Christ, our King of mercy, might, and majesty: How cruelly hate-filled men beat and scourged Thee in Pilate's court! How blasphemously they crushed a crown of cutting thorns on Thy pale brow and forced a reed scepter into Thy shackled hands! With what sneering ridicule they robed Thee in the mockery of royal purple! Yet in truth, Thou art our King. As our God Thou dost control the universe. As our royal Redeemer Thou dost rule Thy redeemed on earth now and eternally in heaven. Send us Thy Holy Spirit to show everyone of us that though our sins helped nail Thee to the cross, nevertheless by Thine endless love the blood Thou didst shed there has washed all our transgressions away, and by Thy death we have everlasting life with Thee in heaven. Mercifully impress on our minds that this world with all its treasures and attractions must pass away, but the many mansions in Thy Father's house are eternal. As we "seek those things which are above," may we believe personally and assuredly that by Thy suffering in our stead Thou hast swung the gates of heaven wide open for every penitent, pardon- seeking sinner who crowns Thee Savior and Sovereign! Help us, despite our guilt and sorrows, our burdens and cares, crown Thee our King this day and thus be assured of celestial glory! Amen!
Four hundred and forty-five convicts in Illinois are unusually happy these days, for they all look forward to a special parole or pardon. In experiments begun three years ago these men, sentenced to the penitentiary for heavy crimes, volunteered to have germs injected into their bodies, so that they might contract malaria fever. Then they were treated with a new experimental drug, pentaquine. Doctors did not know what the effects of pentaquine would be. It could help cure malaria, but it might also produce serious disorders, poison the bloodstream, attack vital organs. Who could tell? There was only one way to find a sure answer: treat a sizeable group of human beings with pentaquine, and watch the results. No guarantee whatever could be given the convicts that they might not be fatally injured; but, the prison authorities assured them, their service to society would not be forgotten, they would be rewarded. Now, after three years experiment, pentaquine seems to have proved itself. Not a single prisoner died of the treatment nor was permanently harmed. Governor Green, fulfilling the state's promise, has recommended pardon, commutation, or parole for the 445 convicts.
How altogether different the sorrows to which our Savior was subjected in His Lenten sufferings! He was no criminal, although "He was numbered with the transgressors." He volunteered to suffer, far more than the miseries of malaria, the incomparably greater agonies of soul and mind. He knew, long before the first moments of His frightful anguish, that He would spurn the opportunities of escape. He willingly gave His sinless life, not to help perfect a new disease cure, but to save humanity from the hell to which its crimes against God had cursed it. And here is the most cutting tragedy our world witnesses: Instead of recognizing His self-sacrifice, even as the State of Illinois remembered these 445 convicts, most men and women for whom Christ died on the cross refuse to thank Him, and willfully reject Him.
How different, too, the power
of pentaquine and the strength of the
Savior's blood! Despite the good results in these penitentiary
medical authorities also learned that the new drug cannot cure the most
severe forms of malaria, especially the relapsing type common in the
Pacific and the Orient; but "the blood of Jesus Christ" -- this is
unbreakable promise -- "cleanseth us from ALL sin." It can rescue even
those who here on earth begin to feel the pre-torture of hell's
because of their brutal blasphemies. Pentaquine is helpful in one
of the body; the Savior's blood can cure every sickness of the soul.
is still experimental; ten years hence doctors may not be as
as they now are, even as the first optimistic claims for other cures
to be modified and restricted; yet there are no question marks behind
power of Jesus' blood. It is the absolute, unchangeable assurance of
itself that your sins are washed away forever. Above the doubt and
in the world around you and your own human heart within you, you can
this glorious guarantee, which I pray the Holy Spirit, will bless you
Pilate was a practiced politician. Examine the record, and you will find that he was convinced that our Lord was innocent, that the priests in Jerusalem were moved by jealousy. You will learn that he repeatedly sought to have this strange Galilean prisoner freed. Yet, steeped in unbelief, he was convinced that Christ, His arrest, His teachings, were of no real importance. Politicians today often share the same opinion. The churches? Jesus? The Bible? All this means little to them personally, unless they can use religion for personal profit or party support. It has become the unholy mark of our generation that many in control of international affairs have out-Pilated Pilate and have openly revealed themselves as enemies of religion, rebels against God. Never before since the beginning of our country, have so many people and nations been controlled by men who hate our Savior as now, when the crest-wave of Red radicalism sweeps over vast areas of the world. An eyewitness to atrocities in northern China brings this shocking report from Siwantze: "In this snow-covered North China town I have seen Communist vengeance written in blood and ashes. It is easy to see. The ruins of the burned cathedral faced us as we entered the town. Men and women wept as they tried to tell us of the dead and missing from their family circles. Picking my steps through the debris of the burnt seminary, I came upon the fullness of Red vengeance. . . . There lay more that a hundred corpses, each frozen in the attitude in which he was slain, some partially stripped of clothing. The dark congealed blood, the sightless eyes, the head wounds inflicted at close range, the ropes still binding the arms of one who had been bayoneted; these spell out a lesson in Communism. At least 200 . . . were killed in cold blood . . . all because Siwantze chose not to accept Communism."
