What kind of king is Jesus?

Listen to mp3 file
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B: Nov. 25, 2012
Dan 7:13-14; Ps 93; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33-37

In our Gospel reading today, it is the morning of Good Friday. Jesus had been captured and questioned during the night by the Jewish authorities—but, because they are not authorized to carry out the death penalty, they have brought him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, seeking his execution. And so we hear Pilate’s initial questioning of Jesus.

He begins by asking, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And do you notice that Jesus does not answer this question directly? Instead, he asks Pilate a question: “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Who is questioning, and who is being questioned, has been reversed. Now it is Jesus examining Pilate: his heart, his thoughts, his intentions, his identity. How ready is Pilate to accept Jesus as king?

Of course, Jesus has another, related reason for not answering directly.

  • If he said, “Yes, I am the king of the Jews,” what would Pilate hear? “I am dedicated to subverting and overthrowing the Roman Empire”—which Jesus was not.
  • What would a Jewish nationalist hear? “I am a political and religious liberator who will gain your freedom from Rome”—which Jesus was not doing.
  • And, for that matter, what will we hear, if Jesus says, “Yes, I am a king”? Will we modern Americans hear, “I am a tyrant, who will dominate your life with unjust harshness, exploiting you at every turn for my gain and your loss”? But that isn’t who Jesus is, or what he will do.

What kind of a king is our Lord Jesus? And how ready are we to accept him as king?

Unlike any merely human king, our Lord Jesus created us. He is God the Son, the Word, through whom all things were made. He created us and the whole universe not out of any necessity or for any gain on his part, but utterly freely, completely out of love. And he made us in his own Image and Likeness, able to know and love him; he made us to receive all the immensity of graces and blessings he would shower upon us.

And then he watched as we, his precious and beloved creation, turned away from him in the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. As we plunged ourselves and our world into suffering and death, as we welcomed in the Enemy who would enslave and tyrannize us. His beloved kingdom became an occupied land, brutally oppressed.

And our king came to save us. No longer just our Creator, in his Incarnation he took on our human nature and became one of us. He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness (Phil 2:7); and as he walked this earth he demonstrated his love and mercy, his wisdom and power, and his gentleness, in a way that began to win back our hearts from our fear of him and our deception by the Enemy. And then he lowered himself still further, to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8), paying the ultimate price for our redemption, which we could never pay but he did. He freed us from our sins by his own blood! And then he rose as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, opening for us the glorious, transformed life that is his Kingdom, into which he invites us and one day will draw the entire universe.

What a magnificent, noble, loving king we have—worthy of our love and trust and obedience! To him be glory and power forever and ever! How fervently we should long for his Second Coming, when all of this will be fulfilled!

But we are not there yet. We must prepare ourselves to welcome him as king—and next Sunday we begin the season of Advent, during which, each year, we focus upon preparing ourselves for his second Advent, his Second Coming.

For we live within a land that is still occupied—in a world in which so many lives and so many institutions are still shaped by sin and death and Satan—in which greed and selfishness, lust and hatred, cruelty and idolatry still reign. But the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus has broken in, as light in the darkness. It is not one more political power competing against others—for, as he said, his kingdom is not of this world. But it is in this world, and it is growing; and the resistance, the campaign, the battle is waged in every heart. It is waged in your heart and your life.

How ready are you to accept Jesus as your king?

Christ the King has given you a share in his kingship—in your baptism, when you were united with him. And what does this mean? It means that you are invited—indeed, commanded—to share in and cooperate with him in his kingly re-conquest of this world from the enemy occupier.

  • First, within yourself: for, as Pope Leo the Great said, “What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God?” (CCC 214) Thus the Second Vatican Council taught us: “Christ has communicated this royal power to His disciples that they might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life they might conquer the reign of sin in themselves.” (Lumen gentium, 36)
  • Secondly, by drawing the world around you also under the kingly rule of Christ. The Council encouraged us to assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. Our families, our workplaces, our social and civic groups, our government and laws—all can be shaped, in their culture and practices, to more perfectly reflect and show forth the light and love of Christ. For even in our roles as employees or employers, as citizens and voters, and as consumers, we are called to live in fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

And so I encourage you to examine your own life today and this week.

  • In what ways do you see that you are living in faithful obedience to your heavenly King?
  • In what ways are you allowing your life to still be under the domination of the Enemy—who may try to deceive you into thinking that this is beneficial freedom, rather than the harmful enslavement of sin?

To examine yourself even more thoroughly, it may help to imagine our Lord Jesus walking beside you throughout your days, and ask yourself how he would react to this moment or that moment.

  • Choose one area that you would like to work to bring more under his kingship. Perhaps this might be a special project for Advent.
  • Bring that area to sacramental confession, so that you can receive his forgiveness and royal strength to help you to overcome this within yourself.
  • And consider seeking the help of others. For a false pride and sense of self-sufficiency are part of the Enemy’s deception to keep you enslaved.

As Pope Pius XI wrote when he established this feast, “He must reign in our minds… He must reign in our wills… He must reign in our hearts… He must reign in our bodies…” (Quas primas, 33) And as our Holy Father Pope Benedict has encouraged us:

“Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life.”

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