Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday Gospel - Christ the King

GospelJohn 18:33-37 

Pilate addresses Jesus
Liverpool Christ the King Cathedral
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

Jesus stands before Pilate, accused and in chains, and the conversation is kingship.

In all of John, this is the only time that a Gentile speaks - during the Passion; it is the only way that this conversation could take place; the only way that Jesus could define his mission as a mission for the whole world; the only way that Jesus could get at what his mission is all about. 

Pilate is all too aware of the situation; it was the threats of the crowd to 'report' him to Caesar that drove him to this moment; demands made of him that will abuse his authority. It seems that it is not only Jesus' hands that are tied.  Pilate has no appetite for what is being asked of him yet there is nowhere to go; nothing else to do.

The priests will get their way, not because they are right, but because Pilate doesn't want to be seen to be weak. Pilate is weak; his confidence, his power, his authority is given to him by those around him. And, strangely,  his need for this justification and seeing that Jesus makes no claim on his world's approval,  allows Pilate to name Jesus as 'king'; allows Pilate to accept that there is something more; that there is a kingdom 'not of this world'.

Jesus is free to define 'kingship' as something other - as service; as sacrifice; as surrender. 

As service to those who cannot stand; to proclaim the way of Love and not oppression.
As sacrifice, to put yourself in the midst of chaos, so as to bring peace.
As surrender to the will of the Father; who holds the world and who has made it for Himself.

And to do this with integrity and dignity.

Jesus did not come to take over the world; in fact that was one of the great temptations. Christians are not here to take over the world; we were never meant to be a superpower; never meant to have any power.

In these times of violence against innocence, the images that we encounter on tv and the internet can be horrific; for some it is not just a two dimensional experience but one that is lived out in fear, anxiety and loss. It is surely human to be filled with both grief and rage - and too often it is the rage that acts - violence against violence - power against power - and the pattern continues. 

Even in the most mundane of lives...the rage against the person who 'cut you up' on the way home that leads to the argument with the neighbour - that leads to slammed bedroom doors and the aggressive attitude to workmates the next day.

 Somewhere it has to stop. 

Why does Jesus always ask questions? So that we can own the answer; that there is another way. Our baptism gives us the same authority - priest, prophet and king; we all share this royal inheritance of faith. Somewhere in each life, each day, each person must find the courage to hear the truth and bear witness.

God is Love.

“The non-violent resistor not only avoids external, physical violence, but he avoids internal violence of spirit. He not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he refuses to hate him. And he stands with understanding, goodwill at all times.”  Martin Luther King Jr.



claire said...

Jesus did not come to take over the world; in fact that was one of the great temptations. Christians are not here to take over the world; we were never meant to be a superpower; never meant to have any power.

I agree very much with your post. In fact, I find it interesting to have a feast named Christ the King, because he never wanted to be a king. So have we understood him or not?

I like to think that Christ reigns in my heart. I hope some day this will be obvious from the way I grow into...

Word in the Hand said...

I wonder if, like the gender of God we simply don't have the language for who Jesus is for us? As a medieval romantic I like the idea of pledging allegiance to his vision ...