Sermon illustrations


Becoming a King

When you purchase a game of checkers, you’ll notice that on the top of each piece is the insignia of a crown. That is because each checker was created to become a king. Once it is crowned because it has successfully made it to the other side of the board, it will have the right and authority to maneuver and function at a much higher level than it could prior to being crowned.

The reality is, however, that most individual checkers will not successfully make it to the other end of the board to be crowned, because the opposition will jump them and knock them out of the game. Whether a checker achieves its created goal of being crowned as a king is fully determined by the moves that are made underneath the hand of the one controlling it.

Tony Evans, Kingdom Men Rising: A Call to Growth and Greater Influence, Bethany House Publishers, 2021.

Commanding the Waves

In the years 1014-1035 there ruled over England a Danish king named Canute. King Canute tired of hearing his retainers flatter him with extravagant praises of his greatness, power and invincibility. He ordered his chair to be set down on the seashore, where he commanded the waves not to come in and wet him. No matter how forcefully he ordered the tide not to come in, however, his order was not obeyed. Soon the waves lapped around his chair. One historian tells us that, therefore, he never wore his crown again, but hung it on a statue of the crucified Christ.

Source Unknown

The Daughter of a King

The British novelist George MacDonald loved writing stories about princes and princesses. At one point in his life, someone asked him why he focused so much of his writing on them.His answer was profound: “Because every girl is a princess.”When the person asking the question was confused, MacDonald asked whatthe definitionof a princess is.

““The daughter of a king,” the man answered.

“Very well, then every little girl is a princess.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Dying for His Subjects

When I was in Moscow in 1990 preaching at the Moscow Baptist Church, just blocks from the Kremlin, I told a packed crowd of worshipers that all through human history, as far back as recorded time and doubtless before, kings, princes, tribal chiefs, presidents, and dictators have sent their subjects into battle to die for them.  Only once in human history has a king not sent his subjects to die for him, but instead, died for his subjects.  This is the King who introduces the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, because this King reigns eternally.

Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008, p.90).

The Emperor and the Whipping Boy

In 1987 director Bernardo Bertolucci released the film The Last Emperor to raving reviews. It was based on the autobiography of the last living emperor of the Manchu dynasty in China, Henry Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (before its fall to the communists in the 1950s). Eventually the movie would be hailed “the most honored film in 25 years,” including nine Academy Awards (Oscars).

And while the story tells the riches to rags story of Yi’s life, from spoiled child emperor to imprisoned and tortured detainee after the revolution to his final seven years as a gardener in a Beijing Park, what is perhaps most interesting, at least for our sake, is one account towards the beginning of the film.

At this point, Yi is surrounded by the trappings of an imperial power. 1,000 eunuch servants exist to fulfill his every whim. At one point, Yi’s brother asks him what happens to him when he makes a mistake? The emperor responds, “when I do something wrong, somebody else is punished.” To demonstrate this, he picks up an ornate jar and smashes it on the ground. Immediately a servant is taken and beaten for the action of the emperor. It is, in a sense, a true version of the famous “whipping boy” story.

Why is this so interesting? Because it gives us a perfect contrast, the perfect opposite to what Jesus does on our behalf. From the world’s perspective, it is the poor and marginalized who are to bear the brunt of the world’s pain and blame. It is the unnamed servant who receives the punishment in this account, not the emperor. In the Christian story however, it’s just the opposite. The king takes the punishment on our behalf.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Content from The Last Emperor, Columbia Pictures, 1987. 

The Glory Being Revealed To Us

In Romans 8:18, Paul describes the future of those who persevere in the faith: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” in The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkein provides a stirring image of this glory at the death of the great king Aragorn (that is, after his life-long struggle against the evil forces in Middle Earth, and his own personal demons):

Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.

The idea here is that the same thing will happen to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. We are, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “no mere mortals.”

Stuart Strachan Jr. , Source material from J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings (New York: Ballantine, 1955), 378.

Go Back to your Throne

In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.” 

“I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” 

“Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.” When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us, and when he returns, we’ll rule together with him.  

Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida.

The King Belongs in the Middle

In his wonderful book, God’s Big Picture, Vaughan Roberts gives readers an overview of the Bible, focusing on the importance of context for developing a deeper understanding of holy scripture. In this short illustration, he points out the importance of keeping Jesus (the king) at the center of the greater narrative of the Word of God. Thus, when the king is at the center, we are more likely to find a faithful reading of a text than when we do not:

Two boys were bored on a rainy summer’s day, so they began to do a jigsaw puzzle. (That tells you how bored they must have been.) They made no progress until one of them turned the box lid over to see the picture they were trying to create. It was of a medieval court scene with a king surrounded by his courtiers. One of the boys cried out, ‘Now I see it – the king is in the middle!’ Once they recognized that, the puzzle was easy and they were soon able to finish it.

