Christ the King Sunday – November 26, 2017
”’For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.
I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:11-16,23-24)
There is a Greek word that is so filled with joy, that defines such excitement, and embodies discovery to such an extent that we Americans just had to steal it. “Eureka!” You know what that means, don’t you? It means “I’ve found what I’ve been looking for!” Archimedes yelled it in his bathtub when he discovered the relationship between water-displacement and measuring volume. The state of California made “Eureka!” their state motto half a century ago. And even today, the joy and exhilarating voice of discovery remains that happy Greek word: “Eureka!”
But not all discoveries are good. Gases have been discovered and used to kill. Helpful drugs have been discovered, but many of them are overused and can lead to death. And then there was a man named Julius Robert Oppenheimer. He knew all about the Greek word “eureka” and the joy and sadness that discovery can bring.
Oppenheimer was hired by the United States government with the sole purpose of making a discovery such as the world had never seen. And much to his dismay, he was successful. Oppenheimer had discovered how to make the atom bomb.
He knew the implications of his discovery, and in his most famous quotation he looked at the terror he had unleashed and said, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Discoveries always have implications. “Eureka” is always followed by either joy or sadness…or both. God’s people of the Old Testament really enjoyed making discoveries. The problem was that these discoveries were almost always new ways to sin. Israel discovered new gods to follow. Their kings found new allies to trust in rather than trusting in the Lord. The people discovered all sorts of ways to get lost in the temptations of this world. They didn’t use the Greek word “Eureka,” they probably would have used the Hebrew word “Matsa,” but they were discovering all sorts of ways to get distracted, to get hurt, and ultimately to get lost.
God uses the age old comparison this morning between his people and sheep. Just as sheep have a knack for discovering new ways to get in trouble, so did God’s people. Their earthly shepherds were of no help. The teachers of Israel, the false prophets, the wicked kings all hurt God’s people – both physically and spiritually.
It all led to one last discovery for Old Testament Israel – something they understood too late. Because of their sinful discoveries, they would only find destruction, captivity and death. That isn’t “Eureka” or “Matsa.” In Hebrew it is called “Havvah” – destruction.
Many of the discoveries we make in our own lives are just as dangerous. We find new ways to sin with the words we say about others. We discover new ways to think sinful thoughts of greed and lust. And we are always finding out new ways to act out against God. Until finally all we can exclaim is “Eureka!” – we’re lost!
Very few were exclaiming “Eureka!” during Jesus’ ministry. Yes, Andrew said it initially to his brother Peter when he first met Jesus: “We have found the Messiah!” But that was out of the ordinary. Most who discovered Jesus eventually were happier discovering other things.
Until it was Jesus’ enemies who made an ominous discovery of their own. They realized they could bribe one of Jesus’ own disciples in to telling them his location. Even better, when they got Jesus on trial and dragged him to Pontius Pilate, as we heard in our Gospel reading this morning, they discovered he wasn’t going to say anything to stop them! So Jesus’ execution on the cross would be his enemies “Eureka!” moment. The Jewish leaders, the Gentile soldiers and the devil himself were all so happy to have killed the Son of God. They thought they had become what Oppenheimer claimed to be “Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
But the “Eureka” moment was even greater than that. Jesus, as the Good Shepherd promised through the prophet Ezekiel, had fulfilled his mission to “rescue [his sheep] from all the places where they were scattered.” He really was the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.
Then came the greatest discovery of all. On Easter Sunday the tomb of Jesus was empty – “Eureka!”. The stone was rolled away and the grave clothes were folded – “Eureka!” And Jesus himself was alive again – “Eureka!”
What does such a discovery mean? Everything. That Greek word so filled with joy, that definition of excitement, that embodiment of discovery is a word we can’t help but use. “Eureka” our Good Shepherd has found us, his lost sheep. “I will place over them one shepherd…he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God.”
Great discoveries can’t be hidden. When Archimedes made his scientific discovery in his bathtub he was so elated that he ran out into the streets naked yelling “Eureka! Eureka!” The discovery of your Savior Jesus that the Holy Spirit has given to you is even greater. It is the type of finding that you just can’t keep to yourself. You have to tell it to the other sheep out there around you. Those sheep have to hear about their Good Shepherd who has won heaven for them.
There was once a woman who had lost one of her ten silver coins. She had to find it. So she lit a lamp and turned the house upside down in order to find the one lost coin. When she found it she actually called together her friends so that they could rejoice with her – “I have found my lost coin!” Eureka!
Your Savior, Jesus, acted the same way towards you. He searched you out. He found you and made you his now and forever. Eureka! And now in turn he sends you out to make those most important discoveries. He sends you out to find others to share his word with, so that you, too, can joyfully exclaim “Eureka!”
Because eventually every one is going to discover what comes next. When Jesus, our King of kings returns he will once again find us on earth. And as our Good Shepherd he will take us into his loving arms in the joys of heaven forever. And at that moment he will say to you, for all time: “Eureka!” Amen.