If your church follows the liturgical calendar, Sunday will be the last Sunday of the year and is “Christ the King” Sunday. The idea that Christ is King, while biblical and an ancient belief of the church, can be a difficult idea for some of us. We can become confused in a couple of ways.
We can mistakenly think that for Christ to be king means that God’s reign will look like the kingdoms we are used to having on earth. We think that Christ’s reign will be like the reign of -insert your favorite royalty here- only bigger, grander, more exalted. We, of course, have things turned around when we think that way. Jesus doesn’t model himself on human kings. Human kings are to model themselves after Christ. We don’t have a lot of examples of human kings modeling themselves after Jesus and so we have difficult time imagining what Christ’s reign on earth would look like.
The other difficulty, for us in the United States, is that we have a national distrust of kings. Our history and common worldview make us suspicious of kings and kingdoms. So we don’t know quite what to “do” with a king. Our first impulse is to say, “No thanks we don’t need a king. We are a free people who rule ourselves via elected officials. No kings needed here!”
We don’t really think much about kings here in the US. When we do think about them, we tend to have a negative response. This makes it difficult for us to think seriously about Christ the king. It makes us resistant to giving our allegiance to Christ. The democratic lens through which we view the world encourages us to keep our religion private and individual, like our ballot at the polls.
The reality that most of us are resistant, or ambivalent or simply clueless about what it means to declare that Christ is King, causes us all sorts of problems as we prepare for Christmas. Advent, the weeks before the celebration of the Christmas season is a time to wait and hope for the return of the king. Advent is about the second coming of Jesus. Because we are confused about what sort of king Jesus is, we have all sorts of odd and frightening ideas about the second coming.
There are many things that could be said about Christ the King. But the lectionary gospel passage for this week gives us the right starting place.
33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:33-43
What does this tell us about Christ the King?
I’d like to know, what do you think?