Glitter in the Sun – Acts 12:20-25

by Roger McCay
10 November 2019
Sermon Passage: Acts 12:20-25
Link to Sermon Audio

Have you ever considered how secularism is a false reality? It divides reality into two realities—one that is religious and one that is secular. Hence, secularism is a denial of the one true God-established reality, that Jesus Christ is King and rules over all.

The Scriptures clearly teach that God rules over all creation, all the nations. E.g. Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” At the incarnation, Jesus brought the Kingdom of God in his person. As he proclaimed in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” After the Lord’s resurrection, at the ascension recorded in Matt. 28, he proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

The Kingdom of God is by definition God’s rule. Thus, where Jesus’ authority resides, so is his rule, his Kingdom. As the incarnate, risen, and reigning Son of God, Jesus is King and Lord over all. He reigns from Heaven now, and we wait until he comes bringing the Kingdom in its full glory on the Day of Judgment.

Yet, secularism has attempted to remove Christ from the center of reality by saying something can exist without him—completely contrary to what we are taught in Scripture (e.g. Colossians 1:15-20). It attempts to set up a reality apart from God’s rule, as a rejection and rebellion against God.

Today, we find that this secular false reality has permeated our country, finding, perhaps, its most dangerous form in our government. The Dictionary of Christianity in America helps us grasp the problem, stating that Secularism “denotes a religious commitment to this world, or anything within it, as ultimate.” Separated from the true King in a false reality, the government has become a religion for many, raised up as god. Which just makes sense, for when the Lord is rejected, false gods quickly vie to fill his place.

Brothers and Sisters, as Christians, we live in constant opposition to the lie that there can be a reality without the living and true God—the Lord. As salt and light in the world, it is important that we remain prayerfully vigilant against the lie and its resulting temptations.

The events in vv. 20-21 of our passage today are also recorded by Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian. He writes:

On the second day…he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him.[1]

Herod’s silver robes flashing in the sun was no accident. Giorgio Agamben describes the phenomenon in his book The Kingdom and Glory, identifying “in Glory the central mystery of power.”[2]  Glory gives a mysteriousness, an otherness, and the impression that its object is above the normal man. Herod knew what he was doing. It was an age-old trick, and it is one still in use.

Today, the media is the primary tool for this effect. As Agamben explains, the media is so important in modern democracies “not only because they enable the control and government of public opinion, but also and above all because they manage and dispense Glory.”[3] In America, our politicians are often glorified on the screen leading people to fawn over them like rock stars. Presidential elections are the worst offenders, as the millions and millions of dollars paid to glorify the candidates speaks for itself.

And oh, how we exalt our government! The official ceremonies are like worship services. Just think of the glorious national hymns we sing; the saints we exalt such as Washington and Jefferson and other heroes of the faith. We have our holy document—the Constitution; we have holy relics such as the Declaration of Independence; holy shrines such as the Lincoln Memorial; holy icons such as the American flag. Further, there is the holy object that we promote above all other things – freedom; and a missionary zeal to take the freedom, that only a democracy like ours can give, to the rest of the world.

Now, please know I am not disrespecting our heritage by any means. These things I’ve mentioned are important to our heritage as Americans, and help define who we are as a country. Yet we need to be alert to people and things that are glorified in our government, which can seduce to the point of inducing worship. They can seem to have glory that is their own, but that glory is really like the flash of the sun on Herod’s silver robes. The real power and glory reside in the true King – Jesus.