Christ the King Sunday, the last day of the church year. The day where we wrap up all we’ve learned over the past 52ish lessons and themes divided over 6ish seasons from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter and to now the Time after Pentecost. The day where we talk about kings, how Jesus is a king, and try to make sense of it all. And quite honestly, this is no easy task, and to be honest I kind of dread it every year. It isn’t easy because we as Canadians living in this time of history, we don’t have much experience of having a king. Some might have been alive when King George was still around, but even then, he was like on a different continent and his influence would probably have been minimal at best. Not exactly what we’d associate with a king.
No, what we associate with a king is what we get from books, movies, and Game of Thrones. Our idea of a king is one that rules with absolute power, might, and authority. The king is usually the one who controls everything in the kingdom, and usually through fear and intimidation. The king can do that, because the king is the strongest, mightiest, most powerful in the land.
Sometimes we see a nice king, like King T’Chaka in Black Panther or Odin, father of Thor. But as time goes one and we dig deeper in their stories, we find that all power had its cost, and sometimes that cost is their morals, beliefs, and that niceness that we know them for. In other words, even the nice kings aren’t always nice.
But, kings are kings because of their power. Maybe it is an inherent power that allowed them to climb the ranks and become king. Or maybe it was an inherited power, in that the king’s parents were royalty also and that power and authority was just passed down. Or maybe the king just gained power through his militaristic prowess and might, conquering other kingdoms and absorbing all the power for himself. Either case, the king is always powerful. Always authoritative. Always mighty.
And then we say Christ is King? The Christ we read about today who was crucified between two common criminals? The Christ that was beaten, battered, and spit upon, and in retaliation he asked for his abusers to be forgiven? The Christ that should have the power to save himself but totally and completely just chooses not to? That doesn’t sound like power. Not in the way we think about power, anyway. That doesn’t sound like authority or might or any kind of strength. If anything, it sounds powerless, it sounds weak, it sounds almost pathetic. This is who we call king? This is who we worship?
Really, this doesn’t sound all that kingly to us. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing though, I mean we know Jesus is gracious and merciful and all that… just that he isn’t like the kings we’re used to. We know that Jesus is all about loving your neighbour and enemy which is a very good practice, but it isn’t really something a king would do. We know Jesus, the Son of God, is called a king… and we’re left scratching our heads as to why.
Prophet? Sure. Saviour? Of course. Messiah? No doubt. But king? Seems like a stretch.
Yet we have today, Christ the King Sunday, a day that we are reminded that Christ is king. We have king and lord language throughout our scriptures. We have mention of God’s reign over the earth all the time. And while we get that Jesus isn’t like an earthly king, I mean that’s obvious, why do we bother using that term at all?
You know, there is another kind of king that we didn’t really touch upon. A kind of king that we’re familiar with but doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest either. A king that isn’t all about power and might. The king I’m talking about is the king you see on a chess board.
Think about it, that king is king, yes, it has that title. But it’s like the worst. It can barely move, it can’t really attack or surprise anyone, it just is the target, the mark that your opponent goes for and wins the game if they succeed in killing. The job of the king is to just not die. The job of everyone else though, well they are out to support and protect the king.
Now, I’m not saying that Jesus is like the king on our chess boards and that our job is only to support and protect him and that he’s pretty much useless and relies on us for everything, no, far from it. Rather, what I am saying is our regard and respect for Jesus is to be like what we would for a king. That while Jesus doesn’t act or look like the kings that we are familiar with, but Jesus deserves that love, that trust, and the discipleship that any subject would give to their king.
Not because Jesus rules over us with power and might. Not because his authority strikes fear in our hearts. Not because he demands it, because he doesn’t. No, Jesus deserves this love, trust, and discipleship because Jesus is the very image of God, the icon of God. He is the embodiment of everything that God is and is about, all the grace, all the mercy, all the steadfast love and faithfulness. In that Jesus says to the criminal next to him, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Today. Right now. In the present anguish and pain and suffering amidst this insufferable power struggle. That man was with Jesus in paradise.
It doesn’t look like paradise, but neither does Jesus look like a king. But in that moment of guilt, of punishment, and of retribution, the criminal realised that Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour, the King is with him. Comforting him and reminding him that while he is currently suffering for his sin, he is loved, forgiven, and redeemed beyond our comprehension.
And as this criminal was reminded of this grace and love shown to him by Jesus, so we are reminded, this final day of the church year, this end of the seasons, lessons, and journeys, that while we had good and bad times, and we know we had bad times, that Christ the King has always been with us, always held us, and always loved us with a grace and mercy and peace that surpasses all understanding.
I mentioned earlier the price of power, and for many kings that we hear and read about, that price was their morality and ethic. Our price for being in our King’s court? Nothing. Rather, everything we do from the point of our welcome into the kingdom and moving forward is in response to all that this King has done, continues to do, and will do in this kingdom of love, community, and grace.
See, Jesus isn’t like the kings that we’re familiar with. Jesus doesn’t demand respect, loyalty, or servitude. Jesus doesn’t rule over us through intimidation or fear. Jesus doesn’t try to control us just for profit and gain. Rather, Jesus is like the king of the chess board, in that he motivates us all to band together in worship, as he helps us with our decisions, comforts us in our losses, and reveals to us our different gifts and talents and how we can use them in our contribution to a better world. Together, we worship this King.
So as we end off this church year and look ahead into the next, may we remember the eternal presence of Christ our King in our lives, through the ups and downs, through the joys and sorrows, through good and bad, that we can lean on his strength and trust fully in the promise of redemption and salvation. Thanks be to God. Amen.