Date: Sunday, November 20, 2022
Is Jesus a king? It depends on your point of view. The indictment or charge fixed over his head reads, “This is the King of the Jews.” It sounds like a question, “This is the King of the Jews?” To the Romans authorities like Pontius Pilate, Jesus doesn’t appear to be much of a threat to the Emperor in Rome. Soldiers pick up the parody, by taunting Jesus, “If you are King of the Jews save yourself.”
Jews understand being “king” differently. Among many Jews there is a hope of a promised “Messiah” or “Anointed of God” who will emerge from the House of David and save the nation from cruel Roman occupation. Their notion of a Messiah is inspired by an historical figure David, the shepherd boy, who slays the giant Philistine Goliath and is anointed King of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. Remembered as the shepherd king!
Crowds speculate about Jesus and wonder if he is a prophet. When Jesus asks his disciples, “… who do you say I am?” Peter says in reply, “The Messiah of God.” But Jesus goes on to explain what “Messiah” means to him, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly …” and to others, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9: 18-24) The disciples never quite catch on to what Jesus is saying. Only at the end, does a criminal perceive the true nature of Jesus, the Messiah.
One criminal crucified next to Jesus mocks him. The other criminal recognizes the grave injustice that is taking place with the crucifixion of Jesus. He can see and accept responsibility for his own crimes and need for forgiveness. With that realization comes hope of salvation. He understands better than Jesus’ disciples that when all seems lost, much is found. He makes a personal appeal, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Today we honor Christ the King whose kingdom knows neither boundaries or walls, whose kingdom has no distinctions of “us” against “them,” no easy classifying winners and losers. Fidelity and integrity are linked. Coins of the realm are forgiveness and reconciliation.
We enter this kingdom when we are anointed as priests, prophets, and kings at baptism. We herald and inaugurate the kingdom by joyful proclamation, by humble service and by keeping Jesus’ vision and mission of compassion and justice.
We must ask again, “Is Jesus King” for us?