Taken from God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. ©2003 by Vaughan Roberts.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

The Monk and the King

Saint Aidan was an Irish monk who later became bishop of Northumbria (Northern England and Parts of Scotland) in 635. He also founded the famous monastery at Lindisfarne. There is a story told of his friend and King, Oswin, who ruled a province in England and who gave the bishop an expensive horse as a gift. Soon after receiving the gift, a beggar approached Aidan and asked for money. Aidan did one better, dismounted from the steed, and promptly gave the man the horse, along with all its costly trappings.

Eventually this reached the king’s attention, who promptly scolded the generous bishop: “Why did you give away the horse that we specially chose for your personal use when we knew that you had need of one for your journeys? We have many less valuable horses that would have been suitable for beggars.” Aidan responded, saying “Is this foal of a mare more valuable to you than a child of God?” The king thought about his friends words and abruptly cast his sword aside, got on his knees at Aidan’s feet, and begged for forgiveness. 

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material provided by Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.

The Motivation to Attend Church

Francois Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. One Sunday when the king and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, no one else was there but the preacher.

King Louis demanded, “What does this mean?”

Fenelon replied, “I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king.”

Submitted by Chris Stroup, Source Unknown

Not the King

Most of us probably assumed Elvis Presley enjoyed his unofficial moniker of “the king.” As it turns out, Elvis had a rather complicated, if not tortured experience with fame and fortune. 

One day during a performance in Las Vegas, a woman approached the singer with a crown sitting on top of a pillow. 

“What is that?” he asked. 

“It’s for you. You’re the king,” she said. 

Elvis’s response was classic. After taking her hand and smiling, he told her, “No honey, I’m not the king. Christ is the king. I’m just a singer.”

Stuart Strachan Jr. Source Material from Godvine.com

Not the King they Expected

He [Jesus] was not the king they expected. He wasn’t like the monarchs of old who sat on their jeweled and ivory thrones, dispensing their justice and wisdom. Nor was he the great warrior-king some had wanted. He didn’t raise an army and ride into battle at its head. He was riding on a donkey. And he was weeping, weeping for the dream that had to die, weeping for the sword that would pierce his supporters to the soul. Weeping for the kingdom that wasn’t coming as well as for the kingdom that was… He was the king, all right, but he had come to redefine kingship itself around his own work, his own mission, his own fate.

N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus, HarperOne.

The Parable of the Two Servants

In this modern day parable, Alan Fadling describes a king and his two servants. Each of the servants desires to do the will of the king, but they approach their work very differently:

One of the servants, for fear of not pleasing his master, rose early each day to hurry along to do all the things that he believed the king wanted done. He didn’t want to bother the king with questions about what that work was. Instead, he hurried from project to project from early morning until late at night. The other servant, also eager to please his master, would rise early as well, but he took a few moments to go to the king, ask him about his wishes for the day and find out just what it was he desired to be done. Only after such a consultation did this servant step into the work of his day.

…The busy servant may have gotten a lot done by the time the inquiring servant even started his work, but which of them was doing the will of the master and pleasing him? Genuine productivity is not about getting as much done for God as we can manage. It is doing the good work God actually has for us in a given day. Genuine productivity is learning that we are more than servants, that we are beloved sons and daughters invited into the good kingdom work of our heavenly Father. That being the case, how might God be inviting you to wait for his specific direction?

Taken from An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling Copyright (c) 2013 by Alan Fadling. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Uneasy Lies the Head

It was William Shakespeare, in 1597, who had Henry IV complaining about the duties of kingship. “How many thousands of my poorest subjects,” the king lamented, “are at this hour asleep!” He goes on to wonder why Sleep would rather live in the ramshackle hovels of the poor rather than in the palaces of a king, and how she can give her gift of rest to a soaked sailor boy being tossed around by the sea while denying it to a king in all his quiet comfort. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!” Henry cries.

Greg Gilbert, Who Is Jesus? (9Marks), Crossway.

See also Illustrations on The Ancient World, Christ the King, Government, Jesus, LeadershipPowerPresident

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on a King. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

Follow us on social media: