Christ the King Sunday (Nov. 25, 2012)
Lessons:Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 Psalm 93 (2) Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37 Semicontinuous Series: 2 Samuel 23:1-7 Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “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 to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that 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.”
St. John 18:33-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Everyone Who Belongs to the Truth Listens to My Voice
“The Sundays after Pentecost” make up the longest season in the church year. They begin eight Sundays after Easter Sunday (the date for Easter moves every year), and they end five Sundays before Christmas Day (a longer season if Christmas Day is on a Sunday; a shorter season if it is on a Monday). The first Sunday in this season is the Festival of the Holy Trinity, and the final Sunday in this season is Christ the King Sunday.
On Christ the King Sunday, we consider what it means that we refer to Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. Herod, the King of the Jews when Jesus was born, had one understanding of what this means — that’s why he put all the toddlers near Bethlehem to death, having heard about Jesus’ birth, and hoping to kill this competitor to his throne (St. Matthew 2:16). Pilate had another understanding of what this means — that’s why he interrogated Jesus during the last week of his life (St. John 18:28-19:16).
As you might imagine, St. John has yet another idea of what it means to call Jesus the King, and we see that with this week’s Gospel lesson. Jesus comes to earth neither to rule as the political leader of the Jewish nation, or to function as a competing power to a neighboring state. Instead, Jesus comes to rule by living as a testament to God’s truth. Jesus comes to rule by demonstrating, through words and signs and relationships, what the Kingdom of God looks like. Jesus comes to rule by living as a walking, breathing, living and dying embodiment of deep grace, radical forgiveness, sacred wisdom, righteous living, powerful compassion, and sacrificial generosity.
As he does so, he captures our hearts and and transforms our living.
Pilate and Herod may have imagined Jesus assembling an army and laying siege to their capital cities, or wooing away their subjects with bribery and false promises. (None of that happens in our day, right?) But nothing could be farther from the truth. With strong and gentle humility, Jesus lives among us as a witness to God, and those who belong to God can see the truth of what his life, death and resurrection truly mean.
His is not a coercive rule, and ours is not a coercive witness. We are not called to lay siege to the hearts of our family members, neighbors and acquaintances. We are not called to apply sufficient pressure until an unbeliever turns to faith. We are not to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is who he claims to be. Instead, we are to live with the same strong, gentle humility. We are to let the truth we know about God lie behind our every word and our every action. We are to embody deep grace, radical forgiveness, sacred wisdom, righteous living, powerful compassion, and sacrificial generosity in all of our relationships, trusting that as we do, King Jesus will lay claim to another heart.
Christ the King Sunday is an opportunity for us to celebrate a different kind of King. A King worthy of our obedience. A King whom we can commend to others with joy. A King who wants to touch, heal and inspire our hearts. May that King rule our hearts, and may we follow him with gladness.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What did Pilate and Herod think about the Kingship of Jesus?
- How was the Kingship of Jesus misunderstood by people in his day?
- What happened when someone became one of his followers? How did that change their life’s path?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What does it mean for me to think of myself as a subject of Jesus?
- When have I found an opportunity to touch others with a strong and gentle humility?
- How might my example (flawed as it may be) inspire someone else to faith?