The most dreadful crucifixion and death Christ is at the heart of his kingship. They cannot be separated.
On this day of celebration, when we especially honour Jesus Christ as Universal King, we are faced with an important Gospel account. Jesus is stood before Pilate, shortly before the worst brutality of his death, who puts certain questions to him. The answers to these questions are riding between life and death for Christ. His answers are powerful and enigmatic. Fundamentally, though, they betray Christ’s ultimate sense of mission: his submission to the will of his Father who abides in a kingdom not of this world. Just at Jesus didn’t quietly disappear into the nearby desert after the Last Supper, so he answered his aggressors here with a truth that they could not grasp and that put him in mortal danger.
The world that we live in understands success in economic form and in terms of social class. It is hungry for blame and hatred, for retribution and punishment. The rise to power of social media has transformed us into a closed and blinkered society where it is all the harder to break out of our limiting bubbles of understanding; we live inside a stream of news and media that panders to our existing beliefs whilst filtering out any opposing voices.
Our own choices may not seem so life-and-death. But in a real sense, they are. We as followers of Christ the King are asked and expected to live with Christian integrity, making moral choices that exclude us from this world’s popularity and success and understanding, and marking us out as children of the Kingdom of God.
As monks we regularly sing the words of St Paul: “We are ready for fame or disgrace, for praise or for blame…” Yet, to sing it is one thing; to do it is something else altogether. To see an image of Christ triumphant, Christ the King, is an opportunity to see the splendour of our vocations, the glory and praise to which we are called. But we must never forget that those images are born from the wood of the Cross and the powerful stance that Jesus took as his Father’s ambassador in an opposing world.
We, too, are ambassadors of Him. As such, we should never shy away from the Cross. Our burdens are not Christ’s and our crosses are differently shaped, differently sized, but to accept our Cross is to live in the image of God who accepted his. It is the perfection of our ambassadorial nature as Christians to live in Jesus’s image. When we are at that crossroads between the ways of God and those of the world, which path do we take? When we are in a position to defend the faith, what do we say? When we are faced with hardship, how do we respond?
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 18:33-37
Glory to you, O Lord.
Pilate asked Jesus ‘Are you the king of the Jews?‘ .
‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’
‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’
‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’
‘So you are a king then? said Pilate.
‘It is you who say it,’ answered Jesus.
‘Yes, I am a king.
I was born for this,
I came into the world for this:
to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.