CHRIST IS OUR KING
(Biblical reflection on the 34th and Last Sunday of the Year [C] – November 20, 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 23:35-43
First Reading: 2Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 122:1-2,4-5; Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him vinegar, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” There was also an inscription over Him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other rebuked Him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man had done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in your kingly power.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:35-43 RSV)
In our time of democracies kings and queens are often not highly regarded. They seem to be a waste of money and against our feeling of equality. And yet, there are countries which like it very much, such as Thailand, Japan, England and Holland. Thus there must be something about kings and queens that have appeals to people of those countries.
Pope Pius XI who introduced the Feast of Christ the King during the many revolutions and overthrow of governments after World War I wanted to give us the awareness: there is stability in spite for all the changes, and there is somebody who cares for us, after all: Christ the King.
Among the Jews there were also enough people who preferred a loose confederacy to a monarchy. But whenever those who liked a king got nostalgic, it was because of David, the greatest and best of all the kings, so good that one could picture the Messiah only as another King David. What made David so similar to Jesus Christ?
David was a man of the people and for the people, and he was close to the people. He could have said what Jesus said: “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). David had been a shepherd before he became a king, he had defended his sheep against lions as he could point out to Saul before his fight with Goliath (1Samuel 17:34-35). As David was close to his sheep he was close to his people and understood them well being their shepherd. The application to Jesus in John 10, where He calls Himself the true shepherd, is too obvious. He is King because He cares for us, lays His life down for us, knows us inside out. David was lovable, honest, sincere, simple, humble, even in his sins. Christ is even more lovable, simple and humble, although He did not sin.
The Letter to the Colossians is unsurpassed in picturing Christ the King:
(1) His Kingdom is “universal” since all nations share in it. What was so far the privilege of the Jews becomes inheritance for all (Colossians 1:12). There are no privileges for some people only.
(2) In this Kingdom is “light” since we know where we are going, we are groping in the dark. In this kingdom is “freedom”. We are not slaves of our own fears, sins and helplessness. In this Kingdom we receive “forgiveness” from our condemnation and we are transferred into the realm of “power of God” and the devil cannot prevail against us.
(3) Christ the King is the “image of God” and “firstborn of all creatures”. Jews were not allowed to make pictures of YHWH; in order that they would not worship the pictures and statues of God. Christ is the image, the picture, the photo of the Father. And since man is created after God’s image, seeing Christ we also know what we should be. Everything was created in Christ. He is the “model”. How perfect must He be that it needs trillions of people to express His perfection somehow, but never perfectly. Everybody is a different edition, a different concretization of Christ. And Christ keeps everything in being.
(4) From his experience near Damascus (Acts 9:4), Paul realized: persecuting Christians is the same as persecuting Christ Himself. And the truth he explained by developing the comparison of Christ the head and we the body. Our union with Christ is as intimate as the head is united with the body of a person. We are all one in the Church. Christ the King is the “head” (Colossians 1:18).
(5) Christ is not only the firstborn of all creatures, He is also the “firstborn of the dead”. He has risen and since He is the head, our own resurrection has already begun to take place in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20).
(6) The “fullness of God”, His wisdom, His presence and His divinity resides in Christ who shares this with the Church, and this affects even the whole universe. There is no other intermediary necessary.
(7) Finally Christ has “reconciled” and still reconciles us to the Father by dying for us on the cross. It is not we who reconcile ourselves to God, but it is God who reconciles us to Him.
The Gospel reading (Luke 23:35-43) adds some more other details to the picture of Christ the King: (1) Jesus does not use His power to satisfy His own needs, e.g. changing stones into bread (Luke 4:3-4), or descending from the cross to convince His enemies, on the spot, that they are wrong. But He becomes King by suffering innocently and silently. (2) Jesus is not taking revenge, but He forgives the enemies (Luke 23:34) and gives a repentant thief eternal life on the spot (Luke 23:43).
Now, what is “our attitude” toward Christ the King? On and under the cross there were some curious spectators, the people of the street. They only looked on but were at least honest enough to beat their breast when they saw how a king suffered and died (Luke 23:48). But most, the Pharisees, the soldiers, those who wrote the inscription, and the one thief mercilessly mocked Jesus and hated Him.
There was only one who defended Him and loved Him, the other thief (Luke 23:40), And for his courageous request: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingly power” (Luke 23:42) he received the forgiveness of sin and eternal life: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). We can only hope and pray that the Lord will say the same to us when we die. But this will only be, if we confessed Him before men.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we adore You as our King! We are indeed thankful that You protect us, care for us, and hear us when we call to You. Grant us Your goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. May we dwell with You in Your Kingdom forever! Amen.
Jakarta, 19 November 2016
A Christian Pilgrim