Summary: Shouldn’t we as Christians also be willing to pay the price, especially when we are called by Christ to fight for the truth? After all, he is the final authority and power in the universe. Christ is King
Today we mark the church’s version of New Year’s Eve. Next Sunday marks the start of Advent and Year C in the three year cycle of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. It is a day when we remember that Jesus is the king of our lives. It is not an ancient festival in the Christian calendar. In fact, it was only established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was established at a time when Europe was in chaos. Inflation was rampant, and colonialism was at its worst. The seeds of evil that would eventually grow into the Holocaust and World War II were being planted. Pope Pius XI established the Festival of Christ the King to declare that Jesus Christ is king. He is the goal of human history, the joy of all who hear, and the fulfillment of man’s aspirations.
The conversation between and Jesus and Pilate, which we heard from John 18:33-37 earlier, allows John to proclaim in his Gospel that Jesus is a king with a divine authority. Jesus was accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and he was being questioned by Pilate. This gave Jesus a chance to tell his side of the story. Jesus argues that his kingdom is founded on truth. This is in contrast to earthly kingdoms which are founded on power.
In fact, Pilate’s “kingdom” was based on power. In his mind, truth was what the powerful said it was-and the same is often true today. Jesus offered Pilate the same choice he offers us today-advance your status on earth or walk in the light of truth. The choice we make will determine which kingdom we will serve-God or man.
Jesus saw the world differently that the way the world sees the world. He defied logic by the way he lived and by what he taught. He taught that truth is the cornerstone of healthy relationships and strong communities. If something or someone claims to be truth and has violent intentions or acts in a coercive manner, then it is not truth. Truth may be attacked but it cannot be harmed. It is not “of this world”. This is how the gospels speak of truth, and this is why John’s Gospel calls Jesus “the true and living way”.
Healthy relationships require confidence that both partners will tell the truth. We have to trust that individuals will do what they promise to do. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially with politicians. We often manipulate the truth to serve to serve our purposes-both by what we say and what we don’t say. In contrast, Jesus always speaks the truth.
It is hard for us to know what truth is in today’s world. To make matters worse, it is also hard for us to know who to trust. There are few honest heroes anymore. Just look at former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. He had fame and fortune, but he lost it all because he chose to win by using illegal, unethical means. There are few authority figures anymore. Everyone seems to have his or her own agenda. Truth is essential to life. It is essential to a successful marriage. Society needs integrity in order to survive. Think of the terror that would exist if police officers were thugs. What would happen if pharmacists were to dilute our prescription drugs in order to sell contraband out the back door?
We must remember that we are citizens of another realm, with a different ruler and a different rule. When it comes to spiritual things, truth is Christ. We leave behind anything else that has power over us. We follow the one who gives us a freedom that no political power can grant. This kingdom is one where Jesus will rule over our lives and the new heaven and the new earth.
One day Jesus will return to earth to set up his kingdom-one where he will rule firmly and deal justly with sinners. Until then, his kingdom focuses on redeeming the hearts of the lost. So what does it mean to say Christ is the King of this world? It means that this is an unfinished world. There is unfinished business because the world is made up of unfinished people. Even when we are at our best, we are not all that Christ intends for us to be. Christ came into this unfinished world and made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He has commissioned us to be in his army to see that this unfinished world becomes the kingdom over which he will reign forever.
Our gospel text focuses on part two of the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. When Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, it was a political question. If Jesus presented himself to the people he was a rebel in Pilate’s eyes and needed to be dealt with accordingly. Jesus was a king, and indeed he is still a king. He is a king who has come to judge all earthly kings and kingdoms. He is the king of heaven and earth. He is full of grace and truth. He is our champion. He fights our battles for us. He leads us to victory over Satan and sin. He sets us up to lead his kingdom on earth until he returns. His kingdom occurs when we freely choose to serve him. This is in contrast to a worldly kingdom where power is obtained by self-centeredness and self-esteem. To love God is to become humble by paying the price of leaving people free to be who they will be.