A TV show once told the story of
a defense lawyer who represented a man convicted of two
brutal killings before a parole board. He was seeking
release from prison after serving 14 years. The attorney
succeeded in getting him released.
One of the police officers who
had been present at the original crime scene as well as
the deaf prosecutor verbally gave the lawyer a rough
time after the hearing, admonishing the attorney about
accepting such representation, that folks like his
client were nothing but scum of the earth.
Later in the day, however, each
in turn learned that the defense attorney's mother had
died of cancer the night before the hearing. Each in
turn went with tail between their legs to apologize for
their coarse behavior, saying, "If only I had known, I
wouldn't have been so harsh, I would never have said
those things to you."
Now, I don't know about you, but
this gets to me how often this happens in life. In our
normal hustle and bustle of daily living, when we are
moving too fast or we ourselves are feeling in desperate
need of help, we fail to recognize what is happening to
others around us - and we forget what it is we as
Christians should be about.
Sometimes we load up other
people with our burdens and pains by pouring it all out
in complaints and accusations. Only later to discover
that that person is dealing with his own burden,
sometimes heavier than our own. We make assumptions
about what someone else is able to carry, when in
reality if we had carried it together, we would have
both benefited in the process and gained an ally and not
I mention this today because as
we come to the end of this church year, we are
confronted with the fact that Jesus is our King, our -
and the eternal realm is our government…not one we
campaign into power, nor one that is voted into office,
not one we choose to follow, but one who has taken his
place on his throne and is watching to see how we
respond. And more often than not we make the same
mistake with him that we make with other people - we
blunder ahead with business as usual, being casual,
abrupt, and insensitive. And, then all of a sudden we
realize that something very special has happened and it
is going on in our own lives with us quite unawares.
Should we not always honor our
Lord and our King at all times, not just at special
times like Sunday morning. Think of the crucifixion of
Christ for a moment - that passage we heard read from
Luke a few minutes ago. Just about everyone there from
the guards and the Pharisees, to the thief on the cross
next to him, taunted Jesus, saying to him, "If you are
the Messiah, if you are the king, then save yourself and
save us." It is pretty obvious from the gospel story
that none of these people recognized Jesus for who he
was. And this - it seemed - meant to them that they
could abuse him as they were used to abusing any
convicted criminal. To them, nothing special was going
on, it was business as usual, business without thinking,
business without considering what it was that god would
want out of them whether or not this man on the cross
was the Messiah or simply a misguided fool.
I believe if those who acted
this way at the foot of the cross could come back and
stand before Christ today - as we can stand before him,
they would say to him, "Sorry Jesus, if I had only
known, I wouldn't have been so harsh, I wouldn't have
said those things to you."
What does it mean to claim that
Jesus is our Messiah, our King, our Lord. If it does not
mean that we are to act differently? To show him our
respect? And to strive to honor him and obey him and
serve him at all times. And never more so than when he
is actually here with us. But what happens when we fail
to recognize that our God and our King is actually here
among us? What happens when the King chooses not to show
us his throne room with angels proclaiming and trumpets
blaring and banners waving and he chooses to be present
Think about what Isaiah said,
"He had no form of majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in h is appearance that we should desire him,
and so it was that he was despised and rejected by
others, a man of suffering and acquainted with grief."
Let me tell you a story. There
once was an esteemed Guru who was meditating in his
mountain cave. When he opened his eyes he discovered an
unexpected visitor sitting quietly before him…the abbot
of a well-known monastery. "What is it you seek?" asked
the Guru. The abbot recounted a tale of woe. At one time
his monastery had been famous throughout the western
world. It's cells were filled with young men aspiring to
the prayerful life and its church had resounded with the
chants of its monks. But hard times had come on the
monastery. People no longer flocked there to nourish
their spirits. The well spring of young inquirers had
dried up. And the church was all but silent. There were
only a handful of monks left and these went about their
duties with heavy hearts.
Now this is what the abbot
wanted to know, "Is it because of some sin of ours that
the monastery has been reduced to this state?" "Yes,"
replied the Guru, "a sin of ignorance." "And what is it
that we have not understood?" "One of your number is the
Messiah in disguise and you are ignorant of this,"
replied the Guru. And having said this he closed his
eyes and returned to his meditation.
Throughout the long journey back
to his monastery the abbot's heart beat fast as he
thought that the Messiah - the Messiah himself - had
returned to earth and was right there in his monastery.
How was it that he had failed to recognize him? And who
could it be? Brother cook? Brother Sacristan? Brother
Treasurer? Brother Prior? No, not he; he had too many
defects, alas. But then, the Guru had said he was in
disguise. Could those defects be part of his disguise?
Come to think of it, everyone in the monastery had
defects. And one of them had to be the Messiah.
Back in the monastery the abbot
assembled all the monks and told them what he had
discovered. They looked at one another in disbelief. The
Messiah? Here? Incredible. But he was supposed to be
here in disguise. So, maybe. What if it were so and so?
Or the other one over there? Or….One thing was certain.
If the Messiah was there in disguise, it was not likely
that they would recognize him.
So they started treating
everyone with special respect and consideration. "You
never know," they said to themselves when they dealt
with one another, "maybe this is the one."
The result was that the
atmosphere of the monastery became vibrant with joy.
Soon dozens of inquiring young men were seeking
admission to the order and once again the church echoed
with the holy and joyful chant of monks who were aglow
with the spirit of love.
Jesus, our Messiah, our king, is
here today within the walls of this church, within this
community. We owe him our praise, our obedience, our
special honor and care, not just in our times of prayer,
when in our mind's eye we see him sitting on his throne,
but in each minute of each day as we meet him in the
faces of those we encounter, in the smiles of his
children all around the globe. We cannot say, gee, if I
only had known that was you, Lord, I would have treated
you differently. Because Jesus says, whatever you have
done to them, you have done it to me.