JESUS CHRIST IS KING!
Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
Today, we celebrate the feast of CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING. 1n 1925, a few years after WW1, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King. This was in response to a growing nationalism and secularism all over Europe, in which was embedded an open disregard for Christ. In introducing this feast, the church wanted to take our worship of Jesus from the privacy of people hearts and to proudly proclaim him in the public realm also. Originally, the feast was fixed for the last Sunday of the month of October. Then, in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave a new date for this feast which is the last Sunday in the liturgical year. By celebrating this feast, we are declaring to the world and reminding ourselves that Jesus is the Lord, not only of the Church, but of the universe.
The gospel text of this year comes from St. John’s narrative of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilate.
- JESUS BEFORE PONTIUS PILATE
In the gospel text, we see Pilate turning round and round as interrogates Jesus. Clearly, he is not really interested in getting answers. He is fully aware that that if he releases Jesus, he will displease the crowd that was already charged up, and he will also antagonize the high priests who will not hesitate to send a complaint to Rome. In this he would endanger his position as the governor of Judea. In Pilate’s mind, calling Jesus “King of the Jews” simply meant that he was a political leader, a kind of a “terrorist”. Meanwhile, in the mind of the ordinary Jew, that terminology meant Jesus was an upcoming liberator, the Messianic king who would usher an earthly kingdom into God’s kingdom. To emphasize these confused versions of Jesus’ Kingship, when he was crucified, a wooden sign was nailed over his head with the inscription INRI, which in Latin means “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” (JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS).
- YES, JESUS KING!
Jesus leaves no doubts about his kingship. He is loud and clear that he is king. At his trial, as found in today’s gospel text, when asked by Pilate if he is a king, Jesus replies, “Yes, I am a King. 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” (John 18:37). But he defines he type of kingdom: “My Kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). This is not to be understood meaning that the Kingdom of Jesus is not in this world, or this world is not part of his Kingdom. Rather, what it means is that the kingdom of Jesus is not like any kingdom in this world. For one thing, it is not a physical or material kingdom. It is rather a spiritual kingdom. It is to be found in the hearts of men and women. In that sense, it is probably better to speak of the reign (RULE) of Jesus than of his kingdom.
- HIS reign is a spiritual one
This means that Jesus’ rule transcends all time and space, unlike the Kingdoms of this world. Every reign, can be marked by a date, and time. In this sense, we can tell when each earthly reign began, and when it shall end (or when it ended). People living at the time of every reign can say with precision when the rule started and when it ended. But the reign of Jesus is ETERNAL. Announcing the birth of Jesus, St. Luke tells us that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1:33). That is to say, his reign is TIMELESS. It exists outside time. It was there before time began. It will still be there when time will be no more.
But this kingdom is also present here and now. When we pray in the OUR FATHER “your kingdom come”, it means that we want to start living his kingdom here and now. Christ’s kingdom implies not just a place but God’s active rule or reign in people’s hearts from which their motives, values, and attitudes originate. That’s why Christ declared: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). If our hearts and attitudes are truthful, just, honest, caring, then God’s kingdom is there.
- A KINGDOM BUILT ON TRUTH
Jesus confidently answers all the questions that Pontius Pilate throws at him. What made him so cool and confident through it all was the Truth! Truth was on his side, so he had no fears and nothing to hide. A truthful person is confident and free. A person full of lies is fearful and trembling deep inside. When one faces the light, and the shadow is behind him/her. When one turns one’s back to the light, the shadow falls right in front. In a similar way, knowing the truth and accepting the truth paves the way to true confidence and freedom.
In Jesus’ trial, Pilate is described as a ruler who wants only to protect his career and his position. He has a chance to side with the truth and to stand up for what is right. But he opts for his own self-interest. He gives in to popular demand. He compromises himself and looks for an easy way out, sacrificing principle and moral value.
One way of being a subject of the kingdom or reign of Jesus: we must belong to the truth. He says in the gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). In Jn.10:10 Jesus says: “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full”. Again, he says in Jn. 18:37; “I came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth, listen to my voice”. Moreover, in Jn.8:31-32 Christ says, “If you are my disciples, you will learn the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Those who do not belong to the Lord hate the truth.
- THE CROSS IS HIS THRONE
Jesus’ kingship is not about exercising power and might to control human institutions. He redefines the very meaning of being a king. Jesus’ power comes from God and his kingship is exercised through self-giving and love. His ultimate kingly act is to die on the cross in service to all humankind.
As king, Jesus’ throne, therefor, is the cross. He rules by serving us. His power is his merciful and redeeming love overcoming sin and death. He is the Good Shepherd who protects us, defends us, and dies for us. His will is to give us eternal life and so offers his life for our salvation. His authority is to forgive us and lead us back to the loving embrace.
In the face of death and before a worldly power, Jesus remains serene and composed. He accepts everything for our sake. He takes everything in silence and in humble submission. He lives what he has preached, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) and “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). By dying on the cross, Jesus blesses our pains and our aches. It is not his mission to make our lives easier and more comfortable. He is here to give meaning and purpose to our crosses and pains and trials.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE KINGSHIP OF JESUS
Therefore, Brother and Sisters, let us praise Jesus the KING in the words of the Book of Revelation, in the Second reading, which announces that Jesus as “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5). He “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”. By this very act Jesus “has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever” (Rev. 1:3). It this same universal king who, in the vision of Daniel in the First Reading, is described as receiving “dominion, glory, and kingship; … (and) all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7: 13-14).
Looking at the sanctuary of this Church (describe the exact location), one can see a crucifix with Jesus, our King, stretching out his hands, and inviting us. He is welcoming us to a closer and more intimate relationship with him. In fact, he accepts us as we are and sees in us the good and the potentials we often have difficulty seeing in ourselves. He is a king who puts no burdens on us. Instead, he sees each and every one of us as valuable treasure in his kingdom. Let us not harden our hearts or postpone our response his open invitation to us so that we put him first in everything we say or do