CHRIST THE KING (C)
(2 Sam 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)
There was a time when Jesus asked His disciples what people were thinking about Him:
Who do men say that I am?
They answered Him saying that people thought Him to be one of the former prophets back on earth. Shortly afterwards, however, at His crucifixion, there was, as we heard in the Gospel reading, a public proclamation, made by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, representative of the Roman Emperor and sole custodian of executive political and military power in the land, a statement intended to ‘hit back’ at the Jewish Sanhedrin leaders and Temple authorities – such experts at political chicanery and religious hypocrisy – a declaration for all ordinary Jews and visiting pilgrims to read, concerning the identity of Jesus:
An inscription was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The distinguishing mark for membership of the Jewish nation was, of course, circumcision, or so the Jews of Jesus’ time thought; St. Paul, however, most insistently tells us (Philippians 3:3) that circumcision of the flesh is not the true circumcision:
We (Christians) are the (true) circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Traditional Jewry, showed the failure of their fleshly, racial, circumcision by their rejection of Jesus, their God-sent Messiah and religious King. Do modern-day Christians then, who are of the true circumcision as St. Paul assures us, recognize Jesus as their King?
Jesus knew Himself to be a King, of that there is no doubt:
Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" So, Jesus said to him, "It is as you say." (Matthew 27:11)
But there is some doubt today – among ever-so-modern and worldly-sensitive believers -- about whether or not He is really their King; indeed, do all of us practicing Catholics and sincere Christians fully accept Him as our King?
What does that word “King” mean for people these days? Catholics and Christians have traditionally used the same word as was used in Jesus’ times, but have those who like to consider themselves as sensible, up to date, believers got the meaning of that word right? Are they aware of, and even more important, are they willing to accept in their lives, the full meaning of “King” when, in today’s celebration and Creed we say “Jesus is our King”?
Well, we are all aware, of the splendour and power of kings, and Jesus yields to no one in that regard; listen to St. Paul telling us of Jesus’ power and splendour (Colossians 1:15-17):
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him; He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.
We traditional Catholics can indeed be proud of, can glory in, Jesus our King; no earthly king could ever compare with Him. On that account, we certainly are proud to claim that “Jesus is OUR King”.
Continuing with this examination of the meaning of the word “King” we recognize in it not only power and majesty, but also authority … for there is no doubt that a king has always been thought to have authority over his subjects. Do we now want to proclaim so loudly that Jesus is King over us individually? Do we -- who so readily and enthusiastically recognize His splendour and glory, His wisdom and might – accept, with similar enthusiasm, that He has authority over us and over the way we live our lives? Many claim to be believers -- thereby acclaiming Christ as their King -- but do they, in fact, want to bask only in His reflected glory, without considering themselves in any significant way subject to His authority? Many so-called believers seem rather to be prepared to accept Jesus as king in the style of our own democratic monarchy: with plenty of most admirable pomp and circumstance and, indeed, not without popular support and respect, but without any real, autonomous power, or spiritual authority.
However, that is not the style of kingship recognized in the Bible, such was not the leader that the people of Israel wanted; their king had to have authority:
The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles. (1 Samuel 8:19-20)
And in the very beginning, at the birth of the People of God, the leaders, Moses and Joshua were not called kings, but their authority was, nevertheless, very real:
All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death.
The people of Israel said: “Wherever you send us we will go.” ‘Wherever’ meant ‘wherever on the way to the Promised Land’, for that was what had been promised them, the Promised Land, their true homeland and ultimate resting place: wherever you command us to go as we journey towards that Promised Land we will go.
Today, however, there are so-called Christians who have no desire, let alone hunger, for the heavenly destiny offered to all who commit themselves, through faith in Jesus Christ, to the Father’s plan of salvation; they seem to have lost their longing for a promised land because passing pleasures in the desert of this present world have distracted their minds and seduced their hearts.
In ancient Israel some tribes had entered the land Promised to their forebears and into their own personal inheritance before crossing the Jordan, but they were not allowed to rest on their territory, with their families, cultivating their land and gathering their crops … no, they must cross over with all their brethren and fight with them until they too could enter into their inheritance promised by the Lord, the God of Israel.
Today, far too many Christians want to settle for what they have got now, they want to taste to the full the seemingly endless pleasures this world seems to offer them, or else they have weighed themselves down with cares that blind them and leave them without hope in their lives. Such disciples are not necessarily against the glory and the splendour of a King they can understand and rejoice in: one appreciated and praised by all for his goodness and wisdom, his humility and sympathy in His dealings with the underprivileged of his time; indeed, many of them would accept a King who, as heavenly Lord, is able to give them spiritual comfort and joy as they participate in the holy atmosphere and liturgical splendour of His Church. What they cannot accept, however, is One Who has everyday and immediate authority whereby He might refuse to let them rest in, or even just ‘try-out’ at times, the pleasures and plenty of earthly possessions and passions, just as the Israelites of old were not allowed to rest on the wrong side of the Jordan. But most of all it would seem, they cannot, will not, accept as King Him Who has us pray:
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!
Joshua (another form of the name Jesus) had been told by the people, ‘may the Lord be with you; only be strong and courageous’; that is, given that the Lord our God is with you, and you show yourself strong and courageous, we will follow you through whatever trials which lead into the Promised Land. Was Jesus strong and courageous in His life and in His death? Was the Lord, His Father, with Him in His Resurrection? Indeed, Jesus was all that could be wanted of a leader of God’s People; and yet, despite all that, for so many modern ‘religious-minded believers’ the obedience due to the authority of Christ the King is withheld and has become the litmus test for true discipleship.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. (John 12:32)
When lifted up on the Cross Jesus will draw all those whom the Father gives to Himself. The obedience of the Cross is indeed the criterion for distinguishing true disciples, those whom the Father has called, from those who have come to Jesus, not in obedience to the Father’s call, but out of other motives -- apparently so admirable at times – but, for all that, diabolically unwilling to yield obedience to Christ as King.
People of God, Jesus is our King, and we are most proud to give true and total obedience to His kingly authority in our lives because we want to share in the splendour and beauty, power and glory, of His Kingdom. The opportunity is there for us; the promise has been made to us; we are already equipped for the journey and indeed, we already have a beginning of its fulfilment: for today’s rejoicing in our King should give us some faint inkling of the blessed glory and glorious bliss that is to come.
Thy will be done that Thy Kingdom may come, Lord Jesus.