The Gospel reading:
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.
39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ’the king of the Jews’?"
40 They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.
Advent begins next week and so today – the Feast of Christ the King - is the last Festival in the Church’s year.
It is particularly fitting that we begin the Church’s year - by reflecting on Jesus’ coming to earth 2000 years ago. Then he left the absolute power of his Eternal Kingship behind.
And at the end the Church’s year we remember that he has taken up again that absolute power of his everlasting Kingship.
“Christ the King” Sunday is a fairly recent festival. It was started by Pope Pius XI - when he published his encyclical on 11th December 1925.
The celebration of Christ the King grew out of Pope Pius’ concern at the the rise of atheistic Communism and Secularism.
He saw this as the direct result of man’s turning away from Christ’s sovereignty, and man’s
denying of the authority of Christ’s Church.
And so he wanted a festival where we
remembered that Jesus really is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In Jesus’ day, kings were absolute rulers.
They got into power – not by democratic means - but by physical conquest.
They would invade other countries by force and subjugate the population.
In contrast, Jesus did not wage war against nations but rather against sin, death, and the power of the Devil.
In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus, standing before Pilate at his trial said this:
"You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
When Pilate heard it – I think he was stunned.
It was prima facie an admission of sedition which was punishable by crucifixion.
Why – because Caesar was the only king that the
Roman Empire would countenance.
If anyone else had said this – I expect Pilate would have dismissed them as mad.
But there was something about Jesus that made Him seem plausible.
When Pilate replied “What is truth?” - I wonder if he recognised the truth in Jesus.