| "Who do you say
that I am?" Jesus asked. Simon Peter answered, "You
are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus
answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are
Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra)
I will build my church..." Jesus then began to speak of
the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get
behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling
May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
“Ride on, King Jesus”
Message preached November 24,
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
based upon Luke 23:33-43
Order of Worship
listen to this in mp3 format
Ride on, King Jesus, no man can a-hinder me,
Ride on, King Jesus, ride-on, no man can a-hinder me.
I was but young when I begun, no man can a-hinder me;
But now my race is almost done, no man can a-hinder me.
an old African-American spiritual. In it, the singer and the King are joined
together in a journey which cannot be thwarted. Imagine what it might have been
like for a slave to have sung those words back during the Civil War.
Disenfranchised by the powers-that-be, his or her eyes were upon the real
leader. Arch-enemies - the devil on one hand, the slave master on the other,
were no match for God. All the armies of oppression were no match for King
Jesus. Sooner or later, he would conquer the slave system.
can a-hinder me.” Notice, it wasn’t “no man can a-hinder thee”
(that is, Jesus), though that certainly was the truth behind the song. The
singer, though walking with a heavy burden imposed by somebody else, was really
traveling with the King - and nothing could ultimately stop their forward
momentum together. “No man can a-hinder me.”
King Jesus.” Our biblical memory takes us to the triumphant entry of our Lord
through the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We picture him seated upon a
colt, like a victorious monarch returning home from battle. Everybody but the
powers-that-be are on his side, cheering him on. Here is King Jesus. “Ride on!
Ride on!” is the cry of the people with their hosannas and palm branches.
However, that moment was not a victory parade. The battle had only begun. The
fiercest hours lay ahead. The real “riding on” took place, not upon a donkey,
but on a cross, the story of which we just heard from Luke’s perspective.
King Jesus.” How odd to put those two words together at such a
time! What kind of a King is it, who dies a criminal’s death? A king is someone
with the power to stop such a thing. “No man can a-hinder me” ... seems like the
hindering is already passed, and the absolute stopping is at hand on this
ride-for-your-life. Those who gathered at the cross knew the irony of the
hour. “This is the King of the Jews,” the sign read. The Romans had quite a
sense of humor. It was a squad of soldiers from this occupying force who put
that sign up. They weren’t just making fun of Jesus, whom they had just strung
up on a cross. They were mocking his people. Do recall that Jesus was a Jew.
Ride on? Sure, let this cross be your chariot.
our faith speaks another kind of joke, a deeper irony. That cross was, indeed, a
chariot - only no one knew it at the time. “If you are a king,” some onlookers
jeered, “save yourself.” They thought it was hilarious. Like Goliath, they were
laughing at the very moment when the battle was at its climax. Were the powers
of darkness behind the scenes likewise doubled over in hysterics? The misplaced
glee was contagious. Even one of criminals also being crucified could not
contain himself. Facing his own horrid death, he echoed the joke. “Are you not
the Messiah? Save yourself ... and us!”
(sarcastically:) “Ride on,
second criminal, the one who did not laugh, catch the real joke? It says
he saw the injustice. It says he was appalled at the innocent dying alongside
the guilty. He was honest about his own lot. He deserved such a death in his own
eyes, but Jesus did not. And then he spoke that cryptic line, “Jesus,
remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Was this fellow saying “Ride
on, King Jesus!” or were his words those of a man who has given up? “Remember
me,” he said. How peculiar to tell a dying man to remember.
of remembering, do you recall Anne Frank? She was that Jewish girl whose diary
has inspired millions with her refusal to give up hope in the face of death?
Melissa Müller’s 1998 biography of Anne shed new light on her last days at the
Bergen-Belson concentration camp, based on material released 50 years after her
death there. While the published diary ended with her arrest, still standing
tall, it seems that toward the end she was broken like so many others. She had
lost hope. Who among us would not lose hope also in such horrid circumstances?
The powers-that-be, many of whom bore the name “Christian,” allowed this 15 year
old to die of starvation and disease in that prison camp. What a terrible irony
that those who, at least on the surface, claimed Jesus as King, had a part in
the death of this precious child of God.
me,” the second criminal said to the dying Jesus on the cross. Funny thing is,
this nameless man has been remembered for two thousand years, just as we
continue to remember and honor a courageous young woman who would have been 84
years old now had she lived. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
replied, “Amen,” a word which is less the ending of a prayer than it is the
beginning of something new. “Amen,” that’s what we translate as “truly,” but I
wonder if an “amen” isn’t better here. “Amen!
