John 18:33-37 - Christ The King Sunday
Today, in many parts of the Christian Church, is celebrated as
"Christ the King" Sunday. And I got to thinking, who is it in the
church that folks tend to hold up as the most perfect person, or
at least the one from whom they expect perfection?
A mother called her son on Sunday morning to make sure he got
out of bed and was ready for church. "I'm not going," he replied.
"Yes, you ARE going, so get out of that bed!" his mother demanded.
"I'm not going," he said. "All they do is complain and bicker.
They don't like the music or sermon or the heat or the air
conditioning." "You're still going," his mother said. "Give me one
good reason why I should go," her son said. "I'll give you three
good reasons. One, I'm your mother, and I say you're going. Two,
you're forty years old, so you're old enough to know better and
not let that stuff bother you. And three, you have to be there
because you're the pastor."
You know, after hundreds of years of ministers, people still
expect the pastor to be some sort of 'perfect' example. Only
Christ should be the perfect example to emulate. And in some
countries that still have Kings and Queens, they are also looked
at to be the perfect example. But we know both in history and
present day that those folks are NOT perfect examples.
Today is "Christ The King" Sunday. This day has been celebrated
as such since instituted by the Roman Catholic church in 1925 when
it was set for the last Sunday of October. It appears that
Lutherans got on board also. But in 1969, after Vatican II, it
became the fixed date on the calendar-the last Sunday of the
church year, before the beginning of Advent. Lutherans celebrate
Reformation Sunday on the last Sunday of October. I'll say at the
outset that I am not fond of the title "King" and not fond of
designating this Sunday as "Christ the King".
In today's world it gets harder and harder to identify with the
term "King" because we have such bad or weak examples of "King."
We have in history terrible examples of Kings who were
blood-thirsty, Kings who didn't care at all about those over whom
they ruled and exploited and abused them; we have examples of
Kings who were weak, just a figurehead with no political power,
which is pretty much the examples we have today of Kings or
Queens-decadent, soft, too refined.
Frankly, I don't want to think of Christ as a King. It makes
him distant from me, unreachable, unconcerned, just a person of
power who doesn't care what happens to me or anyone else in the
exercise of that power; it doesn't matter who gets stepped on in
the maintaining of that power. No, I can't think of Jesus the
Christ, in terms of being a King. I just can't relate to that.
He has the power and authority, no doubt about it. But he calls
"friend." He knows me; I'm not just a nameless, faceless
subject. He calls me 'friend." He cares about what happens to me.
Isn't there a better term (after all, the church just came up
with this term in the 20th century) to use to celebrate this last
Sunday of the church year where we celebrate the all surpassing
power and might and authority of our risen Savior? Yes, we could
call it "Christ The Servant Sunday," because he came to serve, not
to be served. But that doesn't convey the authority and power
aspect of Christ.
I think we can get some hints that Jesus was trying to push us
to think deeper about what we were assigning to God. Over and over
he says the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) is like....and then he
gives us examples that have no relationship to earthly kings or
In our Gospel lesson today, where he's confronted by Pilate
Jesus says, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were
from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from
being handed over...but as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
The Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You
say that I am a king." Then he gives his answer which has nothing
to do with being a King. "For this I was born, and for this I came
into the world, to testify to the truth."
He came to "testify to the truth," NOT to be a king. Not to be
MADE INTO a king. Not to be used by politicians and power hungry
rulers to validate their warmongering ideas; who are our elected
rulers yet try to rule as kings as though they had some absolute
authority, and not caring about who they step on in order to
maintain their power. That's the way Jesus gets used today. As
though he were some pawn shoved from one issue to another to
validate some warped idea from a leader-whether a political or a
Jesus did NOT come to be an earthly king. He did NOT come to
have some earthly dominion. Jesus wants us to look DEEPER than our
own ambition. DEEPER than our own ideas. DEEPER than what the
world wants us to believe about him. DEEPER than what the world
has made him into. He wants us to go DEEPER to see what power he
has given to US so that we can be IN this world, but not OF it.
That is, we can live in this world and function in this world, but
what we strive to accomplish has an impact on this world that
comes from another power-a power within, not a worldly, political
In our attempts to understand the kingdom that Jesus was
speaking of, we push it off into the future-as something that is
to come in the future. But Jesus spoke of the kingdom as something
being present NOW. He wants us to see that the kingdom of God is
actually present now, but it's a hidden reality. Hidden because we
don't look for it or explore it. Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke,
says, "The Kingdom of God (the Kingdom of Heaven) is within you"
or "in the midst of you."
It's not a visible, tangible reality, but it's real, it's true.
Jesus came to testify to the truth-that the power of the risen
Christ is NOT just a futuristic matter. It is real, here and now.
But it is NOT of this world. It's not a place that can be
conquered in some political coup. It cannot be conquered. We
already have the victory through Christ as a risen Savior.
He has already unleashed the power of this inner kingdom
within. It is there for us to use, but we don't use it. We listen
to the world. We approach what Christ was teaching us about the
kingdom with great skepticism. We look with skepticism at his
teaching regard seeking first the kingdom (going within to listen
to what God has to say to us, how God wants to guide us), a new
spiritual way of thinking. We keep looking for some visible sign.
The visible sign of the kingdom Jesus is speaking about, HIS
kingdom that is not of this world, the visible signs of that are
how we treat one another. How we show love to one another. How we
try to preserve life and not take it. How we don't solve our
problems with force or violence. How we strive for peace at all
costs. How we feed the hungry and help the homeless and poor (and
not blame them for their own predicament, and reinforce a system
that keeps them homeless and poor and hungry). Visible signs of
the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of are possible right now. But
not JUST at special times of the year where we get all sentimental
and charitable like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The truth that Jesus came to testify to was the truth of what
the kingdom of heaven really is. And he gave us power by his life
and teachings, by his resurrection and victory over death. We have
that power. He gave it to us. In the Gospel of John he says, to
his disciples and us, his disciples of today, "You will do even
greater things than I have done." Why? Because he gave us the
power to do it. We can accomplish the things he did if we do it by
his power and not ours. Christ has the ultimate power and
authority. Not any man or woman. Not any person of this world.
But the power is not here (pointing to the head)-the power is
in here (pointing to the heart). That is, the power is not
something WE have, that WE can think of or use by our own
thinking, but the power is from God, from the spiritual source
within each of us. We are NOT just physical beings. We are also
SPIRITUAL beings. And it's through the spiritual self, the kingdom
of God within, that we can accomplish what Christ wants us to
accomplish-to continue to testify to the truth. Jesus the Christ
the Savior wants us to continue to testify that: the visible signs
of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus came to make known and make
real, are the ones that point to love for one another, care for
one another, helping one another, taking on a servant role, not a
power role. Christ is the power, not us.
I think it's typical of the Church, the Institution, that it
would have created a special church holiday to celebrate the power
and authority of Christ as a KING, when Christ continually denied
that, and lived the role of a servant, a man full of compassion
and love. He conquered the world and everything in it, even death,
through LOVE, not violence and force. And yet the Christian
Church, and by the way, it's only the churches who have a
hierarchical system that embrace the King idea (the feast of
Christ the King was instituted by the Roman Catholic church, and
embraced by the Lutheran and Episcopal ones also). I myself,
celebrate, today as Christ the Savior Day. I think anyone who has
power over death has all the power and authority needed summed up
in the word Savior. THAT is authority! THAT is triumphant! THAT is
victory! THAT is power! THAT is LOVE!
Amen. And so it is.