"The Man Who Will Be King"#90-34
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 23, 2023
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2023 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: 1 Peter 1:13
The distress call came just after 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. In the dark predawn hours of November 27, 2011, a cargo ship sailing roughly 80 miles south of Dublin, Ireland, was battered by gale force winds, and capsized in the storm. The hull cracked, and water poured in. With 3,000 tons of cargo in its hold, it sank quickly to the bottom of the Irish Sea. At 2:20 a.m. the phone rang in the alert quarters where the on-call Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter crew of four were sleeping. Flight Lieutenant Bun, call sign "Sticky," was the pilot. Lieutenant Wales was the co-pilot. Sergeant Livingston was the radar operator. And air crewman Taylor was the rescue swimmer.
The co-pilot, Lieutenant Wales, wakes up with a jump. Answers the phone, takes down the details of the distress call, and rouses his fellow air crew members. In minutes, the four man crew was airborne in their yellow Sea King rescue helicopter, heading out to sea, into the gale where the mayday call had originated.
Over the site in the dark waters below they saw survival rafts, doors, and other debris ripped from the sinking ship, but no survivors. Air crewmen Taylor dove into the sea to search for the sailors. The pilots had to steady the helicopter without autopilot assistance because the radar wasn't working properly since the waves were so big. They had to fly it manually, with minimal visual cues, and walls of water coming at them. In the end, they could locate only two survivors. The other sailors had apparently gone down with the ship.
The crew saved those two grateful sailors from the treacherous waters and airlifted them to safety. This Royal Air Force crew performed heroically during the dramatic rescue, but it could have been any crew that was called that night, and they would've done the same. It just happened to be Air crewman Taylor, Sergeant Livingston, Lieutenant Sticky Bun, the pilot, with his co-pilot, Lieutenant William Wales, known today by his call sign William the Prince of Wales, next in line to be the King of England.
And maybe you're wondering like I was when I first heard this story, what? Why was the future King of England sent into gale force winds on a dangerous rescue mission? Because that was his job at the time. Why was he there? He was there for action, and for preparation in anticipation of his promised future. In the immediate sense, Lieutenant Wales was there for action. He was there to be part of a team, to help and to serve in a way that only they could in that moment. And in a sense, Lieutenant Wales was no different than any other crew member called to perform that duty.
Sure, in years to come, his face would likely be minted on British coins and printed on stamps. Sure, he was destined to become the head of state, the supreme governor of the Church of England, the chief of the British Army, Navy, and Royal Air Force, heir to a multi-billion dollar Windsor estate. But in that moment, just like everyone else, he had to take his 24-hour alert shifts. Part of a team of four on watch, ready to be in the air in 15 minutes. Why was the future king there? He was there for action and for preparation.
See, from the time when William was just a boy, a team of royal advisors had carefully planned the posts and positions that would prepare him for his future royal role. Taking into account not only what would be expected of him, but also his own interests, his talents and gifts. This included a year of humanitarian work in Africa and South America, a college education at St. Andrews University in Scotland, followed by officer training, not only in the Royal Air Force, but also in the Army and the Navy. In fact, Prince William is the only person who has a non-ceremonial commission in all three British military services.
William's royal team planned these preparatory experiences for him in anticipation of the day he would be called king. To represent his nation to itself, to be a symbol of stability in a world of rapid change. But first, he just needed to do the job in front of him, to take action for preparation in anticipation.
From the day William was born, he has been surrounded by much anticipation. In September of 1985, when he showed up to his first day of preschool in a checkered shirt and red shorts, a media circus was there to meet him, to record this historic moment in the life of the nation's favorite three-year-old, before the glory of his reign was to be revealed. Along with the bank of photographers, reporters, and TV cameras, there was his entourage of secret agents, his personal protection officers that would go wherever he went, doing reconnaissance for security risks, and sometimes succeeding at keeping paparazzi at a manageable distance. In anticipation of his future, he was set apart for a higher standard. For example, when he was four, his grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth, commented disapprovingly on his unprincely behavior at a relative's wedding, when her grandson rolled up his printed bulletin and used it as a trumpet.
Another time when William was in college, a friend asked him if he was going to participate in a certain student tradition of drunken carousing. William said no, because if he did anything unbecoming and the press got ahold of it? William has come a long way since he was four, and in spite of the dirt, British tabloids have and will dig up on him, some or none of which may be true, he has nonetheless been set apart for a lifelong royal calling ahead of him. And so, he's playing the long game, and now is the time of preparation.
Someone once asked him if he wanted to be king. He said, "It's not a question of wanting to be. It's something I was born into, and it's my duty." Action, preparation, anticipation—these have characterized William's life thus far. And in a greater way, action, preparation, and anticipation characterize the life of every Christian, of every follower of Jesus Christ, the King of kings.
