This is a copy of a talk I gave on Wednesday 22 November 2022 at the 10.00 service at Saint Mary Magdalen, Billericay. The Bible Readings were Colossians 1:11-20 & Luke 23:33-43.
Sunday was ‘Christ the King’ Sunday also known, to the more mature ones amongst us, as ‘Stir up Sunday.’ This is because of the ‘old’ collect which we used before the introduction of Common Worship. Can anyone remember the words?
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The title for my talk today is: Christ The King from Colossians 1. The Colossians were a young church, and they were in danger of being duped by false teaching denying the kingship of Jesus. So, as we look at this quite extraordinary passage, I have three points I want to raise:
1) Never Underestimate The Person Of Jesus (vs15, 19)
In vs15, Paul wrote that Jesus is: “the image of the invisible God.” If you think about it, this is an outrageous statement, isn’t it? It’s a well-taught fact, particularly in the OT, that we cannot see God. But the claim of the NT is that God became a man, in Jesus, and so could be seen and touched.
In Jesus, God revealed himself to us, for He is the image of the invisible God. Its one thing for us to read of God’s words in the OT and hear of amazing encounters with him: Moses, Burning Bush. But it’s quite another thing for him to come down to our sinful world and take on human flesh.
And if we are in any doubt at all as to what Paul means, then look at vs19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” There was nothing about God that is not fully revealed in Jesus. So, Jesus is not just a divinely inspired man, or a divine prophet, as some religions believe. No, Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
And that means we must come to the conclusion that only Jesus reveals God to us fully. And that is because he claims exclusivity not just uniqueness and that there is no other way to know God apart from Jesus.
Remember Jesus’ words in John’s gospel: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” This is Jesus’ exclusive claim to be God.
Now it goes without saying that this is a very hard truth to declare in today’s society. Because so many people believe that all religions are essentially the same and all lead to God. We know that Britain is becoming an increasingly secular society. Will you have the courage to stand for the exclusive claims of Jesus in your places of work, homes and families? Do so with grace and compassion, but will you stand?
2) Never Underestimate The Power Of Jesus (Vs 16-18)
Paul tells us that his power is seen in two ways:
a) He’s Lord over the Creation. We see this in vs15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Now we are immediately confronted with a difficult phrase: He is the firstborn over creation. Verse 16b tells us that all things were created though him, literally, and for him. Jesus is the agent of creation and the goal of creation. So, the very universe exists for Jesus. It’s there to glorify him.
Have any of you ever read Stephen Hawking’s bestselling book A Brief History of Time? It’s a really interesting read, especially his conclusion about the existence of ‘God.’ And at the end of the book, he wrote these words: “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? … If we find the answer to that, we would know the mind of God.” But the answer is in Colossians chapter 1. It’s all through Jesus and it’s all for Jesus. Staggering, isn’t it?
God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, “Lord, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning!” “Oh, is that so? Tell me…” replies God. “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of You and breathe life into it, thus creating man.” “Well, that’s interesting, show me.” So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mould the soil in his hands. “Oh no, no, no…” interrupts God “Get your own dirt.”
Moment by moment Jesus sustains the universe. Without him the whole thing would disintegrate. Just think about the huge size of the universe that we live in. Cast your mind back to the 20 August 1977. ‘I feel love’ by Donna Summer was TOTP! James Callaghan was Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter was President of USA. Star Wars was the top film which is quite interesting because it was on that day that Voyager II, the inter planetary probe launched to observe and transmit to earth data about the outer planetary system, set off travelling at 90,000 miles an hour, faster than a speeding bullet.
On the 28 August 1989, that’s over ten years later, it reached Neptune, some 2,700 million miles from earth. Voyager II then left the solar system. It will not come within one light year of any star for another 958,000 years, give or take ten years. In our galaxy there are 100,000 million stars like our sun. Our galaxy is one of at least 100,000 million galaxies.
But the fact is, if Jesus Christ stopped sustaining the universe for one nanosecond, the whole thing would descend into chaos. It is a breath-taking picture of Jesus. In status, above creation, the agent of creation, the goal of creation, the sustainer of creation -and he chooses to love, and be interested in, us!
b) He’s Lord over the New Creation. But he’s not just Lord over He’s also Lord over the new creation too! Vs18: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” God’s new creation is his people and, eventually, he will redeem creation itself. But as God’s new creation, his new people, we have Jesus as our head. Jesus was the firstborn from among the dead and this means that his people too will be raised from the dead, and his resurrection is the guarantee of that happening.
What did Jesus himself say? The gates of hell itself will not prevail against his church. He is the one who watches over us, who sustains His church, just as he does creation. And so, whatever you and I face this coming week or this coming year, whether it be uncertainty, a broken heart, unemployment, exams, bereavement, illness, conflict, or even death itself. Whatever it is, Jesus is sufficient for those trials. Because only a sovereign Lord Jesus can give us security. And the challenge is to trust him. So never ever underestimate the power Jesus has.
3) Never Underestimate The Price Jesus Paid (Vs 20)
It is a staggering fact that Jesus is God in the flesh, the image of the invisible God. It is a breath-taking comfort to know that Jesus is the great creator and sustainer of the old and new creation. But to know why he came is perhaps the greatest joy of all.
Vs20: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” We read about in our Gospel reading from Luke 23:33-43.
The fact is that the universe is out of sync’ with its creator. We don’t have to look far on the TV and in our newspapers to see that to be true. How we need the peace that only Jesus can give. And that peace restores not only our relationship with God but the entire universe. It doesn’t mean that everyone and everything will willingly submit to Jesus. But it does mean that Jesus has done everything necessary to restore order to the world. Everyone will bow before Jesus whether they like it or not and that is one of the themes of the Advent Season when we think about, and look to, the return of the Lord Jesus.
Is this Jesus your king? Well, if so, never underestimate the person Jesus is. Never underestimate the power Jesus has. And never underestimate the price Jesus paid.
‘Christ the King’ Sunday marks the end of the church’s liturgical year and marks the beginning of the Advent countdown to Christmas. These words by Rev Dr S M Lockbridge are well worth a read/listen: