O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Hands on the Steering Wheel
Hands on the Steering Wheel
Based on John 18:33-37
Preached on November 25, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, who is in control?
There is this game that my son and I play in our driveway. The moment we turn off the street and onto the foot of the driveway, I park the car. My son takes off his buckles and crawls up into the front seat to take his place on my lap. He can barely see over the dash, so I kinda boost him up so that he can see out the window. His face beams as he places his hands on the steering wheel at ten and two and gets ready to "drive" us into the garage. It is one of his favourite times of the day.
Now when we do this, it is "his turn to drive." He is in control. Daddy is not allowed to put his hands on the steering wheel, and sure enough he "drives" us into that garage safely every time.
In the small worldview of my son, whoever has their hands on the steering wheel at ten and two is in complete control of the vehicle. From what he can see, he is the only one driving the car. He doesn't even know about the pedals. He doesn't realize that I am still holding the bottom of the steering wheel beneath his vision. He thinks he is in complete control of the car, when in reality his Daddy is in control.
Who is in control? In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus teaches us about His kingdom. Now that word kingdom can be confusing. The word "Kingdom" simply means "rule" or "reign." In other words, who is in control. Jesus says "My kingdom is not of this world." The way I rule does not fit into the worldly way of looking at things. I am not concerned with whose hands are at ten and two on the steering wheel. I am concerned with the big picture, with truth.
Evidently, the kind of reign God's people are expecting, and the kind of reign God has promised them are very different. The people want God to bring an end to Roman rule, you know, get Pilate and his peeps out of Jerusalem. They are not looking for a king to rule their hearts and minds, because they do not think their hearts and minds are being ruled by anyone. They have no idea someone else is actually driving the car. They have no idea someone else is in control.
You see, the reign that truly controls mankind is not an earthly reign. It is not political. As St. Paul says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Satan is driving the car. He is the one sitting in the driver's seat. Ever since the fall, Satan has had control over the hearts and minds of mankind, even when we think we are in control. We are born sitting on his lap foolishly thinking that we are the only one driving the car. We don't even know about the pedals. We don't realize that he is holding onto the steering wheel beneath our vision. We cannot overpower him and take control, nor do we want to. By nature we too are enemies of God, who fight against Him. We don't want to leave Satan's lap. We're having the time of our lives with him as our king. After all, he "lets" us "drive," doesn't he?
When our Lord says "My kingdom is not of this world" He is trying to teach us that His kingdom is not a place. It is not a group of people. It does not have soldiers to fight for it. It is not built or maintained by military might. It is the action He takes to save those who are controlled by the Devil. It is God extending His reign into the hearts and minds of those who fight against Him. It is Christ hijacking the car. Breaking through the door. Dragging the devil out onto the street, tying him up and driving away. As He said, "how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house." Christ is stealing us from the Evil One, freeing us from His control. We often think that Christ is strictly saving us from the penalty of sin, and we say little about Him rescuing us from the dominating power of the Evil One.
Christ comes to take back control. He comes to reign over those who are under the deceitful control of the devil. To conquer the hearts and minds of those who are naturally hostile to Him. As St. John said, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the Devil." Christ is the only One strong enough to take control from the devil. He is the only One fighting for us. Thanks be to God.
Christ takes control every time He speaks and every time He acts. His entire ministry, everything He says and everything He does shows His reign overpowering the reign of the devil. The sick are healed, the demon-possessed are freed, and even the dead are raised. These external signs point to the greater gift of God's reign - eternal salvation through saving faith in Jesus Christ, a permanent escape from sin, death and the devil. This is the control Christ comes to bring.
Yes, Lord, this is what I want. But how does the reign of God come to me? How do I know that God has control of me, that it is His lap I sit on in the car and not the deceiver? Well it is not by the force of a powerful army, but by the simple Word of your King. He speaks and the devil flees. He opens His mouth and kingdoms melt. His Word is control. It creates. It performs. It makes things happen. Like the Word He spoke to little Liam this morning, when He said, "Liam, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That Word knocked the devil out. It changed Liam's heart into God's home, and extended His reign over Him. It set up a sign that said "Satan not welcome," and built a fortress of protection around him. The Holy Spirit rode that Word into Liam and filled Him with God's greatest gifts - faith, forgiveness, eternal life and salvation.
God has spoken that Word to all of you. You are His child, and He doesn't want you sitting on anyone else's lap in the car. He wants to be the one to see you enjoy your new freedom. He wants to be the one to watch you grow up with Him. So the King continues to speak to you. He speaks to you in preaching. He speaks over bread and wine that it may deliver you a meal of His own strength and presence. Your King has spoken. It is all you need, for as He says to Pilate, "everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." This is how His control continues to advance in this broken world, through the work of local congregations like Beautiful Savior, and through the witness of every Christian - speaking the Words of the King - carrying the merciful decree of the King to hordes of people sitting on the devil's lap. Christ was crucified for you. He has overcome the devil's power for you. Hear His voice. Don't be afraid.
We need not fear the old evil foe, for he has Sesquipedalophobia, he has a fear of long words. As Martin Luther wrote in his hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God." "Though hordes of devils fill the land all threatening to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; They cannot overpower us. Let this world's tyrant rage; In battle we'll engage. His might is doomed to fail; God's judgment must prevail! One little word subdues him." Well, I looked it up, that "one little word" is actually a long word - (insert word) - which means "It is written." The Evil One can scare us no longer, for the King has spoken. He has declared it. He has written it down. His kingdom is yours. Forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr