Christ the King, 2016

Christ the King, year C, preached 11/20/16

first reading:  Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 46

second reading:  Colossians 1:11-20

gospel reading:  Luke 23:33-43


On Christ the King Sunday we remember Jesus as our King.  We sing songs of Jesus being triumphant over the grave.  In our prayer of the day we spoke of worship and glory, thankfulness, GREAT glory, abiding, and divine majesty.

When we think of kings (or queens) we think of royalty.  When we think of them being crowned, we imagine those things listed above and much more.  I think about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. Now THAT was a glorious spectacle!  Robes, gowns, crowns, trumpets, jewels, inspiring music, and parades.

But Jesus’ coronation was nothing like this.  Too often when we talk about Jesus being our king, we DON’T remember what his coronation was like.  When we talk of Jesus being victorious over the grave, we can skim over the grave part and go straight to victory.  And it’s easy for us to do, since over 2,000 years separates us from the event.

Indeed, Christ the King Sunday is the ONLY Sunday outside of Holy Week that we make ourselves look at it. Because it’s painful, and honestly, from a human perspective, it’s embarrassing.

Christ being our King involves a horrible, humiliating, painful death.  Christ being our King involves not only weakness, but political powerlessness.  Christ being our King goes counter to EVERYTHING the world values.  And we only need to look at the crucifixion itself to see that.  Crucifixion was a particularly humiliating way to be put to death, and it was excruciatingly painful and SLOW.

Jesus’ coronation is contrary to what we would think or want from such a ceremony.  This was no great successor to David, as we read in our first reading from Jeremiah – a “righteous branch,” who would “reign as king and deal wisely,” who would “execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

Jesus’ coronation was nothing like the psalmist imagined, from God who “breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire.”

Even when we read as we do from Colossians today, that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God the firstborn of all creation… when thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him,” and the image we paint in our minds is nothing like the reality of his coronation.

THIS was the reality.

  • “The people stood by, watching.”
  • “The leaders scoffed at him.”
  • “The soldiers also mocked him.”
  • “One of the criminals… kept deriding him.”
Crucifixion of Jesus, by Hans Tubingen

Crucifixion of Jesus, by Hans Tubingen

He didn’t have a royal robe, or gown.  He was stripped.  He didn’t have a scepter to hold, his hands were nailed to a beam.  He didn’t have a gold crown embedded with jewels – he had a crown of thorns fashioned for him out of scorn. He didn’t have adoring crowds cheering while he waved from a balcony – he had crowds chanting, “Crucify him!” And he didn’t have a parade, the people just stood or sat there WATCHING HIM DIE.

This is not a pretty picture – it’s not glorious, not majestic, not regal.  It’s gory, pitiful, and pathetic.  “HERE is your King!” (John 19:14)

Indeed, the ONLY person in this whole event that comes close to even getting it, is a person who we would probably be scared of if he walked through our doors.  The ONLY person who came close to comprehending the truth of who Jesus was, was a CRIMINAL.

And not just someone accused, or someone unfairly convicted.  This man ADMITS he has done something deserving the death penalty.  As he rebukes the other man dying with Jesus he says, “And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds…”

The world is turned upside down.  The “good” guys are the bad guys, and the REALLY bad guy is the wisest, most faithful one of all.

And what does Jesus say to this hardened, death row, shortly to die criminal?  “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

THIS IS Christ our King.  A King who looks past everything the world thinks is great, fine and wonderful. A King who strips away all the false faces we put on for the world and sees to our soul.  A King who is more moved by the plea of a broken heart than by the proclamations of the powerful.  A King who says, “Power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

In Jesus, God takes every definition of power, privilege, majesty and glory and turns it on its head.  THIS is what kingship is to God, and this is what Jesus told us his kingdom is all about.

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus tells us, “the Son of Man came not to be served but TO serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  And Jesus told us WE are to like that too. “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slaves.” (Matt. 20:26-27)

And his new commandment (John 13:34), “that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Christ the King Sunday is an important reminder to us of the kind of king we follow and the kind of subjects/disciples we are to be.

  • That OUR king is a king who is all about love – love for enemies, love for the criminals, love for the unlovable, love for you and me.
  • That OUR king was willing to give himself over to death rather than have US suffer that fate.
  • And that OUR king calls US to the same path of love and life – love manifested in service to him, and one another.

AMEN.

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