We’ve all heard stories about that really important man with the really important job interview with the really important employer whom he has yet to meet in person. The man rudely cuts off another man in traffic because he is already running a bit behind schedule, wants to get to the interview in plenty of time, and is, quite frankly, a bit more important than the guy he cut in front of on the highway. Later, when he pulls into the place of the business, he quickly pulls into the parking spot for which this same man had been waiting. Again, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that his time is important. Where he’s going is important, surely more important than wherever this other, less-impressive-looking man is going. Finally, he walks into the interview, sits down, and looks up to see that same man whom he’d been rude to the entire morning. The man whom he’d walked all over all morning long will now determine his future employment . . . or lack thereof!
We’ve all heard a story or two like that before, and it should make us think twice before we treat another person as if his or her time is less important than our own. However, it also reminds us of more good news about the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection and exaltation of a righteous sufferer from Nazareth as this world’s true lord and king means that one day all those in positions of power will give an account for the way that they’ve utilized their authority. And, when they stand before the judge on that day, they will not find someone who can be bribed or who winks at injustices. Rather, they will stand before one who has known what it was like to suffer unjustly.
We saw this in a verse that we looked at yesterday. In the first recorded Christian sermon, Peter warned the powers in Jerusalem that the Jesus whom they’d crucified had been vindicated and exalted by God as this world’s rightful lord and king. In other words, he was now to be their judge. Talk about a rude awakening! Paul made a similar connection between resurrection and a coming day of judgment and vindication in one of his sermons. He announced, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all peoples everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he shall judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). God has set a day upon which he will make all wrongs right. He has proven this good news through the resurrection of Jesus. When Mary received news that she would bear Israel’s Savior, she did not yet have a category in her mind for a crucified and risen Christ. However, contrary to the reservations of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Mary did indeed know that the birth of Jesus meant that a great reversal was coming for oppressive powers and righteous sufferers. She sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:46-55, italics added). The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it serves as a warning to oppressors and as a promise of vindication for those who entrust themselves to the LORD. Jesus serves as living proof that he vindicates his people.
First, the resurrection of Jesus serves as a warning to oppressors and abusers of all forms. It should grieve the greedy that their judge was once a poor, working class peasant from the hills of Galilee (Mark 6:1-6). It should panic politicians, who turn a blind eye to human suffering, that their judge was once a frightened child and refugee on the run from a tyrannous king (Matt. 2:13-23). It should bother bullies, who love to mock and ridicule, that the one who will judge them was himself once mocked and ridiculed (Luke 22:63-65). It is should matter to those of the majority culture that the one who will judge the world was once a despised minority on the fringe of the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1-7). It should haunt those in power who crush their subjects without warrant that the one appointed to judge the world also suffered wrongly (Luke 23:18-25). All those who abuse their power and who pass freely through worldly judgments with bribes should be terrorized by the fact they’ll one day stand before a king who loves justice and always does what is right. Wife beaters, psychological manipulators, child abusers, dishonest salesmen, corrupt politicians, and greedy businessmen will all give an account before the risen king. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinth. 5:10). The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it serves as a warning to oppressors.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus is good news because it means that vindication is coming for righteous sufferers who entrust themselves to the Lord Jesus. Those who refuse to return violence with violence but instead follow the way of Jesus in praying for their persecutors, loving their enemies, forgiving their debtors, and going the extra mile for those who take advantage of their position, privilege, or power demonstrate that they believe that the steadfast love of Christ is a more effective tool for change than hate (Matt. 5:38-48). They also demonstrate their faith that, whether they win over their enemies or not, King Jesus will provide them justice when he appears from heaven to hold oppressors to account or to vindicate the righteous. Paul puts it this way, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:18-21). That the risen Jesus is this world’s rightful lord, king, and judge frees up righteous sufferers to love and to know that the Lord of all the earth will do right by them.
That the risen Jesus will judge the world also means that we have a lord and king who identifies with us in our suffering. Isaiah looked ahead to God’s servant as one who would be despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Is. 53:3-4). The writer of Hebrews explained that the risen and exalted Jesus is sympathetic to us in our sufferings because he too suffered when tempted (Heb. 2:14-18). That the risen Jesus is the coming judge is good news for righteous sufferers. It means that the one on the thrown is one with whom they can identify, and it means that he will set things right for them and for the world on a day appointed by God.
If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.