Messages from Pastor Raddatz

March 28, 2021 Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston TX, LENT 5

Return to the Kingdom of God, John 18:28-38

(Adapted from Concordia Publishing House resource “Return”)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Dear People of the Kingdom of God.

THEME: God calls us into His Kingdom, where we participate in His reign and rule.  We participate by hearing his Word and caring for others inside and outside the congregation.

Again and again, Jesus refers to “the kingdom of God,” perhaps better understood as “the reign and rule of God.” But what does that mean? It can be obvious, like when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people praise him.  He is riding into the city like a King who is returning victorious from battle.   Still the Kingdom of God can be masked and at times invisible to the human eye. For Jesus this meant that the praise of people on Palm Sunday turns into the curses of people.   The Kingdom of God has a plan.  This plan involves a cross.

According to John 18:28, Pontius Pilate reigns at his headquarters and is forced to wrestle with exactly that question, Is this Jesus a King?. This sermon takes on the question of what it means to say that Jesus is our King. Pilate asks, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), but the real question is “Who is truth?” The answer is simple: Jesus Christ. He is our King in a way that no earthly authority could ever comprehend. He is the King who loves and provides for His subjects. The King who places a premium not on lordship but on service. The King who leads by example rather than by force. The King who offers Himself to ensure the salvation of His people. 

During the trial of Jesus, the Jewish leaders wanted Pilate to pronounce the death penalty of Jesus, because they could not condemn someone to death according to Roman Law.  Pilate’s wife reminds him to have nothing to do with Jesus.  Pilate offers the people a deal.  I will give you a vote: should I release Jesus or Barabbas?  The people vote to release Barabbas and they vote to crucify Jesus.

We must remember that when things do not go our way God has a better way.  God has superpower over human attempts to manipulate His Kingdom. His Kingdom’s purpose will win out over human assaults.

What does the kingdom of God look like?  Here are a few examples from real life:

  • A young mother tentatively steps into the lobby of a small congregation in Kansas, seeking some assistance to pay a long-overdue power bill. A member of the congregation, who has volunteered to serve, sits with her, listens to her story, prays with her, and contacts the power company to pay her debt. Welcome to the Kingdom.
  • A homeless man is found sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a Georgia church early one Sunday morning. The elder who finds him welcomes him inside, provides him with a grocery bag full of food, and invites him to stay for worship. Welcome to the Kingdom.
  • On Sunday morning, you line up at the rail in front of the altar, and your King feeds you with His very own body and blood, taking away your sins, strengthening your faith, and building you up in His image. Welcome to the Kingdom.

These things are possible because God’s kingdom reigns.  While the chief priests and elders wanted to crucify Jesus, he wins the forgiveness the world needs.  From the cross Jesus said, “FATHER FORGIVE THEM, THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING.”  Even while we commit sinful acts God’s forgiveness in Christ calls us to return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God has ridden into our life: some of his ways are obvious and some might have not been as obvious.   Some of us have been raised in a Christian home where we always knew Jesus love.  The love of Christ was obvious.  But when we got older we realized that our fallen nature was crying to get out and our sinfulness does not go away.  We need God’s forgiveness.  At times like this, remember your baptism.  When we need direction know God directs you with his Word.  He will rule in his favor for you.  Just as he saves you he calls you and I to serve the Lord by serving others.

Rejoice, dear brothers and sisters, that you are subject to the One who created you, the One who redeemed you, the One who sanctifies you. For He is the best King in all of creation.

May this peace of God keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.

John Raddatz, Pastor

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