God protect our country from anything like that! God give us political leaders who love the truth which blessed America in the past and which alone can guide us to glory in the years ahead! A few days ago wholesale prices on thirty essential food commodities reached their highest figure in united states history; and unless the Almighty intervenes, the whole cost of living can take a sharp, unparalleled rise. At the same time financial advisors warn us that inflated real estate prices must crack. Some time ahead we face that unescapable period of readjustment which will be marked by the uprising of radical foes of our faith who know how to use depressions and financial crashes for their unholy purposes. To be prepared for these sinister assaults on Jesus and our beloved land, let us keep out of office men like unprincipled Pilate who will hand the churches to the Savior's sworn enemies!
In England the public is stirred by the debate over two monuments. One is the proposed statue of War Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The sculptor plans to depict him with the usual cigar. Many have registered their protest against this. The other is the $160,000 statue of President Roosevelt. Here the sculptor wanted to show our wartime chief executive standing, as though he were delivering a speech, while many of the British prefer to have him seated. What the United States -- indeed the whole world -- needs is statesmen who can honestly be pictured with the Bible, men who can truly be represented as petitioning the Almighty, even as a famous canvas immortalizes George Washington at Valley Forge, interceding with the Ruler of the nations. When the Continental Congress which was to shape our countries course met in 1774, John Adams, describing the opening ceremonies, wrote home to his wife, "Washington was kneeling." Visitors to that assembly were told that they could always recognize George Washington by the fact that he fell to his knees regularly when petitions were raised to Heaven. Have you ever read that a people perished when its leaders and its people thus humbled themselves before the Lord? Also, can you cite one nation which has long survived when its officials have been prayerless and godless? May the Holy Spirit enrich the world with prayer-filled leaders -- not after the fashion of Pilate, but of Britain's great Gladstone! One night when he was overbusy with preparing an important speech for the following day, he was suddenly interrupted in his work. A messenger brought the request of a crippled lad, that Gladstone give him comfort in his last moments. Humanly speaking, this came at the most inopportune time; yet the prime minister pushed the weighty papers aside, hurried to the deathbed of his humble friend, told him of the Savior's love, brought him, with the Spirit's help, all the way to Christ, and watched with him until his eyes closed. He returned to his desk, completed his speech, snatched a half hour's sleep, and then appeared before Parliament to deliver one of the most forceful addresses in his entire career. Today many of those charged with making a new age and a new world, not only shrug their shoulders when religion is mentioned, but systematically oppose every teaching of the Savior's creed. The United Nations' meetings cannot be opened with prayer in Jesus' name because not a few of its delegates, like Pilate, refuse to believe Him who say: "Without Me ye can do nothing."
We should seek to banish the unbelief of Pilate also from our homes and family life. One of the most tragic parts of Pilate's sad story is the fact that he violated his conscience in consigning the pallid Prisoner to the cross when he knew him to be innocent. The Roman governor also sinned against direct warning when his own wife did the unusual thing in defending our Lord and wrote her husband a formal request: "Have thou nothing to do with that just Man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." If only unbelieving husbands would listen to the pleading voices of their believing wives, much of the soul misery and marital unhappiness with which many American households are cursed would vanish. You men without Christ (and, as Pilate shows this means, against Him), don't treat the pleadings and prayers, the warnings and entreaties of your loved ones as childish prattle! Who in all the world is more interested in your soul's salvation, more ready to sacrifice anything, that you might be brought to faith in the Lord Jesus? From thousands of letters that have come to my desk during almost fourteen years of broadcasting, I know that your Christ-dedicated helpmates could be made happiest, not by giving them a diamond necklace, or a bulging bank account, a new car, a new home, but by your giving yourself to the Savior. Whatever honors and distinctions might be showered upon you, they remain empty in comparison with the title "Christian," which you scornfully push aside. The wife of a young scientist in Massachusetts, recently called "the leader in his field," sent me two newspaper clippings. One, from the front page, stated that her husband had been nominated for a distinguished position in a famous medical institution. The second clipping, from an inside sheet tucked away with issues regarded as of minor importance, noted that the same scientist had been elected to an office in the little church which they both attended. "Which clipping," his wife asked, "do you think made me happier?" Her whole letter gave me the answer in the joy that her husband, acclaimed by men, was humble before his Lord.
