” Jesus did something on his own power that no one else could do. He defeated death. He came back alive after his dead body lay in the grave. And Jesus’ resurrection from the dead not only proves his power over death, but it proves that on that great Last Day when Jesus returns, he will raise us all from death to life. This use of “firstborn” does imply sequence, for Jesus is the first of many more whom he will raise from the dead.
If you were one of those people in Paul’s day who had been tempted to follow a different spiritual path to God other than Jesus, reading these words would have made it clear that there was no benefit to that other path. Why follow a man-made, make-believe spiritual journey when Christ clearly rules over all things and has power over all things?
It’s easy for us to agree with Paul’s first-century point as we live in the twenty-first century today: Why follow mythical spiritual beings when Christ was not only real but had so much more to offer? It’s also easy for us to acknowledge Paul’s point when we look at the spiritual sins and shortcomings of society. Why take the horoscope seriously? Why elevate the newspaper’s advice column to the level of gospel when you could just read the real gospel?
But it’s harder for us to take Paul’s words to heart when these truths intersect with real life today. Is Jesus really ruling and guiding my life when my health takes a turn for the worse? Should I keep Jesus as my life’s primary focus when my portfolio takes a hit and I have real financial concerns to address? How can Jesus assist me from heaven when I don’t know how to teach my children to undo their bad choices and poor decisions? Is Jesus really in charge when I feel weighed down or altogether frozen by life’s overwhelming anxieties?
When real-life problems hit us personally, there is a part of us that wants to look elsewhere for help and guidance. There is a part of us that wants to find something that’s new and attractive and exciting and “cool” to help us cope. But those are the times when we need to hear what we probably know, but so easily forget.
Maybe the best thing for me at a time like that is not to hear is not some trendy advice, but to be redirected to the One who created all things and holds all things together in this world, even when we feel like everything in our world is falling apart. When my faulty mind forgets the creating power of God, or when my sinful flesh ignores the sustaining rule of Jesus in this world, that’s when I need to be brought back to the Word of God. That’s when I need to see how this Jesus, this God in human flesh, has power in my life and power in this world like no one else. Jesus is a king like no other because he takes all of these overwhelming problems that would otherwise envelop us with despair and he makes them serve a spiritual purpose. He makes them serve an eternal purpose that causes me to cling more tightly to his cross and his Word in those trying times. We may not always appreciate that truth when we’re enduring life’s chaos, but I suspect that when we are in heaven, we will have unending thanks for the way Christ the King used these events for our blessing and benefit.
Of course, if we stopped with the thought that “Jesus is in charge,” we’d miss out on the greatest comfort God’s Word offers us. The reason Jesus is a king like no other isn’t only because he rules over all, but especially because he has reconciled all.
At the end of our reading, Paul says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Just the idea that some people were tempted to pursue another route to God shows us how mankind’s default condition is to run away from God and to oppose God. We are not naturally united with God.
That’s why God the Father was more than pleased that his Son, Jesus, revealed the invisible God to the world by becoming a real, visible, human being within his own creation. And God the Father was especially delighted that Jesus brought about long-lost but now reclaimed peace between God and humankind. It wasn’t easy, but it was vitally important. When Jesus endured the horrors of crucifixion, and at the same time endured the even worse horrors of hell as he hung on the cross. By that suffering, he made the perfect and complete payment needed to undo the eternal results of our sin. Jesus’ shed blood on the cross brought mankind back into a peaceful relationship with God.
So what does that mean for us? What does that look like? At the start of our reading, Paul said this: “[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.” Just as a person today could transfer their residency from one state to another, we have had our spiritual citizenship transferred from the realm of sin, Satan, and death, and into Jesus’ realm of spiritual light and eternal life. We have experienced an eternal “bail-out” because the gigantic payment we should owe God due to our sin has been fully forgiven: Christ made that payment in full for us on the cross.
We mentioned earlier that when we’re facing personal problems, it’s easy to look for solutions anywhere and everywhere other than Christ. There’s another side to this problem as well. Sometimes the problems that concern us the most aren’t really our biggest problem. I am not at all suggesting that the trials of life—health concerns, family tensions, troubled relationships, and the like—aren’t real. But they are symptoms. They are symptoms of a bigger problem that causes every other problem we have.
You and I came into this world with an inherited disease called sin. We came into this world already at odds against God, not at peace with him. That sounds harsh, but if you think about it, it’s also pretty obvious. We don’t have to teach people how to be bad. We can all figure out how to be bad and wrong and sinful without any extra assistance! Disobeying God comes all too naturally for us. Mankind’s condition ever since the first sin is to be at odds with God, not at peace with him.
Jesus addressed our problem with sin by his death on the cross. And when he gave his life to redeem us from sin, he also established a different kind of rule, or a different kind of kingdom, that makes him like no other “god” or spiritual path out there. Jesus was mocked as the “King of the Jews,” but he was the One who paid for the sins of everyone in every nation by his death on the cross. Jesus looked powerless on the cross, but on the cross is where he demonstrated his greatest power by winning forgiveness for the world. Jesus Christ delivered the blessings of redemption and reconciliation to the dying criminal next to him on the cross, and right now as we are gathered in God’s house, Jesus is delivering to you those same undeserved but greatly appreciated gifts that give you peace with God now and assure you of paradise with him forever.
When the calendar year is over, we have a New Year’s Eve party celebrating the year that has just past. When the church year is over, we have a festival service celebrating the life and work of Jesus that we’ve reviewed through the church year that has just past. This “Christ the King” Sunday is a “New Year’s Eve” celebration of sorts—a fitting, festive finish to the year.
Perhaps there was nothing particularly new in the message from God’s Word that we considered today. But what we heard today does for our souls what we need the Word of God to do for our souls every day: it centered us back on those key Bible truths that we need to take to heart. When the chaos of life makes you wonder who’s in charge, remember that Christ is still your king. He rules over everything now, even when we can’t figure out how he puts it all together. And he has reconciled you to himself forever, accomplishing for us what we need but could never bring out on our own. You have peace with God and confidence for daily life, knowing that he guides and directs everything in this world. That’s what makes Christ a king like no other. Amen.