Jn. 18: 33b-37
Most nations today do not relate to the concept of being subject to a king. In the 70’s we lived in Malaysia and lived in a house at the bottom of a hill from the palace of the Agong, the King of Malaysia. Of course, it was a ceremonial king not like the kings of old. Yet even a ceremonial head has privileges not available to anyone else. The deference he and his family were given gave me new insights to my life as lived under a democracy. I could then imagine what life would be like under an absolute monarch which do exist today. My mind could easily grasp the absolute rule of the Roman Empire which existed at the time of Jesus. When Jesus is questioned about his being a King their reference was that absolute authority over others by Augustus Caesar.
Kings of old were intent on expanding their kingdom and did so with force. Yet no matter how successful they were in their quest for expansion every Kingdom eventually collapsed, and the King was dethroned, and the kingdom ceased to exist. I enjoy reading or watching programs about the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, Edie Amin all expanded their rule over other nations and yet they all failed, and the kingdoms ceased to exist. If you examine the lives and actions of these great figures of history, you will discover their opinion of themselves was more than conceited. They considered themselves far superior to any other human being. In one sense they considered themselves gods and no one could match their stature.
The kingdoms they created by force and by subjecting others to submit their wills to them ultimately all disappeared. I love wandering around the ancient ruins of Greece and the ancient city of Rome where the ruins of these ancient kingdoms can remind us how the glory of the king was depicted to the world by the things they built. Yet, underlying all this fantastic architecture is the unseen dominance of the king demanding all bow to their demands for adulation.
Are you the King of the Jews Pilate asks Jesus? How do we relate to Christ the King who demands nothing of us like those kings of today or of old? Jesus is nothing like any king in history. Jesus did not come to rule but to establish a kingdom on earth where we are to rule. Jesus tells us he did not come to serve but to be served and we see how he did exactly that. Jesus was truly Son of God and of Mary. He became a very vulnerable human who grew tired, cried, got hungry, feared what lay ahead and died. He was also God not declared by his own proclamation but was declared truly God with us. He demonstrated his kingship by his command over the storm, changing water to wine, raising the dead, healing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind, and by his own rising and appearing to his disciples.
Unlike kings of old Jesus did not demand his subjects instead he invites us to be part of his kingdom. He did not destroy those who sought to destroy him but instead he forgave them. He elevated us to the position of priests, prophets and kings making us sons and daughters’ heirs to the kingdom. He restored our relationship to the maker of the universe rather than jail us for our failures to give homage to him. He did die like all those other kings, but it was not because he was being overthrown or because his kingdom was collapsing like Hitler did in that bunker. No, he died willingly to restore us to our rightful place, redeemed, sanctified and glorified because he took our sins upon himself on the cross. He died so that we might live in his and the Fathers presence forever. He was not overthrown or died by the hands of others because they wanted what he had. No, he died because his death was part of God’s plan to restore us long before we even existed.
However, after his death he rose to sit on the throne over all the earth. Isn’t it interesting how he desired only to serve and to reveal the Father’s love for us and fled from being crowned king by the crowds and yet he rules now over all the earth. That was the desire of Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and all like them. Yet we do not learn. We continue to see the quest for power in government, business, society and yes even the church. We see people exalting themselves at the expense of others, jockeying for prestige, power, desiring to be proclaimed great by the communities in which they live and nationally by print and visual news media.
Yet Jesus is revealing himself to us daily, desiring to let us be transformed by the one who can change hearts. We are offered a heart transplant by God in his prophesy to Ezekiel and will make new creations of us. The desire within us for affirmation, recognition, acceptance will be removed along with our vanity, pretensions, ambitions as our desires are removed as God changes our hearts. Christ will come again to change everything and everyone and this change will be universal. Jesus will rule, and all will know him as Lord and bow before him and declare he is the Christ.
Jesus coming again will not end up in a contested election where some will demand a recount. We will see him as he is and even those who deny his existence will have a choice to acknowledge him and bow before his majesty.
If you go back to the time when this feast was instituted the world was a dark place. Things did not look good for the world as the fascist and communist were spreading their empires. The feast serves as a reminder to us that we know the end of the story and should not be fooled by the braggarts who strut and the bullies who gloat. They’ll be gone soon. And He’ll be here soon. How soon no one knows.