Lectionary: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
It was a tough year for Christianity. It was obvious to the Pope that believers were tempted more and more to participate in the secular culture around them, luring them away from their faith. The year was 1925 and Pope Pius XI instituted a new day in the liturgical year to remind Christians that they were participants in a different kingdom than the rest of the world recognized.
The Feast of Christ the King now occurs at the end of the Christian calendar, on the Sunday before Advent begins, as a reminder that we are part of something more, something divine.
In the following reading in John, we see Pilate questioning Jesus about rumours that he is a king. Pilate’s concern is with the politics of the empire and the possible threat of an uprising. He ends up frustrated that he has been brought into what he sees as a local religious feud. As the story plays out, Pilate declares that he sees no guilt in Jesus and insists that he will be killed bearing the title of ‘king’.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:33-37 (NIV)
The story of two teenage parents and their baby boy, born and swaddled in cloths and laid in the feeding station of a draughty middle eastern barn/cave has fed and fascinated people for thousands of Christmases. It is a story that is both earthly and heavenly, odd and majestic, simple and royal, human and divine. Yet our souls are drawn, even compelled to embrace its beauty and ridiculous hope. The story of Jesus is, well … perfect.
Each of the readings today reminds us that the history of Jesus culminates in his reign as the eternal king of everything, yet it is not in a traditional role. This king had royal bloodlines but chose to live with common people and even found a home among them.
Next week we will begin the opening chapters of the Christian year which is known as Advent. It will usher in a time which is focused on waiting, hoping, anticipation, preparation. The weeks of Advent lead us ultimately to Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of a king: a king who uses his power to embarrass and empty hierarchical power; a king who uses his power for those who are powerless; a king who walks ahead of his people into another way of being.
In the end, Jesus admits to being a king of sorts and somehow this kingdom has something to do with truth. Give it some thought for yourself – what is truth?
So throw off your traditional views of kingship and religion and consider what Jesus’ kingdom of truth looks like.
According to Jesus himself, everyone on the side of truth listens to him. Where does that take you next on your spiritual journey?
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
you have crowned Jesus Christ as Lord of all.
We confess that we have not bowed before him, and are slow to acknowledge his rule.
We give allegiance to the powers of this world, and fail to be governed by justice and love.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Raise us to acclaim him as ruler of all,
that we may be loyal ambassadors,
obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Book of Common Worship, © 1993 Westminster/John Knox Press.)