His Prayer, Our Prayer: The Defiant Doxology
I Corinthians 15:12-20
The last phrase of The Lord’s Prayer did not come from the Lord. It was not part of the original prayer Jesus gave to His disciples. Apparently it was added to the prayer later by the followers of Jesus. But does that really matter? I think of Mozart who, when he was ill and near death, was commissioned to write a requiem Mass. Feverishly he composed the early sections, while coughing spasms wracked his body. He was in the midst of composing the beautiful piece called “Lachrymosa” when he died and was buried in a pauper’s grave. But his students could not bear the thought of that magnificent composition remaining unfinished. So they studied his notes. They remembered his techniques. They completed the work. Today, whenever it is performed, its lyric beauty pays homage to its famous composer, not to the students who completed it. So it is with the final phrase of The Lord’s Prayer. It came not from Jesus but from His followers, yet it is the perfect ending to the perfect prayer. You will see what I mean in a moment, after we have prayed…
Few of us who sat at the feet of Dr. Kenneth Phifer, my professor of preaching in seminary, will ever forget the things that he said or the lessons that he taught. One of those lessons jumps to the forefront of my mind today. He taught us that “because Christians celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sunday as a remembrance of the resurrection, every sermon, in a sense, ought to be an Easter sermon. Every sermon, directly or indirectly, ought to proclaim Christ’s resurrection victory.” That’s so true, Jesus Christ is alive; the resurrection happened. The resurrection, you see, is not something which is explained by the church—it is rather the only thing which can explain the church. Without the resurrection, there would be no church. Those first disciples marched into the teeth of the world’s hatred and came out singing hymns. Those early Christians marched into the horrible persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian and came out proclaiming Christ as Lord. They were different, and they were different because of the resurrection.
One of the ways they expressed that difference was to add a phrase to the prayer which Jesus had taught them. They added these words: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” David Read calls that line “the defiant doxology.” Here were Christians worshipping in caves in order to escape detection. Here were Christians being hunted down like common criminals and then brutally sacrificed to satisfy the bloodlust of Rome. Here were Christians living under the constant threat of death. Yet they could cry out with holy defiance: “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead did that!
“Thine is the kingdom.”
But what does it mean to say that Christ is the kingdom? Well, it means that Jesus Christ has asserted His risen regnency over countless millions of people down through history. It means that once and forever He has established Himself as the Master of all life. That’s the reason we add this doxology to His prayer: “Thine is the kingdom.” Arnold Toynbee, the historian, has stated that nineteen civilizations have come and gone upon the face of the earth, and historically that is true. But there is one kingdom, one empire which has come and never gone—it is the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Match His Lordship against the lordship of the greatest conqueror the world has ever known, Alexander the Great. There are certain similarities. Alexander was a young man—Christ was a young man. Alexander died when he was 33—Christ died when He was 33. But there the similarities end. Alexander was born in a mansion—Christ was born in a manger. Alexander was reared a king—Christ was reared a carpenter. Alexander died on a throne—Christ died on a cross. Alexander was revered as he died—Christ was reviled as He died. Alexander was counted by the world a success—Christ was written off by the world a failure. Alexander died amidst all the splendors of Babylon—Christ died amidst all the poverties of Golgotha. Alexander conquered every throne—yes—but Christ conquered every grave. No one marches today for Alexander, but millions march today for Jesus Christ. Alexander made history, but Christ transformed history. Alexander’s kingdom is gone, but Christ’s kingdom is forever and forever! We know that in our hearts. That’s why we say: “Thine is the kingdom.”
And “Thine is the power.”
There are different kinds of power. The brute force of a bulldozer can knock down a stone wall, but it cannot sculpt that stone into something as beautiful as Michaelangelo’s “Pieta.” The power of a jet plane can take us almost anywhere we want to go quickly, but it cannot give us a reason for going there. Technology can offer us an appliance which has the power to dry our hair, but it cannot dry our tears. Yes, there are different kinds of power, and the power of Jesus Christ is the power to transform human life.
So many people don’t see that. So many people see this as a nightmare time in which we are plunging into darkness and despair. The story was in the newspaper, so it must be true. There was a woman who was visiting in New York City. It was her first time there. She had heard all about the crime and violence, so she was quite anxious. She was staying in a hotel which had a parking garage underneath it. She pulled into the garage late one evening, parked her car, and began walking toward the elevator. She had seen enough TV shows to know what sometimes happens in deserted garages at night. She was very jittery. She got to the elevator and pressed the button. The doors opened, she stepped in. Before the doors closed, there suddenly stepped onto the elevator a large man with a large dog on a leash. The man didn’t say anything. He just pressed the button. The doors closed. Then he said firmly: “Lie down!” Immediately the woman dropped to the floor of the elevator in a panic. There was an astonished pause, and the man said: “Madam, I was speaking to my dog.” And he helped her up, calmed her down, and gave her a ticket to a Broadway show!
