Long Lives the King of Kings            Psalm 146

Easter                                                        April 9, 2023,                            St. John, New Orleans

Alleluia! Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Alleluia!

“And all the people shouted, Long live the king!” (1 Sam 10: 24). 

This acclamation is made at the accession of a new king to the throne.

From King Saul to King Charles III, this is a common expression. 

It's an awkward sentence, though

-- “Long live the king.” the verb “live” is in the subjunctive mood – 

unusual usage in modern English. 

The subjunctive expresses wishes, desires, and conditionals.

A nation wishes its king will live long.

Stability in national leadership is usually desirable. 

There’s very little worse than a quick succession of governments and the uncertainty that follows. 

As the king goes, so goes the nation. When the king dies young, the nation is left in turmoil. 

We've seen all of these realities played out in our Lenten and Holy Week series on the good kings of Judah.

Now that we are at the end of Matthew's gospel, it pays to return to the beginning to see how we got to this point. 

The first chapter of Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus. 

In the middle of the genealogy are the generations of the kings of Judah. 

For example: “Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,” and so on (Mt1: 8). 

This is a stark reminder that one king follows another as life and death take their turns. 

Reading this might bring to mind the salutation, “The king is dead. Long live the king!”

Likewise, the structure of the Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament is very clear. 

Whenever a king dies, there is a burial story and then the beginning of the next reign. 

The key facts are 

how old the king was when he took the throne and how many years he lived. 

Whether the reign was long or short, you could be sure that one king would die, and another take his place. 

“The king is dead. Long live the king!”

The other thing written at the beginning of each king's reign concerns the faithfulness of the monarch. 

Usually, he either followed or abandoned the way of his father David. 

The point is that the king had a large influence over the direction of the nation. 

A good king like David or Josiah led the nation in righteousness, 

but a bad king like Manasseh led the nation into evil.

The blessings or punishments visited on the king inevitably fell on the people also.

A lesson we continually learn from history, ancient or modern, is written in Psalm 146: 

“Put not your trust in Princess, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 
     When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 
On that very day, his plans perish” (vv 3-4).

Although we often look to political rulers, there is no salvation in them. 

They live and die as ordinary people do. 

Even the best leaders of men see their plans perish when they when their breath departs. 

Even if the king is wonderful, his successor might undo everything he did. 

We see that in the constant cycle of repairing the temple and then plundering it through Judah’s history. 

As king Solomon foretold in Ecclesiastes, a king cannot control how his children will rule. 

If Solomon could have only known 

that his son Rehoboam would split the Kingdom in two by his tyranny! 

In the end, the only difference between one of the great kings of Judah and any peasant in the land is the size and place of the tomb.

The king is dead. Long live the king! There is one king in history who breaks this mold. 

He came from a line of kings but was not born in a palace. 

Instead, the Angel Gabriel announced his birth to his mother saying, 

“he will be great and will be called the son of the most high. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1: 32)

An Angel also visited Joseph, the son of David, proclaiming that “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21)

This one was hailed as king by magi from the east. 

He was christened as king with the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the wilderness.

Peter says in acts that “after the baptism that John proclaimed... God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:37-38)

Nathaniel recognized Jesus as king early on. 

As Jesus went through the land 

conquering the Kingdom of darkness,

preaching the coming Kingdom of God, 

and restoring creation, 

the crowds would have made him king. 

Indeed, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey,

 the crowds cried out, “hosanna! Bless it is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel!” (Jn 12:13).

But the crowd's reaction, especially after the feeding of the 5000, was based only on his power. 

They thought anyone who could feed them for free would be a great king. 

Free food and no taxes sounded great, then as now. 

Instead, the only crown Jesus ever wore was made of thorns, not gold. 

The only purple robe he wore was stripped off him after he was mocked. 

The inscription of his Kingdom was posted on a cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Judeans.” 

So the day of his coronation was the day of his death. 

That was not a long life for the king – 

certainly, the shortest reign of any king of Judah. 

The king is dead.

Long live the king! 

This morning, we celebrate the only king to succeed himself.

The King of Kings lives forever.

The son of man, who lived without so much as a pillow to call his own, was buried in a rich man's tomb. 

He had a reservation at a tomb with a few. 

The owner no doubt expected that to be a long-term stay, 

but Jesus left after just three days and two nights. 

So Jesus proved to be different from all the kings before him.

To begin, he kept his word more than any of his ancestors. 

He said he would suffer and die and rise on the third day; 

That's exactly what he did. 

You can put your trust in this son of man because there is salvation in him!

Further, even as his spirit departed, his plans were accomplished. 

He left nothing undone; It is finished. 

His life's work of saving his people through the forgiveness of sins culminated in his death for the sin of the world. 

His plans didn't perish in the tomb but were completed in his resurrection on the third day. 

As his own successor, he didn't pass on his Kingdom to sons. 

He ascended to the heavenly throne as the Lord of all. 

As it is written, “The [Father of glory] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, 

and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 

which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:20-23).

The son of David is surely an unusual king. 

He didn't wage war against neighboring kingdoms. 

He didn't build a temple, palace, or city walls. 

He didn't preside over a booming economy. 

Instead, his mission was healing and justice. 

The mission of the Lord Jesus is summarized in Psalm 146: 

“the Lord sets the prisoners free; 
     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. 
 The Lord lift lifts up those who are bowed down; 
     The Lord loves the righteous. 
The Lord watches over the sojourners; 
     He holds he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (v7-9; cf LK 4:18-19).

His victory was great in all things because it won over the last and greatest enemy -- death. 

This was won through the forgiveness of sins, which robbed death of its sting. 

His life of love changed the way people live, and his death changed the way his people die. 

And his Kingdom is freedom and life. 

In his Kingdom there is fullness of joy; At his right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Unlike with the kings of Judah, his people are not located in one region. 

His are the “Saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor 1:2)

His sheep listened to his voice and follow him. 

His people live the blessed life, 

receiving all blessings with persecutions, 

and in the age to come, eternal life. 

He leads his people in all righteousness, a righteousness not of ourselves but which he has fulfilled.

So Jesus Christ, as John wrote in revelation, is “the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev 1: 5)

The cycle of anointing a new king and wishing he will be better than the previous is over. 

He is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords; 

He is here, and he isn't going anywhere.

Not only that, but he has made his people kings. 

Saint Paul writes, “do you not know that the Saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor 6:2)

And in Revelation we hear that in the new Jerusalem God's servants will reign forever and ever. 

The beginning of Psalm 146 reads, “Praise the Lord! [in Hebrew, that’s Hallelujah!]. 

Praise the Lord, Oh my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (v1--2)

We have a long time to sing those praises because, like our king, we also live forever. Hallelujah!

There is good news today: we can drop the subjunctive. 

We will change the expression this glorious morning. 

Not “Long live the king” but “long lives the king!” 

no more wishing, desiring, hoping. 

Put it in the indicative mood. 

Declare it; Say it's true! “Long lives the king!” 

“The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” (vv 10”).

This is news of inexpressible joy. As he rules, so goes his Kingdom. 

The fortune of his Kingdom is completely dependent on her king. 

And so, we have a Kingdom with peace and stability under our Lord Jesus Christ. 

For the son of David was pierced for our transgressions and has ascended to the throne,

that we “may be his own and live under him in his Kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity” (SC, second article).

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!