One Flock and One Shepherd

The Church should always be asking what its purpose is according to Jesus. In today’s text, Jesus gives us a very clear picture of the Church. It tells who are the people that belong to the Church and what is its purpose. Jesus called the Church his flock; he is the shepherd and we are his sheep.

People who know Jesus and live in a relationship with him understand the gospel very well. They understand that Jesus wants the relationship between the shepherd and his flock to be very personal. When he calls them, they hear his voice and come, but do not listen to the voice of a stranger. They understand that he is their Savior and their shepherd.

In our text, when Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” he is referring to the cross where he paid the price for the sins of the world. Peter described it quite well when he wrote, “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (I Peter 2:24, 25).

We are reluctant at times to put ourselves on the same level as the Almighty God. However, this holy God wants us to know that, even though he is God of Gods and Lord of Lords, he wants to live in a personal relationship with us. We need to come to his Son every day with our cares, concerns, and problems so that he can answer them. How else can we live in this tough old world?

I thought of this the other day as a big funeral was taking place in our church. A tragedy had taken place and the life of a young woman in our community was taken. I prayed that our pastor would have the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with those whose hearts were broken.

Jesus also speaks in our text of the resurrection. “. . . I lay down my life Ð only to take it up again.” He is referring to the resurrection and to that time when he will take us into the heavenly mansions to be with him forever. There is that relationship.

This is the group Jesus calls his flock: Only those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. They are secure in the assurance that they will live with their Shepherd forever, for he is the overseer of their souls. He is their ministering shepherd who brings them back into the fold when they go their own way. This is the relationship between Jesus Christ and his Church.

In verse 16 of our text, Jesus also says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life Ð only to take it up again.” Jesus wants to enlarge his flock so he is sending us out his to tell the world about this great Shepherd. And when he sends us out with the message of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus, the invitation comes from the Savior himself.

Who was it that served as Jesus’ undershepherd by introducing you to the Shepherd? Was it your father or mother, your brother or sister, another member of the family or a good friend? Was it one who was very concerned and said to you, “Jesus likens himself to a shepherd. He has laid down his life; he lifts it up again that you might be his forever. He has been crucified to pay the price for the sins of the world and to win the victory over sin, death, and the devil.”

Christ wants this picture made abundantly clear to this world, for not all are part of the flock. He would love to have all in the flock, but some don’t want that relationship. When that is the case, they face this world with only their own strength and power.

Think of what it would like to go through each day without Jesus Christ. Although life is filled with many pleasures, we also experience some very hard knocks over the span of time. It is a sobering thought to be without Jesus Christ during those times of despair. It is even more sobering to think of entering eternity without a shepherd who loves us to the end. That is why we need to hear the story of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus says in our text, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life for the sheep. Although there is a hired man, he does not own the sheep so when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs because he is a hired man and he cares nothing for the sheep.”

Many people care for us. However, they are humans, and when push comes to shove, they may run. But not so with Jesus. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own. My own sheep know me.” He wants to live in a personal relationship with you. He needs us to go to those who are not in the fold Ð that relative, that friend Ð when God opens the opportunity and speak that word to their heart that the Holy Spirit might build a faith in their life. The flock is then one person bigger because of you or me! That is Jesus’ picture of the Church.

That is quite different from the picture that the Church is primarily a group that teaches fine morals and does acts of mercy. While there is no question that the y have come from the Church and the teachings of Almighty God, good morals are but a minor purpose. The real purpose of the Church is the redemption of the human being.

It is a real challenge to go out and help build the flock as the shepherd tells us to do. Yet, we do not go alone for the Holy Spirit accompanies us. We cannot do it ourselves, but are only his instruments. It is exciting to see where he will take us and what will happen.

We pray for the kingdom of God and the betterment of his world. And we, who are undershepherds in our family, have the great challenge and privilege of telling them about Jesus.