Well, there are a lot of people who are like that—they are so terrified by the circumstances around them that they are easily panicked. In this country last year, for example, 18,000 people were murdered, but 25,000 committed suicide! All they saw in life was darkness and despair. They needed to experience the indomitable power of Jesus Christ.
One Sunday at the Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York, Charles Jefferson preached about power. He shared all that he had been able to learn about electricity and then he asked: “If there is a power that can light our homes and our offices, then what kind of world would it be if there were not also a power to light our hearts and our lives?” He then told of all that he had been able to learn about gravity, and once more he asked: “If there is a power at work to hold down our homes and to keep great buildings in place, then what kind of world would it be if there were not an equivalent power to hold and to keep us?” That is so true.
That power is the power of Jesus Christ and it is available to flow into our lives. Let me put it this way: no poet who is having trouble writing poetry would ever think to cry out: “O Shakespeare, help me!”—and no sailor who is caught in a storm at sea would ever be moved to cry out, “O John Paul Jones, help me!” But that poet, if the poet is Christian, or that sailor, if the sailor is Christian, or anyone who knows and loves Jesus Christ, can cry out in the midst of any circumstance “O Jesus, help me!”—and the power of Jesus Christ will begin to flow into that person’s life. More to the point, if you cry out today “Jesus, help me!”, and mean it, then you will be able to say that this is the most power-full day of your life, because today you will come face-to-face, hand-to-hand, and heart-to-heart with Jesus Christ and you will say, “Thine is the power!”
And “Thine is the glory.”
Think of it for a moment. Jesus, without money or arms, has conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon put together. Jesus, without scientific expertise or advanced degrees, has shed more light on things human and divine than all the philosophers and scholars combined. Jesus, without training in linguistics or public speaking, spoke words of life such as have never been spoken before or since and produced effects which lie infinitely beyond the reach of orator or poet. Jesus, without writing a single line, has set more pens in motion and furnished the themes for more sermons and discussions and works of art and learned volumes and sweet songs of praise than the whole of great people from ancient and modern times. Yes, His is the glory.
And that glory is seen in the lives of those who belong to Him. I learned, for example, about a young man in Scotland who developed cancer of the throat and tongue. Terrible for anyone, of course, but especially for him. He was a professional singer, a tenor. The doctors decreed that radical surgery would be required. He would never speak or sing again. He was on the operating table. The surgeon said to him just before the anesthetic was to be administered: “Is there anything you desire before the surgery begins?” The young man said: “Yes, there is.” And suddenly, he sat straight up on the operating table and he began to sing the word of an old hymn written by William Cowper:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
On he sang, verse after verse after verse until there wasn’t a dry eye in that whole operating theatre except his own. Then he came to the final verse of the hymn which he sang even more triumphantly than the others:
Then in a nobler sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.
He would lay aside the glory of his singing, but he would not lay aside the glory of his Christ. He would not surrender to the agonies of life because he had long since filled himself with the glories of his Christ.
You know, I think one of the grandest sentences in all of the Bible is Matthew 28:2, which reads: “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it!” There’s a kind of magnificent contempt about that. The angel of the Lord confronts the worst the world can do—death—and pushes the stone out of the way, uses it as a stool—just sits on it! That’s what this defiant doxology at the end of The Lord’s Prayer is all about. Outof the darkness of the grave comes the light of resurrection, and with that light comes glory. Yes, “Thine is the glory!”
Well, it all comes down to this…
Every phrase of the prayer which Jesus taught us to pray will pass away, save one. There will come a time when we will no longer pray, “Hallowed be Thy name”—for His name will be hallowed. There will come a time when we will no longer pray, “Thy kingdom come”—for His kingdom will have come. Nor will we pray, “Thy will be done”—for His will will be done. There will come a time when we will no longer plead for bread because we will have everything our hearts can desire. There will come a time when we will not ask to be forgiven, nor will we seek to forgive because there will be no more sin. There will come a time when we will not ask to be delivered from temptation for there will be nothing to tempt us—when we will not ask for the defeat of evil because evil will have been finally and forever destroyed. But there will never come a time when we will not pray: “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” That’s the prayer that never dies. And that’s the prayer that we can pray no matter what we have to face in life. It’s our defiant doxology!
Thine is the kingdom. Amen!
Thine is the power. Amen!
Thine is the glory, forever!
Amen and amen!