Action, preparation, anticipation are themes of Christian life as explained in a letter recorded in the New Testament, written by the apostle Peter, one of the first followers of King Jesus. Over the next few weeks on this program, we're going to be listening to this letter called 1 Peter. So listen now to these excerpts of 1 Peter 1. Listen for the themes of anticipation, preparation, and action.
The letter begins like this: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, the anointed King, to God's chosen ones, exiles scattered in many places, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, chosen through the work of the Spirit to set you apart, chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ, the anointed King, and for sprinkling by His blood. Grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance. An inheritance that cannot perish, that cannot spoil, that cannot fade, kept in heaven for you.
"You who are being guarded by God's power through faith for the coming rescue, ready to be revealed at the last time. In this, you rejoice greatly. Though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief through all kinds of trials. These come so that your faith, your faith that is worth more than gold, gold which perishes even though it is refined by fire, these come so that your faith would be proved genuine, and would result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust in Him, and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls, the saving of your lives.
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be sober minded. Set your hope fully on the grace, on the favor that is to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, is set apart, so you also be holy in all your conduct. As it is written, 'You shall be holy as I the Lord am holy.' Since you call on Him as Father, who judges each person's work impartially, conduct yourselves as sojourners here in reverent fear because you know that it was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers. No, you were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the foundation of the world, but was revealed. Now in these last times for your sake through Him, you trust in God who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him. So your faith and hope are in God.
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers and sisters, love one another deeply from the heart. Because you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. All men are like grass, and all their glory like flowers of a field. The grass withers and the flowers fall. But the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the Word that was preached to you."
Peter writes to the followers of King Jesus, to rouse them, to rouse us, like rescue crew members on alert for action, for preparation and anticipation. The whole letter, and especially this opening chapter, is brimming with anticipation for the public coronation of Jesus, the King. Every other monarch, every other ruler and government will ultimately perish, because all men are like grass, and all their pomp and prestige will fade like peonies.
But Peter's words cause our minds to bloom in anticipation for Jesus' coming Kingdom. And Peter reminds us that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. His words recall the ancient account of Israel's exodus out of slavery in Egypt. Remember? The blood and the body of the Passover lamb protected and nourished the people. They needed nourishment, because they had a big journey and a royal calling ahead of them. They wouldn't be slaves any longer. They would be leaving that old oppressive kingdom. They would become sons and daughters in a new Kingdom, God's kingdom. And in a greater way, Jesus the King shed His blood for us on the cross. Jesus, the Lamb of God marks us, and protects us for His kingdom, and He leads us out of our empty way of life.
See, God had created all human beings to be His royal ambassadors, to be adopted into His kingly family, to rule alongside Him as beloved children. But we capsized our birthright. We wanted to serve ourselves. And in doing so, we became captives in the devil's kingdom. We sank into a sea of self-centeredness. But God sent His Son into the storm to save us, to be born human, to be called Jesus the Prince of Peace, the God-Man who will be King. He died to rescue us. He rose to break our chains, and He will return to set us free. And Peter's letter is brimming in anticipation for it.
And Peter shows us that this life is preparation. We are waiting for King Jesus to be revealed, but we don't wait like subscribers of British tabloids, craving the next issue that celebrates or scandalizes the royals. No, Peter says, we Christ followers have been reborn into the royal family, into the same inheritance as Jesus, into the same royal status.
You, listening to God's Word right now, you are being set apart by God's Holy Spirit for this royal calling. Even more than Prince William, you have a team in heaven preparing you for your role. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, served by legions and teams of angels and archangels, planning your posts and positions, incorporating your God-given gifts and talents and interests, preparing you to reign in and with and alongside King Jesus. And so, you are set apart for a higher standard, a holy standard. You think Queen Elizabeth had high standards? You have a Father in heaven who judges your work with no partiality.
And keep in mind the purpose of this judgment. It's not to decide whether or not you're worthy to reign with Jesus. That's already been decided. You are already chosen for Baptism through faith, for rebirth into God's royal family. You were known before the foundation of the world. God has chosen you in His love and His mercy in Christ. His judgment isn't to disqualify you, it's to prepare you, to train you, to transform you.
God your Father is using this entire mortal life to prepare you for your royal role. And so, your life now is characterized by anticipation, by preparation and action. Like a mortal prince being prepared to be king, not by sitting in Buckingham Palace, passively waiting for his coronation, but prepared through action. Through mundane self-giving vocations, mucking through back country trails with fellow humanitarians. Making porridge for orphans. On hands and knees, cleaning the communal loo. On 24 hour shifts with a well-trained rescue crew. So also you are called into loving self-giving action. Anticipation, preparation, action, that's the character of your life in Christ because God loves you. Because He guards you and protects you as His own.
Once in boarding school, a certain boy played a seemingly harmless prank on Prince William. The boy was idly sitting in his dorm room at his window, and spotted William walking on the campus grounds. The boy had one of those little laser pointers, the kind you'd use to highlight a slide in a presentation. And he thought it would be funny to shine his laser pen on the Prince. But seeing that red dot homing in on its target, William's personal protection officers thought it was a sniper. Minutes later, the unsuspecting boy's door was blasted open, and he found himself looking down the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon.
And even more, God loves and guards you like a crown prince, an heir of His kingdom, a beloved son, a cherished daughter. He sends His angelic secret agents to break down the door to protect you. And sometimes He has them stand by. He lets all kinds of trials come. He lets the gale force winds rage. He sends you into the storm on a rescue mission for others. And this too is part of the preparation because in this world you will have trouble. But this mortal life is not the end, it is only preparation. And when the day of our coronation in Christ comes, He will raise you from the dead, from the treacherous waters of this storm, to stand alongside the Man who will be King forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Reflections for April 23, 2023
Title: The Man Who Will Be King
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now, back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: We're visiting today with Dr. Dale Meyer. Dale, for the next several weeks we're going to be listening to this letter from the New Testament, 1 Peter. And we invited you to help us be better readers and hearers of 1 Peter, since you've been devoting yourself to a deeper understanding of letter, writing this Bible commentary that you are. Peter's letter is sometimes called the "epistle of hope." So, what's the hope that Peter's directing us to?
Dale Meyer: Peter was writing to people who did not live in a Christian culture. The Christians were a minuscule minority, who were slandered, shunned, and sometimes punished. Hope for them was Jesus coming to take them to the heavenly inheritance. In our 21st-century post-church culture, with all the sin that we see in the media, with discrimination happening against Christian beliefs and practices, we can appreciate more than a generation ago the hope of heaven.
Mike Zeigler: So, Peter's directing them to this future event as we say in the Nicene Creed, "And He will come again to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end. The resurrection of the body, life of the world, or the age to come." That's the future event. But Jesus is already exalted and ruling and reigning. And Peter talks about this hope this is stored up for you in heaven, ready to be revealed at the last time. How is this different than the way we present Jesus sometimes in the church today?
Dale Meyer: One of the things about being an emeritus, to use a fancy word, is that it gives me time to reflect back on my own ministry. And I've noticed that I in my ministry, and I think many of us who are pastors, talk about Jesus in the first century. He was born, He lived a perfect life, suffered, died, and rose again. And we talk about it as a sacred history, which it is. We talk about it as if it were a religious museum. And then we also talk about someday He's going to come back, judge the world, and take His people to heaven. What's He doing right now? Well, the Bible tells us what He's doing right now. The liturgy tells us what He's doing right now. It's all over the place. Except I don't hear it in sermons—that Jesus now is as ascended. He is sitting at the right hand of God. He is ruling all things in the interest of His believers and the church. And soon, very soon, we are going to see the King.
That's something, in reflecting back on my own ministry and listening around, I don't hear. So, we have inadvertently created a bit of a void that we have to fill with our own activity. When in fact, the ascended, sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus, is coming to us in His Word, His Sacrament. He's guiding all things for the good of the church. He's hearing our prayers, and on and on it goes. Jesus now, Jesus in the future, just as Jesus for us in the past.
Mike Zeigler: There's a distinction that Christian teachers sometimes use. We talk about Christ's state of humiliation, which is that sacred history that you mentioned earlier. But then there is this, the state of exaltation. Why is it important to talk about those two and the difference between those two states?
Dale Meyer: The state of humiliation is when the Son of God willingly laid aside His glory to be born to the Virgin Mary, live our life but without sin, suffer and die for us in our salvation. And by the way, humiliation does not refer to the fact that the Son of God became human. Just the opposite. By doing so, He showed the privilege and honor that mankind was created in the likeness of God. But we know we sinned. And so, by entering the state of humiliation, Jesus atoned for our sins and reconciles us to our Creator. So, when we hear the stories of what Jesus did way back when we thank Him from the bottom of our hearts, but we also remember that He is now exalted, now reigning, and leading us to heaven.
Mike Zeigler: We talked a little bit about your translation work with 1 Peter. Another place that was striking to me as I've heard you speak of this, is in 1 Peter 2:21. Very well-known verse that Christ suffered, leaving you an example. How should we understand that word example in Greek?
Dale Meyer: Let me make a distinction first. The greatest thing about Jesus, the most essential thing to believe, is that He is my Savior, your Savior, from sin, eternal death, and the powers of Satan. Then Jesus is also the model, the example, the template, for how we should live: keeping the Commandments, honoring and serving others, loving all people just as He loved us and gave Himself for us. The Greek word in 2:21 (1 Peter) was "hypogrammon." And that was literally a stencil that little children would use to learn how to draw the letters of the Greek alphabet. And that's a good example I think for what we are. One of the themes in 1 Peter is that we've been given a new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That comes up a number of times. And so as children of our Heavenly Father, through Jesus' resurrection, we use His model, His stencil, to learn how to live the Christian life.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"With High Delight" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House) Used by permission.