I’m not sure where I stand regarding this Feast of Christ the King. Yes, this trait of mine can sometimes be a nuisance, but I need to dig into statements or phrases which, through repetition, may have lost the full strength of their meaning. I need to test their truth, to be dazzled by the newness of their authenticity.
So what’s challenging about the concept of Christ as king? After all, in the gospel for this Feast, Christ actually refers to himself as a king who separates the sheep from the goats, the charitable from the uncaring.
What causes me to ponder this theme are other contradicting parts of the gospel: Jesus of Nazareth, a man of humble origins (the carpenter’s son!), performs some astounding miracle that so impresses the crowd that they rush at him to make him king – just like that! No polling or voting on their side, no armed forces on his. For Jesus, king-making has nothing to do with spectacular deeds. Furthermore, he frequently emphasizes the importance of rejecting honors and choosing the last place.
The simple, unaffected man from Galilee has a totally different style. Instead of taking people by force, he issues gentle invitations to a life of inner peace and ease.
Come to me, all you who labor, and I will refresh you. My perfect love for you will lift from you the burden of seeing yourself as unloved. If you come to me, if you come to know me, you’ll realize how lovable you really are by loving me and loving others in me. My way is not to dominate you, to be a fearful tyrant, but to be a comfort to your false sense of worthlessness. And even that invitation will not be forced on you.
Jesus did not want to be associated with empty worldly ambitions, and expressed that early on by resisting Satan while in his desert of preparation. For Jesus, the throne of power came from the God of Love, and the favors to be dispensed were those of Love given, accepted and shared. People were not invited to the feast because of battles won, nor for any splendid inventions or even artistic creations; not for nations founded nor for roads built to connect one conquered people to another; not for taxes imposed, collected by force and used to pay for the luxuries of higher-ups.
The crown that ultimately was placed on Jesus’ head was one of mockery, meant to shame him. But Jesus couldn’t be shamed because he had already totally surrendered Himself to whatever his Father found necessary. Having already taken the lowest place, he could go no lower. I think he must have even rejoiced to be given that Crown of Thorns. He knew only too well the consequences of ambition and greed: nations at war over which would have the highest place, the most power over people, ownership of immeasurable wealth, buildings and clothing that reflected power and greed.
Christ’s idea of royalty was reserved for the kind, the brave and the caring, even if their lowliness separated them from the haughty and made them the subject of sneers and mockery.
The kingship of Christ was the last word of greatness: the victory of Love over cruelty and injustice. The hymn expresses it beautifully: The King of Love my shepherd is.