That is Christ’s Church. It is a challenge he gives to us Ð to be concerned about this world. If you are a confessing Christian, just think of the ways we have to reach out. Every night there is terrible news of something happening in the United States. A mother kills her children; a husband kills his wife. It is almost nauseating and puts a burden on my heart. I wonder if all this would be happening if only the Church had a correct understanding of its purpose as it has been given to us by Jesus!

It seems rather simple. Yet, we cannot discard it in search of a far more profound answer. Why not just be a part of the flock and a servant of the Shepherd. Minister to the lambs and everybody else who stands outside the flock. Give it your careful thought and make it a part of your prayers.

Jesus’ Patience

The disciples were quite anxious during those days following Jesus’ death and his resurrection. Although Jesus had very clearly told them he must suffer and die on the cross and then be raised on the third day, they still had trouble believing it. It wasn’t until about 50 days after Easter that they could say, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”

The idea of rising from the dead seemed so bizarre, dead people just did not rise. And though they had seen that Jesus rose from the dead, they still questioned it. However, our Lord Jesus Christ believed that the Holy Spirit could make them great apostles, able to carry the Gospel into the world, that his Church would grow and believers in Christ Jesus would multiply.

It is exciting to see how patiently and how long Jesus worked with them. Being Jesus’ successor was an important job. People could wonder if Jesus knew what he was doing, thinking perhaps the disciples didn’t have the ability, personality, or whatever else was necessary to make that job a success. However, Jesus knew the disciples well enough that he realized that, with the Spirit’s help, they would become great children of God.

Today’s scripture text gives us a picture of the patience God has with us. I wonder sometimes if we really understand it. We act hastily and do not put up with others’ doubts, so why would God? Sometimes we might even feel that he’s unfair with us. Our scripture lesson will tell us that is never the case.

As Jesus stood there with the disciples, he asked, “Why are you troubled? (Don’t you understand?) Look at my hands. Look at my feet. A ghost does not have hands or feet or a body.” And while the disciples wanted to believe, they could not. So Jesus asked for something to eat, and they gave him some broiled fish. As they watched him eat, they were filled with amazement. Then Jesus opened their minds and they listened.

Just after the resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus was near the tomb when Mary, his dear friend, saw him. He said to her, “Why are you so sad?” She replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Then Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Mary’s eyes were suddenly opened and she turned and said, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). As she went to embrace him, Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:10-18).

Later Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. A group of the disciples had been fishing all night but caught nothing. Early the next morning they saw a man standing on the shore. He called out for them to throw their net on the right side of the boat and they would find some fish. They did so and caught so many fish they were unable to haul in the net. Then John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” and jumped into the water. The others followed in the boat, and when they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread. Then Jesus told them to bring some of the fish they just caught and have breakfast. Simon Peter dragged the net ashore, filled with 153 large fish, but the net didn’t tear.

After they had eaten, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” And then he turned to him again and he said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

And then a third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” And he said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” The Bible tells us that Peter was very hurt because Jesus asked him the question a third time. Jesus had patience with Peter because He knew that on Pentecost Sunday, Peter’s mind would be open and his heart would receive the Holy Spirit. (Taken from John 21:1-17.)

Jesus also showed his patience to Thomas, who was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. When Thomas came back into their presence, the disciples told him about Jesus’ visit. Thomas responded, “Unless I can put my finger into that nail-pierced hand, I will not believe.” Thomas had lived with Jesus for three years and had heard his message many times, yet he could not believe it. Yet, when Jesus appeared to him and he put his finger into Jesus’ hands and side, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” (Taken from John 20:24-28.)

Jesus was very patient with the disciples. They were growing inch by inch and would become great men of God in the days to come.

The accounts of Jesus’ patience with his disciples have been written for us to see what the disciples went through as they came to realize that God’s Word was true, even though their minds could not understand it. We see evidence of the same around us all the time. We believe Jesus lives in our hearts and we have a personal relationship with him. But when a difficult situation arises, we try to handle it on our own, and it isn’t long before we fail. Then Jesus comes to us and says, “I forgive you. I know you all too often trust only in yourself. But I am right here to give you power and strength and grace. You can do it.” That is the patience of God with us.

