Sermon title: Christ, Our King, Will Bring Justice

Matthew 26:59-67

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 7, 2020

 

 

The killing of George Floyd

by rogue police officers

may have seemed like just one more

in a long series of injustices

committed against people of color.

 

It was only days earlier that Ahmaud Arbery

was gunned down by vigilantes

as he jogged through a neighborhood.

 

It was just weeks earlier in March

that Breonna Taylor

was shot dead in her apartment by police

who broke down the door.

For many people,

the killing of George Floyd was the last straw.

It served as a tipping point.

 

It was like a dam burst.

 

It was like a dam that was holding back,

not a sea of water,

but a sea of frustration, anger, grief, hostility,

pain and despair.

 

The dam burst, and tens of thousands of people

poured out into the streets

all across America.

 

Tens of thousands across America have been

peacefully protesting, calling for justice.

 

At the same time,

a relatively small number of organized agitators

grabbed the headlines by acts of arson and vandalism,

and criminals used the confusion to loot stores.

 

As tensions reached the boiling point,

some police officers and some demonstrators

over-reacted

and stoked tensions even more

with their own acts of violence.

 

It seems that violence gives birth

to more violence in response.

 

And in other cases, people simply made bad decisions—

decisions that brought bad consequences.

 

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We shouldn't allow the 'bad apples' among the police

to discredit the many officers who do their best

to serve and protect the community.

 

Those who do their job properly

often do so at the risk of their own lives.

 

But the job of a law enforcement officer

is to bring offenders before the courts,

not to take the law into their own hands

by doing bodily harm to suspects

or killing those in custody.

 

Those who intentionally injure or kill people

unnecessarily

become criminals themselves.

 

Punishment for crimes is for a court of law to determine.

 

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Historically, there have always been a few

who give others a bad name

by misusing police powers.

 

Just think of those who held our Lord Jesus in custody

and took that opportunity

to mock him and beat him.

 

Our Lord was falsely accused,

unjustly prosecuted,

unfairly convicted,

and wrongly denounced as a criminal.

 

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Nor should we discredit sincere, well-meaning protesters

on account of the 'bad apples'

who use the protests as a cover for criminal activity.

 

I’m sure that most of the people

who poured out into the streets

were expressing their desire for justice.

 

Sometimes it’s necessary

to look beyond the headlines

to find out what’s really going on.

 

The thousands of peaceful protesters who went home

after the protests were over

had nothing to do with the criminal looters

who came out at night

to go on sprees of looting and vandalism.

And the peaceful protesters calling for justice

had nothing to do with the violent elements

who infiltrated them

for the purpose of provoking more violence.

 

New York officials said they were working hard

to track down organized criminal elements

who infiltrated the peaceful protests.

 

Americans outraged over the killing of George Floyd

and other acts of injustice

brought home-made signs to the protests.

 

But they were infiltrated by violent agitators,

totally separate from them.

 

An Associate Press article dated June 3rd tells of the arrest

of some such men tied to an extremist group.

 

It says they were involved in “a conspiracy

to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.”

 

It says that “three white men

with U.S. military experience...were arrested Saturday

on the way to a protest in Las Vegas

after filling gas cans at a parking lot

and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles.”

 

The U.S. Attorney in Nevada said,

“Their point was to hijack the protests into violence.” 

 

They are accused of trying

“to incite chaos and possibly a riot.”

 

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The tens of thousands of peaceful protesters

were expressing valid human emotions:

sympathy for the oppressed

and outrage at injustice.

 

And those are emotions

that God shares as well.

 

His inspired Word, the Bible, condemns injustice

throughout the Old and New Testaments.

 

Today's injustices call to mind

centuries of black slavery followed by decades

of political and economic oppression.

 

Throughout much of that history

people of color found comfort and strength

in Moses' call to "Let my people go!"—

a call that was echoed

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

For thousands of years

slavery existed almost everywhere

in the ancient world.

 

Not black slavery.  Rather,

people of every skin color and nationality

were made slaves by people of other nationalities

who conquered them.

 

People on the losing side of a war

were often made slaves by the winners.

 

The Romans bought and sold Greek slaves.

 

Scandinavian Vikings held Irish and British slaves.

 

And Africans enslaved other Africans

and sold them to European slave traders

who visited the coast of Africa.

 

But the closest parallel to black slavery

in the American South

was the slavery imposed upon the people of Israel

by the Pharaohs of Egypt.

 

The children of Israel,

forced to make bricks under the hot Egyptian sun

were much like the blacks

forced to pick cotton on Southern plantations.

 

And African-American slaves who read the Bible

or who heard the Bible preached

quickly grasped that parallel.

 

They saw the Old Testament liberation of the Jews

from slavery in Egypt

as a source of hope for themselves.

 

They were inspired by God's miraculous liberation

of the oppressed slaves in Egypt.

 

And they were also inspired by our Savior Jesus

who suffered beatings

at the hands of the officers who held him,

and who was wrongly convicted

by a prejudiced court,

and was put to death as an innocent man.

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God's response to injustice

is found throughout the Bible.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:1 says,

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—

    and they have no comforter;

power was on the side of their oppressors—

    and they have no comforter.

 

Psalm 82:3 says,

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute,” (Psalm 82:3).

 

Isaiah 1:17 says,

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

 

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But actions speak louder than words.

 

Our Lord Jesus went way beyond

merely condemning injustice.

 

He showed sympathy for the oppressed

by allowing himself to suffer cruel injustice

of the worst sort.

 

People protesting the murder of George Floyd

have staged die-ins.

 

People lay down on the pavement

for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—

the length of time that officer’s knee

pressed on George Floyd’s neck.

