As Americans, we harbor strange attitudes toward the concept of monarchy. Our nation is founded on principles declaring all persons to be created equal, possessing the same basic rights, and that we get to choose how and by whom we will be governed.
Yet we are enamored by the idea of privilege and social status, paying much attention to royalty (if not the hereditary kind, then the celebrity kind), bestowing prestige and raising upon pedestals such persons as politicians and athletes and musicians and actors. We crown queens and kings at homecoming and county fairs. We give honorary titles of royalty to people with exceptional skill and talent. We may not truly grasp the honors we lay upon their shoulders. Surely we have romanticized the concept since we have never experienced a real queen or king. Queens and kings in our time are mere ceremonial heads of state. The real power of government lies elsewhere.
On this Feast of Christ the King, we reexamine the concept of royalty, perhaps a remnant of the middle ages when only those who wore crowns and sat on thrones were of any consequence. But the Kingship of Jesus is far from anything we imagine.
The 2nd book of Samuel presents us the image of David, the greatest king of Israel. Although he too had his flaws, his rule was considered Israel’s Golden Age. He was a warrior king, wise and wealthy, an imposing historical figure, a prophet, and servant of God. He would be so highly regarded that the Messiah to come would be his descendant, perhaps to bring back those glory days.
But the passages from Paul’s letter to the Colossians and from the gospel of Luke offer a contrasting image, that of one whose kingdom is marked by suffering and the cross, who brings redemption to God’s children through the forgiveness of sins, delivering them from darkness into light, from death into life.
The kingship of Jesus Christ is nothing like the human race has ever known. The parables give us hints of what the Kingdom of God might be like, where Christ will be king. But it is still all very sketchy. We would only speculate on our role as subjects of the Great King and how we ought to regard him and his kingdom. For if we truly want him to be our King, there will be significant repercussions in the way we see and relate to the world and each other.
Christ our King hangs on the throne of his cross broken, bloodied, suffering, crowned with thorns, “so marred was his look beyond that of men, his appearance beyond that of mortals …” (Isaiah 52: 14) “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Isaiah 53: 2-5) … We cannot expect a higher station than our King, not in the eyes of those around us, not for any honor we think we deserve. Our King is despised while he heals us. We his subjects should in the least seek not to undo what he came to accomplish, to reconcile us to God and to one another, to extend God’s compassion and healing to our brokenness. Our focus is not glory or fame or fortune, but peace and forgiveness and mercy, a striking contrast to the bravado, the combativeness, and arrogance we see in some people who claim to be Christian yet are less concerned with following Jesus’ example.
As subjects of Christ our King, we strive to place him and his priorities front and center in our own lives. We strive to imitate his attitude of patience and kindness, of peace and justice, of service to those on the margins of society. He came to fulfill the Father’s will by laying down his life for sinners. The least we can do is build each other up in fulfilling the Father’s will and not leading each other astray by our pride and our selfishness.
There is little earthly glory in the kingship of Jesus Christ. We romanticize the concept by imagining him clothed and crowned in purple and gold, sitting at the Father’s right hand with all creation at his feet. But each time we gather in this place we see him hanging from his cross crowned with thorns as our king. And that is a powerful reminder to us always of what he did for love of his people, the sheep of his flock, and how we are called to live according to how he lived and that our lives might be full, he gave up his own. He is not our king because of his fame and glory, or it would make sense to acquire the same. Rather, he is King because of his suffering, his cross, and his surrender to the Father’s will. Suffering, we need not pursue. The cross, it will be part of our lives whether we like it or not. Surrendering to the Father’s will, that’s what will set us apart from all others, because after his example, we will choose to live for God’s glory by reaching out to the poor, bringing healing and comfort to the broken, food to the hungry, light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Behold your king.
Rolo B Castillo © 2022