I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” In the middle of one
“hell” of a day - and if any day can be spoken of as such, that day fit the
description. Christian scripture and tradition tell of our Lord descending to
the very gates of hell itself to set the captives free, to break the power of
sin and death upon his “chariot.” In the middle of one “hell” of a day, Jesus
promised heaven. “Amen,” he said, “you
will be with me.” There’s plenty of room on this horse.
King Jesus rides a milk-white horse, no man can a-hinder
The river Jordan he did cross, no man can a-hinder me.
Ride on, King Jesus, no man can a-hinder me,
Ride on, King Jesus, ride-on, no man can a-hinder me.
the last Sunday in the Christian year, did you know that? Our tradition as
Brethren doesn’t get all bent out of shape by high and holy days, but there’s
something to this business of marking time a bit different from the rest of the
world. Think about it. January 1st is the usual starting place. Did
you know that January is named after the Roman god, Janus? One could say that,
in some ways, Caesar still reigns in our calendar. To mark the days a bit
differently is to listen for the beat of another drummer.
As I said,
today is the last Sunday in the Christian year. Next week begins the season of
Advent, a time for repentance, like Lent. In this coming season, we focus upon
the anticipation, the waiting for Christ to come. This isn’t just a matter of
waiting for Christmas Day, though that’s certainly a part of it. It’s also, and
perhaps more importantly, a time for hungering and thirsting, for looking ahead
to the day when God’s Kingdom will fully become a present reality, when those
words of Jesus to the second criminal on the cross will become true for all
God’s people. “Today you will be with me
in paradise.” Amen, I tell you... Ride on, King Jesus!
Christian year, today is called “Christ the King” Sunday. This is, in fact, the
culmination of the year, its pinnacle. What better way to end a year in our
tradition than to focus upon the leadership of Christ Jesus in our lives! For
those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus - without Christ, where would we
be? For those who look to King Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have to ask -
apart from him, how would we have the courage to face another year, let alone
another day? In what would we hope, without him? Furthermore, apart from this
greatest gift we have ever experienced, where is the basis for real thanksgiving
on our part?
an ornament off the tree in the entryway and buy a gift for a child or a
mother in the shelter at the
Center, we aren’t just bringing back something for them to open on Christmas
- as important for their well-being as these gifts may be. We are also pouring
in our hope, the hope we - who claim to be followers of Jesus - find in Christ.
We are also sharing courage, that strength with which we are endowed by God,
praying that a family can rise from a crisis and ride on to something new.
slaves back during the Civil War sang of their King Jesus riding on, life was
anything but a paradise. In many cases, it was sheer hell on earth. King Jesus
wasn’t just in some great “by and by” to them, though. He was riding on
even then, and no man could hinder him, or those who rode with him. Believe it
or not, even though they knew the promise was in the future tense, they lived it
as if it was now, even in the middle of their living hell. “Today
you will be with me in paradise.” Isn’t that what we want to share with
others - the kind of faith that helps folks in the here and now to “ride on,”
aiming toward a better tomorrow?
in order to share such a gift, don’t we need to believe it is possible
ourselves; don’t we need to hold onto the promise; don’t we need to keep our own
eyes focused upon our “King Jesus”? The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians
that, “Through him” (that is, Jesus)
“God was pleased to reconcile to
himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace
through the blood of his cross,” his chariot, if you will. (Col 1:20) Ride
on, King Jesus! The key words here are “reconcile” and “make peace.”
“lift high the cross” on this last day of the church year, we do not wield it
like a sword with which to “smite” anyone who gets in our way. Too many
Christians have done that down through the centuries, triumphantly crucifying
others in Jesus’ name. “No man can a-hinder me” doesn’t mean we use our beliefs
as weapons. From such attitudes and actions we should be turning, repenting
during this upcoming season of Advent, as one year turns to the next. Why?
Because in the midst of this upcoming season of repentance which begins a whole
new year for us, there comes that familiar song of heaven, ringing out “peace on
earth and good will to all.” Can you hear it on the horizon? It
also sings out “Joy to the world.” Please note, the lyrics do not say,
“joy to only us.” Are we listening? “Ride on, King Jesus, no man can a-hinder
©2013 (adapted from 1998) Peter
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)
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