Just stop and think how patient Jesus has been with us. Whenever I hear somebody say in a speech or a personal conversation, “You can do anything you want to do if you set your mind to do it,” I don’t believe it. I know what the person means, and it is good advice up to a point, but there are certain things I will never be able to do. For example, I could never build a house. It would fall down. The hammer is not a close friend of mine. I could never be a soloist. Even if I took singing lessons, one right after another, people would never thank God for my singing ability.

But I can do anything Jesus Christ wants me to do and empowers me to do if I rely on him. That is the point. He is patiently waiting for me and he is patiently waiting for you to get over some of your shortcomings. He will take the time with you and lead you along the way until you grow in the Christian faith. You can love the person you don’t like now. You can be a better father or mother to the child God has given you. You can do all of these things Ð not by yourself but by relying on the patience of God.

I marvel when I think of what Jesus went through with the disciples. Although they were ordinary men, it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit was in their hearts and minds Ð Peter, Paul, John, and all the rest Ð that they became people whom God could really use. And when Jesus has done that work in us, there is no end to what we can do for Jesus. Patiently, he waits.

Are You Enjoying Your Easter Gifts?

Last week we packed the churches. We sang glorious hymns and heard trumpet fanfares. We wore our Easter best and celebrated the message, He is risen. He is risen indeed. So, today I ask, How are you enjoying and using your Easter gifts? You might respond by saying, “Other than Easter candy, we exchange gifts at Christmas only.” I’m not talking about those kinds of gifts.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples that first Easter evening, he actually brought gifts. I found three in our text for today, and the risen Christ wants us to enjoy these gifts as well.

This episode opens when the disciples were in a locked room. They were afraid of the Jews, who had killed Jesus only a few days before. Earlier that day, Peter and John had gone to the tomb, which they found empty. They had not encountered Jesus and so were probably discussing among themselves if it was true that he’d risen. Peter might have been thinking to himself, “Boy, if it’s true, I don’t know if I can face him now. I denied even knowing him three times when the chips were down.”

Perhaps the others were just as uneasy at seeing Jesus alive. They had scattered like frightened sheep the night Jesus was arrested, and they witnessed his crucifixion from a safe distance away. Perhaps they were wondering, “If he really is alive, is he angry? Will he ever trust us again?” You can just imagine the looks on their faces Ð tired and worn, worried, shocked, and confused. It’s the same look one has after a trauma like a fatal car accident or a heart attack. It’s a look that says, “What do we do now?” while standing in a hospital room looking at a loved one.

Suddenly Jesus was standing among them in that locked room, and the disciples probably pinched themselves to make sure that they really were awake! But before they could say anything, Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his nail-pierced hands and spear-pierced side to prove it was really him. The room probably filled with laughter and smiling faces as they celebrated Christ’s resurrection, just as he had promised a few days before. God indeed had the last word. In the midst of this Easter reunion, the risen Jesus gave them some gifts that we don’t want to miss.

Peace. Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you!” And then he said it a second time, as if making a point. “Peace be with you!” He wasn’t talking about peace and quiet, but about the peace of his forgiveness. Although they had let him down, he was reaching out to them, just as he reaches out to you and me. “Your sins have been taken care of at the cross. Receive the forgiveness that I want you to have in your life and the peace of knowing that you belong to me and that I love you.” This is the peace of knowing that he holds the future.

The disciples must have breathed a sigh of relief as they looked at his nail-pierced hands and stared into his smiling face feeling that everything was under control, even death. The Apostle Paul later wrote, “Whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.” There is peace in knowing that I belong to him forever.

I heard a wonderful little story about an elderly woman who underwent serious surgery. Although her prospects of recovery were slim, she survived the procedure. When she opened her eyes and saw the blurred image of her doctor dressed in the typical white doctor’s jacket, she smiled and said, “Hello God, my name is Mary.”

That is the kind of peace and assurance of eternal life we receive by trusting in Jesus Christ. It is the peace of knowing that, whether we live or we die, we belong to him. Jesus gives that assurance to each one of his followers. We can know that, if we were to die today, we would see him in eternity, for he has prepared a place for those who trust him. We don’t know what it looks like, but we know we are going there. And it’s not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done for us. He paid for our sins at the cross, and he defeated the power of death at the grave. We are invited to claim that gift again and again as we stare at our own mortality. Because he lives, we are heaven bound. That is peace!

If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, here is a message for you: Heaven is a prepared place for the prepared. So prepare yourself now. Turn to Jesus and place your trust in him. He wants you to have the peace of knowing about eternal life.

Trust. Jesus also gave the disciples his trust. When you examine the words of Jesus carefully, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” you see that it’s actually a promotion of sorts. They began the story as disciples, learners. Now they are Apostles being sent into the world to bring God’s good news of forgiveness to the world. They are in the business of connecting others to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is trusting them with the most precious thing in his life: connecting others to the Heavenly Father.

Just think about how important that is, my dear friends. Jesus is trusting you and me with his most important thing, his mission. That’s quite a gift. If you belong to Jesus, he is trusting you to carry on his mission, to make sure the people around you know the promise of everlasting life. That is quite a trust.

Power. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” He’s giving them power to be effective witnesses of what God in Christ has done for the world.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the same power of the Holy Spirit working through your witness. When you talk to someone about Jesus, trust that it will have an impact and you will make a difference. Jesus actually promised the disciples in the Upper Room, “You will do greater things than (I), because I go to the Father” (John 14:12).

These are the gifts of Easter. The peace of forgiveness and knowing there is a place for me in Heaven. The trust Jesus has given us to win the world for him. The power of the Holy Spirit to carry out his ministry and make a difference for him. However, these gifts cannot be employed until they are received. It is like receiving a gift card but never redeeming it. Likewise, the gifts Jesus Christ offered those disciples, and offers to us, cannot be enjoyed until they are received, entrusted, and employed for his cause.

The Easter story is a reminder that Jesus has given you gifts. You are invited to use them and put them to work in your life. The disciples did, and their lives were never the same. Peter wrote of being filled with a living hope, a feeling like he was born anew. The book of Acts testifies of the confidence and the peace and the joy that those disciples experienced as they served the Savior by bringing the Gospel to the world around them. They turned civilization upside down as they lived out their purpose to bring the good news of Jesus to the world. It was the promise of forgiveness and everlasting life with God.

While we may not turn civilization upside down, each one of us has a sphere of influence that we can turn upside down with God’s power as we live in his hope, and his peace, and his power, as we trust him and carry out what he has entrusted to us Ð his mission.

Brothers and sisters, the experience those disciples had can be your experience, too. Are you enjoying your Easter gifts? I encourage you to claim the gifts today. Use them to his glory and you will be very glad you did.

Stand Firm! Jesus Lives

This is the Easter Gospel that we have heard for many, many years. And we have to still ask ourselves what we make out of it. It is so glorious that death has been conquered!

We turn to St. Paul who tells us the benefits we get from Easter. “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (I Corinthians 15:1-2).

Paul is telling us that our whole salvation is contained in this gospel. We still have it; it’s still ours. We know the power and glory of a Savior who walks with us and takes us into heaven. But if we’ve left it, our faith is in vain.

So he wants to lay the matter on the line with us today on this Easter Sunday. We can celebrate Easter all we want, but if we have denied the resurrection Ð if the risen Lord does not live in our hearts Ð then there is no glorious note of this day and it’s just another day. But we take the positive Ð it is true. Jesus Christ comes to us with this one great blessing Ð our salvation.

As we look over our many blessings, we are hard-pressed to find anything that means more to us than the message of the resurrection. Stop and think of the funerals we have attended. It is very sad when we lose a loved one. I think of some of the young lives that have been blotted out Ð young children and youth killed in accidents.

Perhaps this past year you had to say goodbye to a beloved parent who had grown to be quite old. You had to make arrangements Ð purchase a nice casket, meet with the funeral director, hold a viewing the day before, and arrange the funeral. Your friends and relatives came, and it was good to be together. But when the lid was closed on the casket, was it the end? If you do not believe in the resurrection, then you believe that it was.

