Based on Jn. 18:33-37
This is an important day in the life of the church. This day, in the church year is known as Christ the King Sunday. It’s the last Sunday of the church year. Therefore, this day takes on a mood of solemnity as well as joyful celebration. It’s a day of solemnity in that we shall all face the judgement throne of the King of kings and Lord of lords. At the appointed time, when all history shall be consummated; our Triune God shall judge us all. It’s also a day of joyful celebration. We know, we trust, we believe that Christ our King is ruling over the whole universe, with the power of his love and truth. Amidst all the chaos, evil and suffering in this world; Christ reigns as King, and shall one day eliminate all of the destructive forces in the universe.
As I read and studied our gospel for today, one of the nagging questions, which remained with me, was this: What kind of a king is Christ anyway? As a student of history, I’ve studied the lives of many kings; their rising and falling; their personalities; their accomplishments; their influences and contributions to world history.
When most of us Christians and Jews think of kings, we likely remember the two greatest biblical kings, David and Solomon. They were Israel’s best, “ideal” kings. Both of them had considerable political, military, and religious savvy; they united all of the Israelite tribes, bring their nation fame and wealth; along with some degree of peace and justice.
Yet, they also had feet of clay. David was a murderer and adulterer; Solomon, through a series of politically expedient marriages with non-Jews, failed to prevent the worship of other gods and goddesses in the land. After Solomon’s death, things even grew worse for the ancient Israelites. The succeeding kings of Israel and Judah were plagued with corruption and intrigue; kings came and went almost as fast as today’s “flavor of the week or month” coffee.
Those of you who’ve studied history know that, as we move beyond biblical times, kings and kingship are riddled with problems. Many kings, driven by their super-egos, developed visions of grandeur—believing that they would live forever through their extravagant building projects or military campaigns to “conquer the world.” Then, there were those so-called “Christian” kings—some of whom were even elevated to sainthood!—like, for example, Olaf of Norway. He is credited in the annals of history, as having converted pagan Norway to Christianity. However, his “convert to Christianity or off goes your head” method, is something, I’m sure, which Christ himself would clearly condemn!
Moving to contemporary times, we Canadians, although members of the British Commonwealth, subjects of the British crown; likely take the monarchy with a pound of salt—or even render it a relic of the past. For some of us, the monarchy may have sentimental, romantic value; but many are skeptical about its political value or relevance. Indeed, we live in a world of skepticism, cynicism and apathy towards most political leaders. Alas, it would seem that even the greatest of kings in the annals of history leave us looking and longing for something and someone more.
Then there is this One whom we name Christ the King. What kind of a king is Christ anyway? Today’s gospel—in grand fashion filled with irony, paradox, and masterful subtlety—attempts to answer that question. Pilate supposedly places Jesus on trial, asking him: “Are you the King of the Jews?” However, John immediately has Jesus turning Pilate’s world upside-down. He does this by showing Jesus answering Pilate in traditional Jewish fashion with a question to Pilate: “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Christ’s question turns the tables, now Pilate is on trial before the King of kings. Pilate, threatened by such a question because to answer it would reveal his personal motives; then tries to take control again by pleading his ignorance of things Jewish and by asking Jesus what sort of crime he committed.
Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not a worldly one. If that were the case, his followers would fight to prevent Jesus from being captured by an enemy power. Pilate, hearing Jesus’ answer, seems unable to comprehend the true nature of Christ the King and his kingdom. He is, literally, in another world than that of Jesus. Christ the King is no political, military leader. His realm is not confined to a specific geographical space, with clear-cut borders. He does not show the world his prowess by building castles and palaces. He does not autocratically force his will on us.
Christ the King goes on to tell Pilate the nature and purpose of his realm and what sort of king he is: “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Christ is King of the truth. In John’s Gospel, the truth is a very loaded word. Pilate fails to understand Christ, King of the truth because he is looking at everything in black and white only. Whereas Christ, King of the truth and those who belong to the truth look at everything in a wide variety of living colours. Christ, King of truth in John’s Gospel, challenges everyone to see and embrace truth as multi-coloured and multidimensional.
First of all, truth in the Fourth Gospel is personal. God is truth and Christ is one with God, therefore, Christ himself is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Christ, King of truth came into the world as a real live person to draw all to God through his personhood, his incarnation. We believe him, understand him, worship and serve him precisely because he lived among us as a human being, like us. To put it in popular language: He talked the same talk and walked the same walk as us.
Second, the truth is relational. He is still with us always as he promised. Most often, we discover his truth as relational in our relationships with one another. Others reveal Christ to us as we live in relationships with them. A kind word, a loving deed, a laugh, a cry, a prayer, a smile, a sparkle in the eyes, and much more—all can and do reveal Christ to us through others in very relational ways. Mother Teresa said that she met Christ every day as she encountered the poorest of the poor. Moreover, she also confessed that they often had more to offer her than what she had to offer them. Christ, King of truth is relational—in the everyday, ordinary relationships of our lives, we meet Christ. Bear that in mind as you go about your daily rounds! Welcome each person as if they were Christ himself.
Third, Christ, King of truth is concrete. He is still tangible. Every week we: see, hear, touch, taste, and smell him as he makes himself present in the proclaiming of his Word and the celebration of his sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Baptism. Through these concrete means, he feeds and nurtures us in our faith-journey. His truth is also concrete whenever our prayers are answered. Through those answered prayers, our lives are often transformed, healed, made more whole.
Christ, the King of truth is also made known through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives—as the Spirit leads us into all of the truth. That means we are journeying towards eternity on a road full of wonderful challenges, surprises, changes, which keep us growing in our faith and life. This Spirit of Holiness makes it possible for us to listen, understand, accept and act upon the truth of Christ our King.
In a world of chaos, lies, cover-ups, persecutions; the truth of King Christ prevails. Other kings come and go. Yet King Christ lives forever. Why? because his title King is a reference to his divinity. He is God. His rule is from eternity to eternity. All the powers of evil and destruction shall not prevail over us. They are, ultimately defeated by Christ the King. So, we are free to live in security and love, trusting in Christ’s victory and coming realm.
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