 

They symbolically died on the pavement

in sympathy with that victim of injustice.

 

Our Lord Jesus went beyond that.

 

He actually did die

in sympathy with the dying human race.

 

Jesus gave his life

allowed unjust men in authority—

to snuff out his breath,

so he could take on himself

the punishment meant for us.

 

Now, to accomplish that salvation for us,

Christ could have died a quick and easy death.

 

But instead he took on himself

the worst abuse imaginable.

He knew the injustices men have been suffering

at the hands of other men.

 

So, he let himself be slapped, punched and beaten.

 

He let those officers who held him

jam a crown of thorns down onto his bleeding forehead.

 

He let them spit on him and pluck his beard.

 

He let them strip him, and whip him

with a scourge—a whip that had

pieces of jagged bone or metal attached

to rip open his skin with each lash.

 

And then came the crucifixion.

 

The privileged citizens in the Roman Empire

were generally exempt from that cruel death.

 

Usually, only people of other races or nationalities

were nailed to crosses by the Romans

and left to die slowly and painfully

in that horrible way.

 

But our Lord Jesus showed his sympathy

for those oppressed minorities

by allowing himself to be put to death

the way they were put to death.

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Our Lord also knows the injustices

that people have often been subjected to

in the courts and legal systems.

 

Christ himself first faced an illegal night-time trial

in front of former High Priest Annas,

where the prejudiced men trying him

had already decided ahead of time

to find him guilty.

 

After that, he faced another illegal night-time trial

in front of High Priest Caiaphas.

 

Matthew Chapter 26 tells us,

59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

 

Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.

 

62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent.

 

So, they were looking for false evidence

to use against Jesus,

just as has been used in modern times

to convict innocent people

in prejudiced courtrooms.

 

When they failed to find

the false evidence they wanted,

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

 

64“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66What do you think?”

 

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

 

So, this kangaroo court convicted our Lord

without any real evidence.

 

And then they went on to treat him terribly

while in custody.

67Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

As I’ve mentioned, this trial was illegal,

because it was held at night,

and because it was run by men

who hated Jesus and who were looking for

any excuse to put him to death.

 

They knew that what they did was illegal.

 

So, just to formalize it,

and cover themselves legally,

they held another brief show trial

first thing in the morning.

 

Luke’s Gospel gives the details,

but Matthew sums it up this way:

Matthew 27

1Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

 

They took him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate,

because the Jewish courts

did not have authority to execute anyone.

 

In future sermons we’ll look at the injustices

that occurred at Christ’s trial by the Romans.

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But, what is the solution to such injustice?

 

Men have been oppressing other men

for thousands of years.

 

Humans have been unjustly killing other humans

for thousands of years.

 

No human government has ever been able

to eliminate injustice.

 

Injustice has been typical

of dictatorships and monarchies.

 

But it has also continued in democracies,

as many different news headlines have made clear

throughout our lifetime.

 

The Bible says at Ecclesiastes 5:8,

Eccl 5:8

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

 

Why have our public officials

at all levels of government kept failing us?

 

Why have they failed to stop looting and rioting?

 

Why have they failed to root out rogue police officers?

 

Why have they failed to deal effectively

with the coronavirus crisis?

 

Why have they crashed the economy?

 

Self-serving politicians

point at particular individuals in power,

and insist that things will go better

if only we can put them

into those positions.

 

But people have been trying that for years,

for centuries, for thousands of years.

 

And, despite who we put into power,

our leaders have always kept messing up badly.

 

We wish they were perfect leaders,

without their human flaws.

 

But they turn out to be no better than us,

and often worse.

 

If we voted for these particular leaders,

we try to cover up their flaws,

and to insist that they aren’t really that bad.

 

Or, we switch our allegiance and pick other individuals,

with the thought that, “If only they were in power,

things would go better.”

 

We wish our leaders were gods, without human flaws.

 

And we optimistically imagine them that way,

until they fail us, and fall short of our expectations.

 

The problem is that all human leaders fall short.

The Bible term for that is “sin.”

 

The basic meaning of the word for “sin” in the Bible

is “to fall short” of what is expected.

 

And the reason our leaders all fail us,

is that they, like us, have inherited sin

from our first human ancestors, Adam and Eve.

 

We need someone without sin to govern us.

 

We need Jesus.

 

We all need Jesus in our personal lives,

as our Lord and Savior,

to redeem us from our sins.

 

We also need Jesus to replace our human leaders:

our presidents, our governors, our mayors and so on.

 

We instinctively long for a leader like Jesus

who will not fall short,

and who will govern us with perfect justice,

wisdom and love.

 

And God has promised to give us Jesus

to rule over us in the Kingdom of God.

 

When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come,

for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,

we are really praying for a change in government.

 

We are praying for Jesus to take the place

of the presidents, kings and other rulers

who continue to disappoint us.

 

Jesus won’t disappoint us.

 

His Kingdom is coming. 

 

The frightening events taking place in today’s world

fit the Bible’s prophecies

of the “last days” of human rulership.

 

Our Lord gave us signs to watch for,

to let us know when his return is near.

 

He spoke of things that have been making headlines

in our world today

events to watch for in Israel

and around the world.

 

The Bible’s last book, the Revelation or Apocalypse,

speaks of climate change,    pollution,    wildfires,

locust plagues and disease epidemics.

 

Our recent headlines are all there in the Revelation.

 

And then it goes on in Revelation Chapter 19

to talk about the change in government,

when Christ comes as King

to rule with justice.

 

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. . . . and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, . . . 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” a He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

Revelation 19

 

We need our Lord Jesus to come as King

and to rule with justice and righteousness.

 

Come, Lord Jesus!