King Of Kings And Lord Of Lords
On this, the best of all days, I share with you the story of Easter from the Gospel according to Luke 24:1. “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb taking the spices which they had prepared, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how He told you while He was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and on the third day, rise.’ And they remembered His words. And returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”
Soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh God, our rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.
Some years back, a group of 28 prominent educators and historians were called together for the purpose of selecting the 100 most significant events in all of human history. Furthermore, they were charged with the responsibility of ranking those events in the order of their importance. After many weeks of hard work, they submitted their reports. Number one on their list was the discovery of America. Number two on their list was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg. Number three on the list, the writing of the United States Constitution. Number four, well, there were four events tied for fourth place. The discovery of electricity, the discovery of X-ray, the first airplane flight, and the life of Jesus Christ. Imagine that. Jesus Christ in fourth place.
I come to this pulpit on this Easter Sunday to declare to you that every white throat of every lily in this room proclaims the good news that Jesus Christ is not fourth, but first, and no lilies have ever bloomed for the writing of a Constitution of this or any other lands. Today, on Easter Sunday, pipe organs are thundering all across the face of the world shouting out the glorious good news that Jesus Christ is not tied for fourth, but triumphant overall, and no pipe organs have ever thundered for the discovery of the printing press or electricity. This very moment, as the sun spans the globe, thousands upon thousands of choirs are rising to make magnificent music because our Christ is not ranked, but risen. And I’ve never yet heard a choir sing to the glory of X-ray or the Wright Brothers’ flight. The glorious Gospel of Easter that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, that gospel has in fact changed the whole shape of all human history while the discovery of America is remembered with nothing more than a long weekend for government employees in the month of October. Why? Because Jesus Christ is not fourth, but first. He is the supreme event in all of history.
It has become customary for people to stand in awe and reverence whenever the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah is sung. Now, is that because the music is splendid? No. As a matter of fact, Handel himself wrote better music and others have written better still. No, people stand in awe and reverence because in the Hallelujah chorus, Jesus Christ is proclaimed rightly to be nothing other than King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He is King of Kings, and he is Lord of Lords. He is the Lord of Life.
Do you remember on Calvary, just before He died, Jesus mustered up what strength He had remaining and let forth with a one word cry of victory. In English, it’s three words. “Tetelestai,” He cried. “It is finished.” Have you ever stopped to think about the significance of that cry? Here, it was Jesus, the only One who has ever walked the roads of this earth, the Only one who could come to the moment of death and say, “It is finished. Everything that it was Mine to do in life, I have done. It is complete. It is perfect. Nothing left to do. Nothing can be added. It is finished.” That is true of no one else. No one else. All of the rest of us settle for half a loaf or half a dream.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words at which the world still wonders and yet what did he scribble down for his epitaph? This, listen. “Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and who failed much.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Consider John Keats to be the greatest poet of his day.” And yet when Keats died, what did Shelley write? “A flickering lamp, a falling shadow, a breaking billow.”
Cecil Rhodes opened up the African continent and established literal empires, and yet what were the last words that he spoke before his death? “So little done. So much to do.” Only one, only one could ever come to the end of his life and cry out and know that it was true, “It is finished. It is complete. My mission, every single part of it has been accomplished.” Jesus Christ is the Lord, the Master of Life. He lived it to perfection. He wasn’t here long. But when he died, he could say, and know, it was true, “It is finished. I have done what I was sent to do.”
Make no mistake about it. Every single one of us has been drafted into the battle of life. That’s what life is. A battle. While some of us are young and while we may know how to use our weapons, our uniforms are as yet unstained and our battle flags are still, well, furled. Now, those of us who are older, we bear upon our lives and upon our hearts, the scars, to prove that we have fought in the heat of the battle. But the fact is whether we’re young or old, we must continue to fight on. There is no choice. There is no lead from the front lines. There is no escape from the battle. We must fight on until the time when our own personal trumpet of recall shall sound. Until then, we have no choice, but to live on and to fight the battle of life.
But the good news of Easter declares to us, as the people of God that we can be triumphant even in the midst of that battle because Jesus Christ said, “It is finished. My mission has been accomplished.” That means that He has set before us a pattern for our living. And not only that, but He’s given to us the power to live that way. That’s what Easter is all about. If we put Jesus Christ first in our lives, then we shall know the way to live, to live as Jesus lived.
