Matthew 27:35-44 (Lent Midweek 5—The Crucified King)
“The King on the Cross”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 9, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 27:
And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over Him there. And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” And the robbers who were crucified with Him also reviled Him in the same way.
The first king of Israel would never have needed a sign over his head at any time saying, “This is Saul, the King of the Jews,” for you would have known it just by looking at him. He was a head taller than anyone else in Israel. He was handsome, strong, and came from a wealthy family. You would have needed no more than one glance at that exalted head of his to declare, “Now that’s a king.
But Saul’s was a story of an exalted head brought down, for he followed in the way of another king, the world’s first king, Adam. And like Adam, he turned away from the Word of the Lord. Therefore, God anointed a new king, a man after God’s own heart, the young shepherd David.
But Saul persecuted and reviled the Lord’s newly anointed. He was so jealous of David’s popularity among the people that it sent him into a murderous rage. The mere presence of David so filled Saul’s head with envy that he chased him around the countryside like a mad man. His anger even caused him to try to pin David to the wall with a spear, but David evaded him. And in the end, that once exalted head was cut off by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa in disgrace.
Consider the scene of Jesus, the Greater David, as He is crucified and reviled on Golgotha. They mock God’s King. What hatred is hurled at the Lord’s Anointed! The passersby wag their heads at Him and revile Him. The envious chief priests, scribes, and elders don’t like His popularity one bit and rail at Him to prove His kingship. Even two robbers direct their insults directly at Jesus’ head.
Consider the scene, and consider your guilt against the Lord’s Anointed. Haven’t you, too, wagged your head and stood in judgment of the Lord, often judging Him to be “unfair” to you? Consider how often you have turned from the Lord’s Word and demanded that He prove His love. What were you thinking, when your bitterness drove you to insist that you deserve better, even though you are as guilty before God as any robber? Consider your many resentful and angry thoughts toward Jesus, and consider the judgment that should come down on your head.
But then consider the bloodied and ugly king on the cross and be glad. Consider the thoughts going on in His sacred head and be exceedingly glad. For His thoughts are not about getting revenge or pushing back the scorn onto the heads of sinners. His thoughts toward you are not filled with disgust. What’s going on in the head of that king are thoughts of love toward you and doing what is necessary to bear your sin and save you.
The sign said, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” And that’s good because we would have never identified Him as God’s Anointed. Nobody would have ever said, “Now there’s the head of a king.” He’s the King you never wanted, nor thought you needed. Yet, He came to save you. He is not handsome like Saul, and had no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2). He set aside His kingly might to voluntarily die in weakness and disgrace. He was rich, yet for sinners’ sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. Placed on the throne of the cross, He was unrecognizable as a king, but just perfect to do the job of taking your sins away so that the Father might recognize you forever as the King’s friend and heir.
Notice that the mouth on Jesus’ sacred head is silent as He bears the persecution, the insults, and the rage. That head lifted up high on a cross now hangs down and is bloody, but it’s a beautiful head to sinners, who know that He bears the wrath as man’s substitute.
Take great comfort in all that is happening in this scene. For our Crucified King is all about crowning you with glory and honor, so that means He must wear your anger at Him like a crown of thorns. Jesus, your King, was all about lifting that burden of guilt from your shoulders, so He shouldered it all to the cross and destroyed it so that you might be exalted as innocent and holy sons and daughters of God. Those ears on His head heard all the insults and all the bitterness, that your ears might tingle as you hear the Word of Absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.”
Your King, the Lord’s Anointed, was persecuted, reviled, rejected, and killed, but raised again to anoint you in Baptism and adorn you with regal garments of innocence. Your King, the Lord’s Anointed was willing to be hunted and chased all over Israel, that you might be embraced by the Father’s love. Saul may have launched his spear at David and missed, but divine love would not allow Jesus to evade the soldier’s spear, for the King on the cross was dead. But from that dead king on the cross comes a gusher of life-giving water that fills the baptismal font and washes away your sin. And from that dead King on the cross comes the life-giving blood that fills the chalice that you drink, cleansing you from all sin and lifting up your head in triumph. Amen.