August 18, 2018

Famous Last Words

August 18, 2018


Psalm 111
1 Kings 2:1-11
John 4:7-26
This weekend’s reading: Genesis 3:1-13


I have a friend who waited by the bedside of his wise old father, hoping to hear his meaningful last words. When they finally came, they were more on the practical side. “Change the filters on the furnace,” the old man whispered. David’s last words to Solomon deal with some practical matters (and indulge in settling some old scores), but also are inspiring: Solomon must “walk faithfully before God with all your heart and soul.” This is the key to keeping a descendant of David on the throne. The history of Israel’s divided kingdom, the exile of the people, and the destruction of Jerusalem by its enemies attest to the faithlessness of some of David’s descendants. And yet, centuries later in Bethlehem, David’s city under Roman occupation, a “Son of David” is born who will change the concept of kingship forever.
Jesus is called “king” by the magi, and then by King Herod, who tries to destroy this child he fears will be his usurper. Jesus is called “king” by Pilate at the crucifixion. But some followers who want to make him king in the usual sense were disappointed. The story of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:7-26) indicates how Jesus reigns:  he will topple “the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Jesus does unheard of things in John 4. He speaks to a Samaritan (despised by his people) who is a woman (religiously taboo for a man to do this), and furthermore she is a person of dubious reputation. But he knows all about her and he listens to her. He asks for a drink and then offers her “living water.” What kind of king would have such a give and take? What kind of king listens?


  • Jesus’ kingship is especially significant for oppressed people, from early Christians persecuted by Rome to American slaves and Mexican independence fighters. In what ways does proclaiming Jesus as king give people hope?
  • “King Jesus is a-listening all day long, to hear somebody pray” (African-American Spiritual). Look at different versions of this song on the internet and think of the people who might use these words in prayer.


  • Recall the story of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and talk about why people wanted to proclaim him king. How was his procession different from that of most kings or emperors?
  • Using a hymnal or the internet, look for hymns that refer to Jesus’ reign and read or sing them together. (Examples: “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” “Children of the Heavenly King,” Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “What Child Is This?”)


We praise you, O Christ, the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father. You became incarnate to set us free. You overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. You are seated at God’s right hand in glory. Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood, and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting. Amen. (4th or 5th c. hymn, United Methodist Hymnal, #80, adapted)