Today is designated Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday in the Christian year. Unlike our calendars that run from January 1 to December 31, The Christian year runs from the first Sunday of Advent to Christ the King. Next Sunday, we will turn our thoughts and focus to the coming of Christ. But for now, we look at the culmination of His life of earth, and what that means for us.
One of the arguments down through the centuries has been over the nature of Jesus Christ. Is he human or is he divine? God or man? Some believed that he was only a man who received the Holy Spirit at baptism. Others believed that he was fully divine and only pretended to be human. Those were the extremes, and there was every possible variation between them.
It was in the 4th century that the church affirmed that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine - that he was of the very same nature as God and was not created, but was pre-existent before time. You know, “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made - being of one substance with the father.” All those things that we say in our creed that affirm the divinity of Christ - they were developed at the council of Nicea. We also say "born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried." Jesus was both human - and divine. We don’t know how that is, but we believe that all things are possible through God, our Father.
Today our lessons affirm the idea that Christ is not simply a man - but is something more. Daniel shows us the throne room of heaven in the 1st lesson. The "son of man" is given authority and dominion over earth. Christ - Messiah - means anointed one - especially one who is anointed as king.
If you look at the reported life of Jesus of Nazareth - you won't find him a likely candidate for king. Jesus is very much the "son of man" - Very much human - Jesus was born in a stable - raised in a small insignificant town in a remote part of the world - he worked as a carpenter - and when he took to the road as an itinerate preacher - he didn't stay in grand hotels or spacious homes. He walked the dusty roads - not riding a chariot as nobility did.
When he said, "foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man (Daniel's term for the Messiah) has no place to lay his head." Jesus is tying into the Daniel image of the coming Messiah - but it didn't quite make sense - because a king was to have absolute power.
So when he stands before Pilate, it is with the same kind of irony. A king who is in chains - who will be put to death in a most horrible way - and yet - he can say, "For this I was born - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."
Those who are not of the truth - consider it folly to follow this messiah who was crucified. This is not the way of the world - the world wants to sees its king as victorious - fighting for right - struggling against all odds to win the day.
A king commands absolute power - is obeyed without question - rules with authority. A king gives orders and expects his orders to be obeyed. This is not the image we see with Jesus. When he washes the feet of his disciples, he tells them, "I am giving you an example, which you must follow if you would be my disciples."
Jesus was not the kind of king that the people expected. He didn't go around "lording" it over everyone like the gentiles. He didn't snub the poor, the sick, the homeless, the helpless. He lifted them up and helped them to become better than they were. He gave them hope and new reasons to live. This was part of being an example for us to follow.
Jesus was given authority in heaven, but he didn't rely on that divine authority. For those of us who are of the truth, have heard his voice and - even though he didn't have to do it, he earned that authority - and our trust and respect - when he dwelt among us. All the way through the New Testament, we learn that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We are willing to allow Jesus to be our Saviour - we talk about what he has done for us - giving up his life so that we might live.
BUT - at the same time, we often pay only lip service to his 'lordship.' We hesitate to call him "Lord" - because that gives him authority over our lives. The world tells us that we need to be in control of our own life. You got to work hard if you want to get ahead in today's world - Self-help books tell us that we can do it all ourselves - We don't need anyone else.
Both Daniel and St. John speak of dominion - Jesus is given dominion. My dictionary defines dominion as the power to rule - absolute authority. To this end the New Testament calls Jesus, "Lord."
Giving Jesus authority in our lives means allowing him to be the guiding force in our life. It's about letting go of control for your life and allowing Jesus to be Lord over your life. So often we do something & then we ask God's blessings on what we have done. That's the wrong way around if we are to accept Jesus as Lord.
This “Holy Day” - Christ the King - is only 93 year old. It was established by Pope Pius XI and celebrated for the first time in 1925. Why did Pope Pius institute this day? It was actually politically motivated. Mussolini had risen to power and become an absolute ruler in Italy, and Hitler had been released from prison and was beginning to rebuild and re-organize his Nazi party. Pope Pius was making an overt statement with declaring this as Christ the King Sunday. He was saying, remember who your true king is - don’t go running after false gods.
God is pictured as The Ancient of Days – the Alpha and Omega – an absolute ruler, pure and wise and holy. Jesus is pictured as a human – coming through the clouds – the one who was pierced – whose throne is a cross. He is the holy one who has been given dominion and authority over all creation. Our earthly kingdoms will pass away to make room for the kingdom of God. What place does this “son of man” occupy in your home? How do you acknowledge Christ Jesus in your heart? And how does his “lordship” play out in your life?