When You Pray, Say: "Thy Kingdom Come"
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The text for today is John 18:28-40: Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered Him over to you.”
Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.”
The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about Me?”
Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You over to me. What have You done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world.”
Then Pilate said to Him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. Here ends the text.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
God’s kingdom. Do you see God’s glorious reign here on the earth? Do you see His mighty kingdom? Is it on display with all the pomp and circumstance that is the Roman Empire in Judea with Governor Pilate? Now that’s a kingly court! Look at the attendants! The magnificence! The wealth! The power!
Look carefully. God’s reign and God’s kingdom stands right before this official representative of his majesty and his eminence, Caesar of Rome. It’s Jesus. God in the flesh Jesus! King of kings and Lord of lords Jesus! “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man” Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
But how pathetic King Jesus looks. Betrayed. Arrested. Denied. On trial in Pilate’s court. And once Pilate’s soldiers get a hold of Him, He’ll look even less kingly. Beaten to a pulp. The back of His flesh will be mercilessly flogged, ripped by the scourge. He’ll be mocked, dressed with a purple robe and a crown of thorns. And they will taunt Him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” He’ll be treated like nothing more than a fraudulent king with a fake kingdom!
The governor seeks to investigate this Jesus. Is He the king of the Jews? Does He have a kingdom? Jesus confesses that He is a king. But He’s not a worldly kind of king, and His is not a worldly kind of kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says. And yet He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven” kind of King. The Suffering Servant kind of King! You see… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. He came down from heaven not for Himself… but for you and me and for the world! This is the kingdom for which we pray in the “Our Father.”
God’s kingdom is nothing other than what we confess in the Creed: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devil’s power. He sent Him to bring us to Himself and govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation, against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason He has also given His Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.
Our King Jesus has come down from heaven to do the work of salvation. Not just for the Jews; but for all. For the entire world! For you! For me! Jesus comes down from heaven to annex the entire world in His Kingdom. To draw all men to Himself as He is lifted high upon His throne—the cursed tree! He dies a notorious sinner’s shameful death. But don’t let appearances fool you: This crucified Christ is a world conqueror who has defeated our mightiest foes—sin, death, and the prince of this world—the devil!
What a King! What a kingdom! Behold His reign! He is delivered into the hands of sinners. He suffers. He dies. He bears the entire lot of the world’s sin in His body. He atones for every last bit of it. “It is finished,” the King declares! And the head of the ancient, wicked serpent named Satan is crushed. Death’s deep dark chill loses its crushing grip. Your reservation in hell is cancelled.
And all this done without your praying. Without your help. Without your advice and consent. Jesus just goes and does it! Willingly. Lovingly. While you were still ungodly sinners. While you were His enemies. While you were dead in your sins and trespasses.
So then, what’s the point of praying “Thy kingdom come?” Well, that’s how Jesus teaches faith to pray—with all boldness and confidence that your heavenly Father gives good gifts to you His children. When you pray “Thy kingdom come,” you’re begging the Father to bring and reveal Christ’s gracious reign to you! Smack dab in the midst of your life and your living in this world. A confusing life and world in which it does not always seem that the Lord is reigning. A world in which His reign is for now hidden, but will one day be revealed to all.
“Thy kingdom come,” we pray. And Christ manifests His reign over you in time. As we were reminded last week in our review of the First Petition: in your Baptism the Lord God put His holy name on you. And with His name He gives Himself to you—totally and completely. The Father gave you His Holy Spirit! The Lord and Giver of life, in that washing of water with the Word of Christ, gave you new birth from above. You are new creations in Christ! You’ve been buried with Christ into His all atoning death to be raised up with Him for a new life. The life of faith in King Jesus, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
“Thy kingdom come,” we pray. God is not miserly with His mercy. Jesus lavishes His Good Friday forgiveness over you. Over all of your life. Over all of your sin. Over your death. Over everything! He reveals and gives it in the Supper. “My body . . . My blood,” He says, “given for you for the forgiveness of your sin.” You are forgiven. The King says so. He’s there in the Sacrament giving and doing exactly what He says. St. Paul describes it this way: “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1).
“Thy kingdom come,” we pray. And that changes everything! Christ’s reign of forgiveness changes everything for you. You have life. You have salvation. You have an unshakeable kingdom! You have an eternal inheritance kept in heaven for you! For the fruit of such royal forgiveness is magnificent. It leads to the end game: the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Luther comments in the Large Catechism: “For the coming of God’s kingdom to us happens in two ways: (1) here in time through the Word and faith [Matthew 13]; and (2) in eternity forever through revelation [Luke 19:11; 1 Peter 1:4-5]. Now we pray for both these things. We pray that the kingdom may come to those not in it, and, by daily growth it may come to us who have received it, both now and hereafter in eternal life.
“All of this is nothing other than saying, ‘Dear Father, we pray, give us first Your Word, so that the Gospel may be preached properly throughout the world. Second, may the Gospel be received in faith and work and live in us, so that through the Word and the Holy Spirit’s power [Romans 15:18-19], Your kingdom may triumph among us. And we pray that the devil’s kingdom may be put down [Luke 11:17-20], so that he may have no right or power over us [Luke 10:17-19]; Colossians 1], until at last his power may be utterly destroyed. So sin, death, and hell shall be exterminated [Romans 20:13-14]. Then we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness [Ephesians 4:12-13].
“From this you see that we are not praying for a simple crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an inestimable treasure and everything God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God Himself had not commanded us to pray for the same. But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand [Ephesians 3:20]. He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things. In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently [Hebrews 4:16].
“It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor is ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would be rightly considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.
“All this is the fault of shameful unbelief that does not even look to God for enough food to satisfy the stomach. How much less does such unbelief expect to receive eternal treasures from God without doubt? Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves against such doubt and let this be our first prayer [Thy kingdom come.] Then, indeed, we shall have everything else in abundance, as Christ teaches, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. For how could He allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when He promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes [1 Peter 1:4]?” 
“Thy kingdom come,” we pray. God’s kingdom certainly comes of itself. But in this petition, we are praying to God that the kingdom of Christ will come and remain among us, both in this life and finally on the Last Day. We ask God that we will remain faithful and daily grow in His grace, so that more will come to Christ’s kingdom.
“Thy kingdom come.” We pray this petition, trusting that our heavenly Father wants to give us not only for the small cares and needs of life, but also for greater spiritual blessings. God longs to give you all the riches of His eternal kingdom. Indeed, for the sake of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, those riches are yours even now. You have salvation and eternal life. You are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Adapted from a sermon series presented by Brent Kuhlman at a pre-Lenten Preaching Seminar on Luther’s Small Catechism the 3rd chief part—The Our Father.