Yet, according to Paul, our salvation comes only through the Gospel. He received it from the Holy Spirit and passed it on to us. (It is verbalized quite well in the Apostle’s Creed.) Paul tells us, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (I Cor. 15:3-5).

Yes, Jesus appeared. And Paul says that Jesus also appeared to him, although Paul wasn’t one of the Twelve. Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road, when Paul was going to bring some Christians back to Jerusalem to kill them, and He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Then the Lord sent Saul (Paul) off into Damascus, and then to Arabia where he learned more from other Christians and occasionally had a direct revelation from the Lord Jesus himself.

This is not a made-up message. This message has come through revelation, and far be it from any person Ð no matter how educated the mind may be Ð to say it was all right for another day, but we don’t believe it today. For if that is your belief, then you either have a made-up story of your own, which carries no background whatsoever, or you believe that the funeral is the end of it all. If the funeral is the end of it all, then we’d better do something to really make this life much better than it is. And so we live that type of life.

However, that isn’t the way it is, friend. It isn’t the way it is at all, for Christ has been raised from the dead, and we, too, will be raised if we trust in him.

In the closing part of I Corinthians 15, Paul says, “Where, O death, is your victory. Where, O death is your sting?” Death has no victory for “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Stand firm, even in a day when it is sometimes very difficult. Stand firm! For you are standing on the fact that Christ died for your sins, and they will be forgiven when you repent. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and that glorious victory can be yours.

This leads us to the part that makes Easter either really meaningful or just another holiday where some of your friends and relatives have gathered.

Perhaps you come from a family where Easter was celebrated as a glorious day in your home. You wore some new clothing and celebrated the fact that Jesus came forth from the grave in a very real way.

I remember that, during my childhood, my father would occasionally drive through the cemetery on Easter Sunday afternoon. We envisioned the day when, because Christ died for our sins, he would return. And so I have been blessed with that knowledge and have never been without the faith of knowing that Jesus Christ lives.

I am very fortunate, and I know many of you also had God-fearing parents who were true to the Scriptures. You heard the message from them and from others that death is not the end. “O death, where is your sting. O grave, where is your victory?”

Others of you may have a different story. You may be saying, “Easter in our house was a glorious day when our family gathered. However, I cast all this aside in my late teens and early 20s. I thought it was a lot of foolishness. But then a terrible trauma occurred in my life, and I began to see that everything I trusted was right here on this earth Ð what I could acquire, the material. I needed something more, something eternal. No longer did I want to say, ÔI hope there is something more.’ I am sick and tired of hope, and I want to know!

“So I came back to the faith. I now know that I have a resurrected Savior. I received him back. I was so excited to tell my parents, for they have sorrowed over me all these years because I didn’t have the joy of salvation, and I wasn’t going to heaven. I still remember the day I said to my loved ones, ÔI’m back. And I will never leave him again, because I know he will never leave me. He never left me when I rebelled, and he is still with me now. I am back with him.'”

Perhaps you were not raised in a Christian home. You never knew what it was to believe in a life after death. Here it is, another Easter day, and you have an opportunity to accept what God has given you in his Word. Paul said, “I delivered to you what I received.” Paul received it from God, he gave it to others, and it has been passed on so we have it here today.

My beloved, on this Easter Sunday, if you confess your sin and trust the resurrected Lord, then all will be well and you can stand firm in this great truth that Jesus Christ is alive. No longer need you fear. No longer must you move about believing this life is all there is. You can be very concerned about all the bad news happening in our world today. Yet, beyond that is the Good News that on the first day of the week Jesus Christ came forth from that beautiful tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the angels sang “Hosanna in the highest!” And you sing, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

Leave it there friend, and God will give you the peace that passes all understanding and the peace of knowing that you are not roaming through this world alone. You will not face eternity alone, for Lord Jesus Christ is with you.

