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The Backwards King

Luke 23:33-43

The Rev. Jon Roberts

24 November


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

33 And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


Crucifixion, Peter Gertner, 1537

“Life can only be understood backwards;
But it must be lived forwards.”[1]

Today I’m going to tell you about a Backwards King and I need your help. When I stop and point at you, you’ll say, “That’s backwards!” Ready?[2]

A long time ago, there lived a King. He was no ordinary king. He was a Backwards King. He was different from other kings because He did everything backwards from the way other kings did them. From the very day he was born, you could tell that this king was going to be different. Most kings are usually born in a palace, but this king was born in a stable surrounded by donkeys, sheep and cows.
“That’s backwards!

It wasn't a very big beginning for a king. In fact, very few people even knew that a king had been born. Only a handful of shepherds and three wise men got the word that a king had been born.
“That’s backwards!

As the infant king grew into a man, he continued to be different from other kings. While most kings spent all of their time building up riches of silver, gold, and jewels, this king owned nothing at all.
“That’s backwards!

And while most kings surrounded themselves with servants, He chose to be a servant. He could often be found helping others.
“That’s backwards!

As time went on, people became very unhappy with their King because He just didn't act the way they thought a king should act. Instead of riding into town on a big white horse the way other kings usually did, their king rode into town on the back of a donkey. Was that any way for a king to act?

“That’s backwards!

And the people He chose to be his friends! His closest friends were a bunch of smelly fishermen and He could often be seen visiting with the poor and eating with sinners.
“That’s backwards!

Finally, the people decided that they had put up with this King long enough. If He couldn't act the way a king should act, then they didn't want Him to be their king any more. They made a plan to have Him arrested and thrown into prison.
“That’s backwards!

Their plan worked. When the day came for his trial, the King stood before the people. Instead of shouting "Hail to the King, Long live the King!" they shouted, "Crucify Him! He is not our king! Crucify Him!"
“That’s backwards!

So they crucified the King. They nailed Him to a cross; they put a crown made of thorns on his head; they poked Him with sharp sticks and made fun of Him. What a way for a king to die! After He was crucified, they took His body and put it in a borrowed tomb.
“That’s backwards!

Wait, that isn't the end of the story. Remember...this Backwards King was different! This King rose from the grave to live forever. Now, instead of being the Backwards King, He is the Forever King. He is the King to anyone who chooses Him to be their King. Oh, there are still some people who call Him "King Backwards," but those who know Him don't call Him that ... they call him King Jesus!

Jesus wants to be your king too, and if you choose Him to be your king, you will live happily forever, and forever after! He was sent into this world to redeem it; to bring us out of error into truth; out of sin into righteousness; out of death into life. Life is understood when we look backwards at the place of the skull; that place called Calvary where Christ the King died, and was crucified. One, who hung to his left could only look back, saying, “Save yourself.” The other, to his right could only look forward, saying, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”[3]

Today, we decide the same. We live forwards, crowning Jesus as our King and Lord over all of our life.
Anyone who does not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead;
Anyone who does not believe Jesus has power and dominion over all things;
Anyone who does not believe Jesus alone can save them, well…
“That’s backwards!”

[1] Soren Kierkegaaard Journal of the Philosopher, Vol. IV, 1843.
[2] Sermon4Kids,
[3] Luke 23:33-46

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