On the other hand, think how much heartache and soul anguish some of you husbands cause your God-fearing wives because you have been to busy, too proud, too selfish, to accept Jesus! You boast that you will not let anyone tell you what to do. Your wives beg and beseech you to think of your soul, renounce sin, stop drinking, gambling, carousing, and then obey Scripture's words of warning: but, stubborn and unmoved, you keep the eyes of your loved ones red with weeping; you separate yourself in eternity from those neared and dearest to you. Like Pilate, you are sending your souls to hell. Before your day of grace ends, listen to your wives, as they plead that you do not ruin yourselves by rejecting your only Redeemer!
Pilate lost no time in examining Christ on the one issue which to his mind was uppermost and decisive. Pointedly he asks the Savior, "Art Thou a king?" There was only one question which at first troubled the Roman governor's mind: Was this Jesus, beaten, bruised, and bleeding -- Oh, how could He be! -- a rival to the Roman rule, a competitive king, a royal threat of rebellion against the Latin lords of the world? A king without a crown, without a court, without a scepter, without a subject? Pilate could not begin to imagine that this poor, persecuted Prisoner could lay claim to real royalty.
You can understand, then, how surprised the blasé Roman official was to receive this reply from our Lord: "Thou sayest that I am a king"! Yes, Christ is not only "a king"; He is the King, "the King of Kings," "the Lord of lords," the Ruler of rulers. He regulates this entire universe with its billions of stars. He controls the trillions of human beings in all history. He produces and uses the mighty forces of nature. He directs the course of human events. "In him we live and move and have our being." Whether you realize it or not, you, as every person, are subject to Him in His Kingdom of Power.
Because Pilate misunderstood this universal rule, Christ hastened to add, "My kingdom is not of this world," that is, not after the manner of earthly monarchies and the pattern of princely rule which men see. Thank God for that! Human kings have often secured their thrones by fraud and falsehood, brutality and bloodshed; but Jesus reigns as the divine Creator. Monarchs among men have sometimes been sensual degenerates, selfish criminals, with hands and souls stained by the crimson blood of their murdered victims; but our Lord rules with righteousness and justice. The mightiest potentates have lived their brief span and disappeared in death; but of our Redeemer even the Old Testament records, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever!" The crowned heads of this world have waged costly, deadly warfare; but Jesus tells Pilate: "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered." Reread these words and realize that the son of God never wants His Church to engage in bloody conflict; He condemns those gory butchers who under the banner of the cross, in the name of His truth, with the sanction of churches, have cut down in cold blood their fellow men who refused to believe as they did. Behold the Lord of love, when weak and wan, torn and tormented, He faces Pilate! As the King of compassion, He condemns those who have sought to spread or defend His Gospel with the sword; He rejects the ghastly cruelties which misguided minds visited on His enemies. He warns the churches today against the danger of heaping up income from war's profits. David, some of you remember from your Scripture reading, was prevented from building the temple in Jerusalem because, God said, he had waged too many wars. The Almighty spare America a third global conflict and keep the churches of Jesus from losing many of their spiritual privileges by applauding and promoting war! The churches in Germany formed the last line of resistance to the Nazi program; but when even they began to hurrah war and glorify gory struggle, that country was doomed. The Holy Spirit prevent our country's encouraging bloodshed! When men rightly fear that the next struggle with its atomic annihilation can wipe out more civilians and soldiers in a single night that the horrifying total of the military dead in the whole last war, may the eyes of mankind be trained on Christ! He cried out against the hatreds and selfish passions which draft men for opposing armies; He condemned the cruelty of aggressive warfare; He forbade His followers to lift a sword even in his behalf; He pleaded for peace; and in an age that has seen one proposal for a warless world after another collapse in failure, He directs mankind to the only pathway which can ever lead to peace. Yet -- may Heaven forgive us! -- Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is systematically barred from the peace conferences in progress today. In a New York City assembly room devoted to United Nations' meetings a costly painting showing Christ instituting Holy Communion looks down upon the delegates, many of whom ridicule the salvation which that sacred Supper would assure and seal for every believer. O God, turn the eyes of the world to Thy Son for His blessed, building peace!
