Christ the King?
This Sunday, November 24, is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. We celebrate the fact that at the end of time, Jesus will reign as King!
Generally speaking, kings get a bad rap in the Bible. When the people of Israel went to the prophet Samuel to demand a king, “like the other nations,” Samuel gave them dire warnings about all the things a king would do: take their sons for his armies, take their daughters for his servants, take their horses for his chariots, etc. Almost all the kings of Israel end up with very poor scores.
In today’s world, kings have a negative connotation as well. Yes, there is the “King of England,” (well, Queen right now) but that is nothing like what it meant to be King in the days of David or Edward or Henry VIII. It really is just a cultural and symbolic role. No more “off with their heads!”
There is a funny sequence in Mel Brooks’ movie, “The History of the World, Part 1” where, following various lecherous acts as the King Louis XIV of France, he turns to the camera and says, “It’s good ta be da king.” Beyond the chuckle, we all get the message that this sort of behavior is why we don’t have kings anymore!
So, isn’t it a bit odd that we celebrate Jesus as a King?
The obvious response is that Jesus is the good kind of king. The problem with kings isn’t that a ruler is inherently evil, but that no human can be trusted with the kind of unchecked power associated with kingship. The noble king who defends the weak and lowly, and stands up for the right, might make for good movies and book endings, but rarely matches reality.
I have often thought that all the forms of governance that have been tried have been found wanting in one way or another. Even our beloved democracy is rife with problems. A 19th century Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, traveling in the US was quite prescient when he wrote, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
But Jesus is the king who lays down His life for His people — the only King who is truly in it for His people, not for himself. When asked if he was, indeed, a king, Jesus’ response was “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus, at last, will be a king not with armies and laws and taxes, but with truth and sacrifice. And that’s a King to be thankful for!
This column appeared in the November 24, 2019 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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