The prophesies foretold of a king who would bring righteousness and justice to the land. This is what the people wanted and longed for the promised king who would bring freedom from oppressors and restore the glory of the Israelites. They would no longer be slaves to a foreign master. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch and he will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 23:5). The words of Jeremiah speak of something very different to be achieved by the king who was to come.
When he entered Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted with shouts of Hosanna. The people were welcoming the promised king they envisioned as promised by the prophets.
The King they were greeting said to them “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28). During his ministry on earth Jesus gave us an example of a life and mission very opposite to that of a king when he took an apron and a basin of water and washed the feet of his disciples. That action was not the action of a king. A king does not wash feet but has his feet washed.
So how do we reconcile this feast of Christ the King with the image of Jesus as the suffering servant? How do we reconcile this feast with his living without possessions, without a palace, and without collecting taxes or without demanding submission to his desires? In fact, Jesus never demanded anything of us, instead, he invites us to live in his kingdom as members of the royal family of God. He invites us to open our hearts and receive what he offered us – reconciliation with God, restoration as sons and daughters.
His words and actions were to reveal to us the depth of the Fathers love for us and his plan to remove the barrier separating us – kings do not remove the barriers between them and their subjects. If you consider what he has done you have to know nothing he did is the action of a king.
On the other hand, standing before Pilate he affirms that he is a King and for that reason he has come (Jn.18:37). We know from the words of scripture and the teaching of the church that “he will come in all his glory and his angels with him and he will be seated on a glorious throne (Mt.25:31).
It would seem that we have a problem. Is he a King or a Servant?
I contend those two aspects of Jesus are not in conflict with one another. It is the typical image of a king that is the problem for us as it was for those of Jesus’ day. We believe and teach that Christ has power over all things in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). We teach and believe that Christ will judge all living and dead (Act 10:42). We teach and believe that we belong to Christ having been purchased (redeemed) by his sacrifice on the cross. All of these teachings and scripture passages affirm and support the reason why Christ is our King. They are also the same reasons why his words and actions confirm him as one we must submit to as sovereign and Lord.
However, this is not a King we should neither fear grovel before nor serve blindly. What his kingdom demands of us is that we seek to live in it before we seek favors from the king (Mt.6:33). We do this with a willing heart knowing it is by living in his kingdom on earth that we will find al the blessings we seek. After all the reason why this Feast was created in the first place by the church by Pius XI was to combat growing secularism by our seeking his kingship over our lives. Well here we find ourselves 92 years later and secularism is a stronger force than ever before.
That passage from Matthew about seeking his kingdom is part of a longer dialogue we call “the sermon on the mount.” The sermons are a series of teachings given by Christ and are found in Chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s gospel. You truly should take the time this week to read them as they begin with the Beatitudes’ and near the end give us an ominous warning about how we can easily be confused about how we should act before our king.
“Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does he will of my father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name? Then I will declare to them solemnly I never knew you!”
Perhaps we can dismiss prophesy, or casting out demons, or do mighty deeds in God’s name as something we have done in his name. But we can truthfully say we have fed the hungry, clothed the poor, visited the sick, welcomed the strangers, ministered to the prisoners and so many other things we do for our faith community. The issue is why are we doing these things – are we serving the kingdom out of duty to the king or are we serving the kingdom because we love the king and by doing those things all will know he loves them.
The truth is everyone who has ever been a subject of a king did not willingly obey because many resisted and rebelled. Not everyone who has ever been a subject of a king loved the king but instead feared him and only did what was necessary to appease hm.
We can say the same of ourselves as it concerns Jesus as Lord. Jesus invites us to follow him and die to self. This is an invitation not a command as any king would make where we can outwardly say yes but inwardly we can avoid following all he asks of us. The choice is to embrace living in the Kingdom of God or try to appease him while living in the Kingdom of the world.