The Savior tells us, too, "My kingdom is not of this world," to remind those who love Him that they should shun fleshly means of extending His realm. He does not want churches which bear His holy name to heap up inordinate wealth, overlarge real-estate holdings, bulging bank deposits, while hundreds of millions in our war torn world are starving, physically and spiritually. He forbids His followers to use illegal means of raising funds for His cause. In Christ's work, contrary to the teaching of some creeds, the end never justifies the means. Gambling, in its fine and gross forms, or profiteering in the name of religion, is abhorrent to the Christ who drove the money-changers from the temple. Our Lord does not want His church in politics any more that He wants the state to intrude upon religion. He asks for the sacrifice of loving hearts, not for suppers and socials as substitutes for generous giving.
Learn also from these words, "My kingdom is not of this world," that you have no reason to expect worldly, financial, or social rewards from following Christ. His disciples hoped He would establish a mighty kingdom here on earth, and repeatedly they debated the question, who is to have the positions of highest importance in the new realm? Today, likewise, misguided people reach out for selfish rewards in following Jesus. They look forward to a time when the believers will be happy, healthy, wealthy, in a kingdom of might here below, forgetting entirely the plain truth of these clear words, "My kingdom is not of this world." Every Bible reader ought to know, in protest, that the Savior's Word reminds us, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Millions of believers in our age have realized the heavy truth of this statement in the suffering and sorrows laid upon them. "The disciple is not above his Master," Jesus told us, and He added, "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." The victims of Fascist and Communist mass murders who suffered or died for their loyalty to the Lord know certainly that His realm "is . . . not from hence," as the Son of God said, referring to this globe.
Is it not clear, then, that
Christ is not a worldly Ruler, with the
sin and selfishness which often mark and mar royal blood? Yet, in
contradiction to this straightforward teaching of Scripture, men today
claim that our Lord really was an earthly monarch. A recent, widely
book, under the title King Jesus, actually, but blasphemously, makes
Savior a Sovereign descended from Herod, a mere man with a mortal
mother, and wife. Christ says, "My kingdom is not of this world." But
book, which has been endorsed by high church officials, contradicts all
this and in effect has Jesus say, "My kingdom is of this world." How,
ask ourselves, can we expect a national blessing from Heaven when
truth is thus flatly and flagrantly denied? The most alarming sign of
turbulent times is this, that instead of returning to God's Word with
repentance for their past disloyalties, many are straying farther from
the only Truth which can ever save them. They live only for the things
of this earth -- money, gold, and gain are their gods; lust and
their idols; but in the midst of life they are in death; and when they
feel themselves safe and secure, the Almighty suddenly appears to them
and declares, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of
then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?"
Jesus is the King of Heaven, with all its majesty, because He is our God, together with the Father and the Spirit, the only, but almighty God. You may question and contradict this as you blaspheme the Redeemer, abuse His holy name, ridicule His Patient love; but the time is coming, more surely than I now speak to you, when, with "weeping and gnashing of teeth," everyone who died in unbelief will know that the Crucified is truly Ruler of heaven and earth. It will be too late for any hope of salvation then. Those who rejected Him will be sentenced by this verdict of the unbreakable truth: "He that believeth not shall be damned."
To escape that appalling doom,
learn and believe that Christ is the
King of Glory for you, because He, the Son of God, without whom no one
enters the celestial realm, has broken down every barrier which would
you from its indescribable
bliss. He has opened wide the gates of glory, so that those that are His may enter the portals of Paradise. He has even prepared a personal place in His Father's "many mansions" for you, the repentant and believing, who receive Him as your Redeemer. Can you measure the mercy this promise contains? Your sins have barred you from heaven much more surely than hardened criminals are kept from the White House or beggars banned from Buckingham Palace. To see the holy God, you must be holy; to live with Him in heaven, all your transgressions of His law and will, the guilt of your unclean thoughts, your unholy desires, your ungodly words and acts, must be entirely removed. But who can preform this complete cleansing? Not you yourself, even with a lifetime of self-imposed pain and penance, with the payment of all the money you have ever earned and saved! When Scripture asks, "Can . . . the leopard change his spots?" it shows you that the stains of evil, far deeper that animal markings, can never be removed by human effort. No multitude of men, no hosts of heavenly angels, can rid your soul of sins dark blot. Not even the Almighty Himself can smile your transgressions away, overlook them, ignore them, for He is just and righteous. He must keep His Word. The penalty He has made the punishment for sin must be paid. Everything in heaven is so pure, holy, stainless, that no one, sordid and sinful as we are, can be admitted to its perfect joy.
