The Cross and the Crown

Date: 13 Nov 2022

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong

Sermon Text: Luke 22:1–23:49

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Checkmate. It’s a signal that the game is over, the match has come to an end. The game of chess spread to Europe via the Arab world, and the term checkmate is actually derived from the Persian phrase, “shah mat”, meaning, the “King is dead”.

When the king is dead, the game is over. You lose. End of story. That’s the way it is in real life as well. In many wars, when the king dies, the army scatters, the kingdom falls. The king is dead, checkmate, the game is over.

Throughout the Gospel, the author Luke has spent considerable effort establishing that Jesus is the King. In his birth prophecy, the angel Gabriel said to Mary:

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

This Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cries of “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”. And as we look at our passage this morning, as we witness Jesus’ final moments leading to the cross, Luke intentionally underscores his identity as King.

LUKE 22:28-30 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

We see him proclaiming himself as king to his disciples.

LUKE 23:2-3 We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”

He does not deny his kingship before Pilate.

38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:38)

Finally, at the cross, a plaque identifies Jesus as The King of the Jews to every single onlooker.

Jesus is the King. But checkmate. The king is dead. Here in the Gospel of Luke chapter 23, at the death of Jesus, it ought to be game over, this is where the story normally ends. The king is dead.

So Luke, the author of this gospel, has his work cut out for him. He has to persuade his readers that they are reading a different kind of story to the one they are familiar with. One where the cross signals not defeat, but victory. One where the cross is not a symbol of pain, but gain. One in which Jesus becomes king not in spite of his death, but precisely because of death.