And the glorious good news is that He’ll give us the power to learn how to live that way. He does that, you see, because He is the Lord of Life, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He is the Lord of Death.
I know as soon as I say that, there are some of you who have agreed with everything that I’ve said from this pulpit up to this point, but now you’re whispering down in your hearts, Jesus may well be the Lord and Master of Life, but not the Lord of Death because I just can’t quite believe that He actually was raised from the dead. That’s strange credibility. I’m a perfectly rational, intelligent, modern-day American. My mind cannot accept that kind of statement. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical. I can’t quite accept it. And those people are very quick to offer one of a trio of theories to support their point of view.
One of those theories is this, that Jesus Christ on the cross did not actually die, but instead, fell into a coma, a deep faint, as it were. And then later on, in the coolness of the tomb, He was revived, and then managed to escape. Now, all that you have to believe in order to accept that theory is that the Romans who were experts in the matter of crucifixion made for some unexplainable reason, a terrible mistake one day and put down from the cross the body of one they thought they had killed and they did not notice that He was still alive. And not only that, but then when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came to get the body to prepare the body for burial, well, they did so without ever noticing that the body was still breathing. And so they placed Him in the tomb and the tomb was sealed. And there, this Jesus, without any medical assistance, whatever, this one who had been hanging upon the cross for a period of hours, this one whose hands and feet were literally crushed, this one who had received the wound of a spear in the side just below the heart, this one, somehow, without assistance, managed to be revived in the tomb, fold up the grave clothes, lay them aside, and then push away a stone so large that three women were worried on that first Easter morning lest they be unable to move it. We have samples of such stones in museums today, their average weight, 1,500 pounds. And this Christ, this gravely wounded Christ, somehow managed to roll that stone aside and then defeat a squad of Roman soldiers set there to guard the tomb. I submit to you that such a theory is ridiculous on the face of it.
Well, there’s a second theory such people put forth. It says that the body of Jesus was actually removed from the tomb by friends. Now, all you have to believe in order to accept that theory is that these individuals who were cowards on Friday and courageous on Monday, these individuals who were willing to be crucified or to be torn apart by wild animals or to be set on fire and used as torches to light the gardens of the Emperor Nero, that these individuals who were forced to confront the most fiendish torments and tortures the human mind could ever conceive, that these individuals did everything that they did, suffered everything that they suffered, died every death that they died for the sake of something which they knew to be absolutely untrue. Why, I tell you, it’s hard enough to find people who would be willing to die for that which they know to be absolutely true, let alone to find people who would be willing to die for something which they knew to be a lie.
A third theory which they put forth is this that the body of Jesus Christ was taken by His enemies. I submit that that’s the most ridiculous suggestion of them all, for if that had been the case, then, when those early Christians began to move up and down the land trumpeting the good news that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, all that the enemies of Christ had to do was to drag forth His rotting corpse and say, “There, look, there is your Risen Christ.” And in one moment, one single moment, they could have extinguished forever the flame of the Christian church. And mind you, these were people who wanted nothing better than to somehow stop the spread of that church. And yet, they didn’t produce the body. Why? Because they didn’t have it.
No, here, here is what is true. On the first day of the week, they went to the tomb, and they found the stone rolled away. But when they went in, they did not find the body. My friends, I have seen in the course of my living, the burial places of a number of great figures in history, people like Napoleon, and Washington and Lenin and Churchill and Kennedy and Pope John the 23rd. But the plain and simple truth of the matter is that the center of our faith is not a tomb containing the mortal remains of someone. No. The center of our faith is a great rock with a hole in it and the stone rolled away, and a tomb that is absolutely empty because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And the day He was raised, death itself died. He, yes, He is the Lord of Death, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And He is the Lord of Life after Death.
Mark this down as true. Our God is not some tin-pot monarch ruling over an ever expanding cemetery. No. While it is true that I cannot paint for you a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, I cannot fold out before you blueprints of the Holy City of God, I cannot describe Heaven, for it is Heavenly and the words of earth simply cannot do it justice. But thank God, the Bible gives us a glimpse, a hint, a clue. That’s all, but that’s enough.
And I would submit to you that anyone who takes lightly the witness of the Scriptures at this point is foolish indeed. Because you see, this book, this book speaks of gold, and gold does not tarnish or rust. And that means that nothing in the Kingdom of Heaven will ever wear out or wear away. And this book speaks of music, and music is that art above all the other arts which lifts us to heights we’ve never known before. And that’s a picture of the joy that will be ours in Heaven. And this book speaks of Gates of Pearl, and the Pearl is the fruit of the agony of the Oyster. And that means that Heaven is the reward for the agony of all those who know true commitment to Jesus Christ and who give themselves to faithful living for all of their days. And this book, this book speaks of trees that bear their fruits in every season. And that is testimony to the abundance of the life that will be ours in Heaven. All of that is there, but greatest in all of it and the greatest of all in it is this. This book tells us that we after death, we shall be with Jesus.
Pat and Sandy Phipps had a little girl. Her name was Rachel, a beautiful child. She gave them more joy than they could hold for a handful of years. And then she was discovered to have leukemia. Within a matter of weeks, she was confined to her bed and the end seemed frighteningly near. One day, her mother was trying valiantly to entertain her in the bed. And suddenly, Rachel stopped what she was doing and turned and said, “Mommy, what is it like to die?” Immediately, her mother turned her face, not wanting her to see the sudden rush of tears, and on the pretext of having to tend to something in the kitchen, she excused herself and said that she would return in a few moments. Outside the room, she prayed, prayed for all she was worth, if somehow God would help her to know how to respond to her child’s question. In a few minutes, she regained her composure. She went back into the room. She sat down on Rachel’s bed, took those frail, little hands into her own and touched that lovely little head, which now had no hair upon it, and said, “Rachel, do you know when you were younger and sometimes at night, you would fall asleep in my bed? Then, in the morning, when you would wake up, you would find yourself in your own room in your own bed. That was because in the night while you were sleeping, your father would come pick you up in his big, strong arms and carry you back to your own room to your own bed. That’s what it’s like to die. One day you will fall asleep. And while you are asleep, Jesus will come. He will pick you up in His great, big, strong arms. He will carry you to your own room in Heaven.” “Is that what it’s like to die?” Rachel said, “To be with Jesus?” “Yes,” Pat said. “That’s what it’s like.” The little girl said, “Then, I’m not afraid.” It wasn’t long thereafter. One afternoon, Rachel went to sleep. While she was sleeping, Jesus came, picked her up in His great, big, strong, loving arms, carried her home, all the way home. I buried Rachel knowing what I knew. What else could I say at the funeral, but this? Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of Life after Death, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
So how do you see Him on this Easter, this Jesus? I’ll tell you how I see Him. I see Him as the writer of Revelation saw Him. I see Him leading eternity’s Easter Parade riding on a Great White Stallion with a name above Him which is above every name, the name in which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. And I see Him leading that parade. And behind Him come all of those who He has conquered, all of them in chains, sin and death and evil and hatred and sin and hell and Satan himself. And after them, come all of the heroes of the faith, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and all of those who walked dry shod across the Red Sea and Joshua and those who took possession of the Promised Land and Gideon and his 300 and Elijah and his 7,000 and Amos and Joel and Isaiah and Jeremiah and the thousands who heard and responded to the preaching of Peter and the tens of thousands who heard the words of Paul spoken or read the words of Paul written. And then after them, there come the missionaries of the Cross, and after them men and women and young people and children of every race and nation, of every tribe and every kindred on this terrestrial ball, moving and marching in victory. On and on they come, wave after wave, legion after legion, rank after rank, regiment after regiment, army after army. On and on they march behind Him, all of them crying out with one great, triumphant cry. Jesus is King. Jesus is Lord. He is the Lord of Life, and He is the Lord of Death. And He is the Lord of Life after Death. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Oh, no, my friends, no, not fourth, this Christ of ours. No, but first.
So trumpet it, lilies. And peal forth, organ and sing, choir, and heralded Christians to all of the world, Jesus Christ is risen today. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords now, and, yes, now and forever more.
Let us pray. Almighty and most gracious God, let the glorious good news of Easter grip our hearts, and let us sing for joy that Jesus Christ is risen today. Hallelujah and Amen.