What mercy, far beyond human understanding, that when we were hopelessly, helplessly lost in our sins, Christ came to give us a clear, uncontestable title to our place in heaven! Now, just what did Jesus do? With more books written about Him than any other figure in history; with His Word and work debated for centuries in every country of the world, you must learn to think clearly and be guided by what the Bible says. Our Lord, as these lenten weeks particularly remind you, was born, crucified, and resurrected, to bring you to everlasting glory. "He appeared" Scripture declares, "to put away sin"; He permitted Himself to be arrested, tried by such godless leaders as Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, to be sentenced in the most screaming injustice of which men can ever hear, so that He could be nailed on the cross in full punishment for your transgressions, suffer them in your stead and in your behalf, shed His blood for your cleansing, and die the death by which faith makes you free from sin and Satan, free from death and damnation. Now, if you accept this magnificent mercy — but the word "accept" is altogether too weak — if you believe that Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and humbly come to Him with your guilt, trusting His promise: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool"; if at the cross you confess yourself a lost, damned sinner, but Jesus your sin-conquering Redeemer, then, by grace, through faith, heaven is yours. As long as you cling to Him, all the devils in hell and Satan's agent on earth cannot bar you from the celestial city. When your eyes close in death, they will reopen in Paradise, where Christ, the celestial King, will greet you with this welcome, far more wondrous than temporal rulers have ever given any heroes: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant! . . . Enter thou into the joy of thy lord!"
Do you know the rapture of the redeemed? The learned in this mission of the air — and we thank God that our mail brings us letters from university professors, engineers, scientists, officials in other high positions! — may understand the secret of atomic energy and penetrate into the hidden depths of nature's mysteries, but the most brilliant mind would grope in bewilderment after even one quick glance at Heavens grace and glory. If in this life we are enthralled by scenes of surpassing beauty, what will be the radiance of the sacred realms in the next and incomparably higher life? All that we can do in our limited earth-bound understanding is to peer distantly at Paradise through the pictures portrayed in Scripture, and to praise the Almighty for giving us glimpses of glory that we can grasp. Thus from the inspired Word we know that heaven is a place of perfect peace, where sickness and sorrow, pain and privation, remorse and regret, death and departure, are unknown. There, in marvelously resurrected bodies, celestial and stainless, those who have built their hope on nothing less than Jesus' blood and His righteousness, will live forever in the Savior's joy, with no loss, failure, disappointment, to detract from their complete happiness, no fear to disturb them, no anguish ever to distress them. There, with higher, heavenly minds, we shall understand the Almighty's ways with us, which now are past our finding out; we shall realize that the reverses and sorrows we suffered truly worked "together for good"; that God made us lose some of our cherished possessions so that we would not lose our souls; that the all-knowing Father suddenly snatched a loved one from our midst so that he could be preserved for Paradise and enjoy its blessing the longer. There we shall be reunited with departed members of our families and faith. A few days ago a Duluth, Minnesota, father and mother tried to tell me of the soul-moving joy which was theirs when their son, one of the few survivors of the Bataan horror march, wrote to them, two years after he had been reported missing in action, and later classified as killed. How much greater, however, will be the rejoicing when there, before Christ's throne, the believing sons who did die in the war and were buried in distant graves are restored to their loved ones; when you and I, "faithful unto death," shall be part of the "whole family in heaven," together with those who on earth were leaders of our Savior's cause, heroes in His Church, defenders of His faith, mighty missionaries and messengers of His grace! There — and this will be our highest happiness! — in our clearer, celestial vision, we will be privileged constantly to behold the Father, who created us, the Son who redeemed us with His blood, and the Holy Spirit, who brought us to Jesus and kept us with Him. Face to face with the Triune God, hearts and lives are attuned to His perpetual praise, forever with the Lord — that, my beloved, will be yours in endless blessing, through Christ.
Can I be sure of this? You ask. Can I be positive that all you said is true, especially that heaven is mine, through faith in Jesus? Listen to your Savior again! He has hardly told Pilate that He is a king, when He adds, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." He not only brought the truth, taught the truth, but is the truth, as He Himself says, "I am . . . the Truth!" Tremendous sums have been spent in the effort to discredit His Gospel; long lifetimes of hate-filled study have been devoted to the one unholy purpose of attempting to show errors in Christ's teachings; millions have been martyred when foes of the faith sought to destroy the church; but all these mad ventures have failed. No man has ever succeeded in producing one real, fact- founded charge against the blessed Redeemer. Therefore, when He promises Paradise; when His errorless Word guarantees, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"; when the Bible abounds in assurances like: "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved," "He died for all," you can be absolutely certain that heaven is yours when Jesus is yours.
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired four weeks before Easter, 1947.