Christ the King

To describe his mission, the Bible presents Jesus in many ways. He is referred to as the greatest Prophet ever known, that is, the greatest teacher. Scriptures say the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority. His messages were not presented as simply his opinion or a possibility but the truth.

In the vast majority of scripture, Jesus is presented as the Savior. In Mark 2:5, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” On Friday of this week, we will celebrate Jesus as the Redeemer, the “Suffering Servant.”

John talks about Jesus as a Shepherd. He says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). When we follow him, he will lead us into the depths of peace, joy, and understanding throughout our lives.

Jesus is referred to as the Lord again and again. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:28). Jesus is saying, I am God! I am not only a man, I am also God. I am the Lord.

Today is Palm Sunday, and we see the scriptures present Jesus as the King who rides into Jerusalem. It is the great message that he has come to be the Lord, the King of the world.

When a king visited a country, it was a great event, and they had all kinds of celebrations. Jesus, mimicking this, asked for a colt. Then he rode into the city on that Palm Sunday, with his disciples and crowds following him. The crowd shouted and threw palm branches before him. Some people were so overwhelmed that they took off their coats and placed them before Christ as he rode.

The focus today is on Jesus’ entrance on Palm Sunday as King and Ruler. Then, making it personal, the King of our lives who rules what we do.

When the religious leaders heard the celebration, they felt it had gone far enough. They decided that Jesus had to die, and it should happen right away on this particular week. So they went to Pilate and told him they wanted Jesus to be crucified. However, his crucifixion could not be ordered by the Jewish people. It would take orders from the Roman government. Pilate wasn’t sure that he wanted to do that, for he could find no guilt in him whatsoever. “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.

Pilate then began to question Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

And Jesus said, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”

Pilate became rather angry and said, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

Pilate discussed his matter with the Jewish people who had brought Jesus and said, “It is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of Passover. Do you want me to release Ôthe king of the Jews’?”

The people shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas.” So Pilate released Barabbas to them and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

This is a traditional telling of Palm Sunday. Children wave their palm leaves in church on Sunday morning. Somewhere in your community you could well hear a part of Handel’s Messiah where Jesus is described as the one who is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Your church will have many services this week including Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) when we remember Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper, and we will bow at the altar and receive his body and blood as token and given to us that we might truly know we are forgiven. We will have Good Friday services when we hear the same old story that, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, never grows old.

This story is absolutely important, and it needs to be told every single year in its traditional form. But I think that we need to go a bit further and ask ourselves a very haunting question: We say Christ is King in our lives today, but is he, friend? Is he?

If you know Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are a citizen of two kingdoms. Most of us who listen to this program today are citizens of the United States of America. We have our leaders, and the scriptures tell us to be loyal to them. In a democracy, we know it is important to be of benefit in whatever way we can be to our country. As we look at the chaos in our states and in our nation, we see a crying need for the church to rise and let the name of Jesus be known.

But that kingdom, as much as we love it, is temporal. One day it will come to an end. However, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ will reign forever and ever. Above all, the kingdom of God makes Jesus my eternal king. We thank God that we still have the right to say what I have said these words, for we don’t know what tragedies are possible in this country. But of the kingdom of God we know there is no end.

The church has not always been able to make these statements. Men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer went to the gallows because he said, “My kingdom is the kingdom of God.” Nazism failed; communism also failed, but the kingdom of God continues forever. Jesus Christ is our eternal King. That is the way we are to address him. We address him as our great Prophet, our great Lord, our Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. But above all, he is the King for all time. And so we sing, “Beautiful Savior, King of creation, Son of God, and Son of man.” That is Christianity, my friend.

Many would agree that Jesus was a great teacher, then leave it right there and point to other religious leaders as being equally great. However, those other leaders could not establish a kingdom that will know no end. That is God’s plan, and it is why we hear John 3:16 so often Ð that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Wherever this Palm Sunday finds you, friend, if you belong to Christ by grace through faith, then have the comfort of knowing your eternal King stands by your side and will one day take you to your eternal home to live with him.