Cycle “C” 2010 Delivered at Saint Catherine Parish This is the last Sunday of the Church year. It’s also the Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King and at first glance, the title of “king” may seem confusing. After all, Jesus never really acted much like a king. He acted more like a shepherd or … How about this; let’s take a journey back to the time of Jesus. Back to a specific moment when it seemed that everything stood still …
Imagine that we’re standing at the foot of the cross some 2,000 years ago. There with us is Jesus’ mother Mary, a few friends of Jesus, some soldiers just standing around waiting, a few scribes and Pharisees, and oh yes, two convicted criminals – one hanging on either side of Jesus.
You’ve been following this Jesus of Nazareth character for a few years now, and have come to know him as more than just a teacher. You’ve seen the way he acts and you’ve heard him speak many times. You know him as a healer and mentor and lately you’re just beginning to understand him as something more, as someone different. Many are beginning to think of him as the messiah, the savior, even the Son of God. But a king? He surely doesn’t act like any king you’ve ever seen.
And now you’re here, standing on a hill overlooking the great city of Jerusalem watching this Jesus slowly fade away into death. Your eyes travel from the base of the cross to his face. There he is, hanging from a tree, bruised, bleeding, suffering, crying out in pain … dying. You’re standing there, but everything all seems so distant, you’re confused, frightened and deeply troubled.
And then, quite suddenly, an interesting thing happens. The Pharisees, then the soldiers, and finally one of the men hanging to one side of Jesus begin to taunt him, and the one word that you focus on; the one word that startles you back to reality is the word … SAVE. Jesus is asked 3 times to save.
“He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one.” “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
You’re shaken to the very foundation of your being because it was that one word that Jesus kept talking about for the past 3 years or so. He told you over and over and over again, that he came to save, not to destroy. But what did that mean? What did I need saving from? How could he save me? And now even his tormentors are using this word. Did they believe? Or were they just mockingly seeking for some magical sign that Jesus was the Messiah?
It seems that a very interesting and ironic twist is added to these taunts, however. You notice that those who are his enemies, the political and religious leaders, the soldiers and that one convicted criminal; those who are slowly killing him, are also addressing him with titles like “Messiah” and “Son of God” and “King of the Jews.”
Just then, your eyes move up slowly, and there you see it, that inscription nailed above his head. Can you make it out? It’s actually engraved, carved into a plaque at the top of the cross, “Jesus the Nazarene… King of the Jews.”
How can this be? You recall that Jesus never embraced the title of “King.” He didn’t dress in finely crafted robes of silk. The soldiers stripped him of his torn tunic and wrapped a purple cloak around him.
He didn’t hold a scepter or some other symbol of authority and power as you’ve seen the emperor carry, but they did mock him by pushing a reed in his hands when he was being led out of the Praetorium, bound for execution.
And the crown? The golden crown embedded with precious gems that most kings wear was replaced by one woven from thorns and harshly pushed onto his head.
But the most striking realization that this Jesus was a king unlike any other came when your eyes beheld his “throne.” This cross, this harsh, brutal, wodden cross was to be his thrown, but from this throne he does something quite remarkable – he exercises the power of God to forgive sins, the sins of the criminals to his sides, the sins of he executioners, and most importantly, the sins of you and me – even our most serious sins. You hear the words coming from his weakened and dying body, “Forgive them Father.” … The words trail off.
Then a bit later, you stand there listening to the labored words of a criminal recognizing Jesus for who he really is. You hear him say “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What does this man see about Jesus that I don’t? “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” And then it hits you!
Tears well up in your eyes as you realize that the sins of this repentant criminal, came face-to-face with the forgiveness of God, and in that moment you realize that Jesus’ death is not the end of some tragic drama that you’re witnessing, but rather the beginning, the beginning of God’s saving plan of love for you and for me.
Finally, this death, this “kingship” has meaning and power that takes your breath away, and in that instant, you feel your own sins melting away. You feel a strong sense of hope, of love, of acceptance and now you know, really know, that everything this man said as he walked the earth was true.
Your burden of sin is replaced with the joy of life. So this is what he meant when he said, “I have come to give you life… life to the fullest.” You heard him say it before, but now you realize for the very first time that Jesus truly is, as his enemies said, “the Messiah”, “the Son of God,” the “King of the Jews.”
Jesus didn’t act like any king you ever hear of. He didn’t command armies, develop battle strategies, or levy taxes. He really acted more like… well, like a “King-of-Kings” by reaching beyond politics to mediate God’s love – to make real God’s saving plan for you and me. The repentant criminal understood this first hand, and now you realize that it’s your turn to seek his forgiveness, to welcome his love, to live his Gospel.
You ask yourself “why didn’t I fully embrace this truth sooner?” But then you take comfort in knowing that your embrace of him now has the same power to save you as it did the repentant criminal. And even though you see your God hanging from this “throne of life”, you smile knowing that this king has come to personally save you because now you truly believe that even on the very brink of death, Christ the King makes whole. Christ the King forgives. Christ the King saves.
God Bless You.