As you may see on the bulletin cover, today is traditionally observed as the “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ” Sunday. It is the last Sunday in the liturgical calendar we follow. And it means that next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, is Christian new year’s day according to the liturgical calendar. I think it’s very meaningful to celebrate the kingship and reign of Christ as we close one Christian year, in great anticipation of the coming kingdom of Christ.
But here, let me ask you a question, “how does these words ‘king’ and ‘reign’ sound to you?” For those who live in a democratic society like us, it must be difficult to get the sense of them and feel them close enough. The words are quite strange and archaic to our modern ears. So before we profess, Jesus Christ is our king, today, we better understand what kind of king Jesus truly is and what kind of kingdom he reigns.
The king we usually imagine is the ruler of an independent state, one who inherits the position by right of birth. A king has certain powers to rule over his kingdom, manage lives, judge people, wage war against other nations to earn more territories, and so on. A king has wealth; in history, powerful kings were extremely rich and owned many incredible things. If you go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, you can easily find all kinds of luxurious items, opulent crowns and cloths adorned with gold and precious jewels. Also, a king has many servants who follow his order and praise him.
Then how about Jesus Christ, our king? On this Christ the King Sunday, the Gospel reading suddenly leads us to a helpless man at the Roman courtyard in Jerusalem. And the Gospel tells us, this vulnerable man in front of the powerful Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, is Jesus our king. Yes this king is “Jesus who by now has been betrayed by one trusted disciple, denied by another, and abandoned by all the rest; Jesus who has been shamed by the high priest and who will soon be beaten by the soldiers; Jesus, who will shortly be wearing a crown of thorns and a mocking robe of purple; Jesus, whose cross is now but hours away.”[i]Jesus is our king like no other.
What kind of king is he? Where is the mighty and wealthy king who can protect us from any harm, who can judge and punish evildoers, who can fight off unjust powers of the world? Why does the Gospel bring us to witness the one who is surrendering himself to the power of the Empire? Did God really send us this man as our king?
Yes. God sent us this man as our king, and there is no other king like Jesus. Why? It’s because this king is the king of God’s kingdom on earth. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.” True. His kingdom is not. This king is the Son of God, and his kingdom is not of this world but of God. This king became incarnated, this king was born as a human being to share his life with us, to save us, and to let us have the foretaste of the kingdom not from this world. This strange king traveled around and called the people to teach how to live the life in God’s kingdom. Under his kingship of the cross, the kingship of self-giving love, there is forgiveness, there is reconciliation, there is salvation, and there is peace in this kingdom.
There is no other king like Jesus. It’s because this king is the king of God’s kin-dom. This king initiated his kingdom not by claiming the throne but by becoming one of our kin, our likeness. This king has been expanding this kingdom not by force but by building his kinship with us, making a family, a family of God’s children who call one another sisters and brothers. Through the abiding presence of this king in our life, we, the branches, have been grafted onto the one true vine, and we all have become Abraham’s offspring who heir the kingdom. And through the sharing of this king’s body and blood, we, the church, has become one loving community and become the Body of Christ redeemed by his blood.
There is no other king like Jesus. It’s because this king is the king of the coming kingdom of God. In history earthly kings and powers have been fighting and struggling in the battlefield to make peace by force and terror, by eliminating and suppressing other powers against them. But this king with his followers have been working not only for the kingdom on earth but also for the kingdom that is coming in the future. As it is written in the scripture, this coming kingdom is the fulfilled kingdom of peace and glory, the kingdom where all the saved enjoy the everlasting dominion and kingship of divine love and justice.
Yes, there is no other king like Jesus. Then, who are we to this king? We, as Christians, are his servants who took a solemn oath of allegiance to his rule of love. We profess our faith that we take Jesus Christ as the only authority in our lives. In other words, our relationship with Jesus is the absolute one for us, so all other relationships and all other things in our lives should be relativized and dethroned around it. We affirmed that the crucified and risen Christ is the sole ruler of our lives. So our affirmation of faith calls us to put our earnest commitment to his demands regardless of situation and to radical rejection of other values and priorities.
And we, as Christians, are his kingdom builders who expand his kingdom on earth by love and service, by building up a kinship community. Following the unconditional love that he revealed on the cross, we must embracethe people in hard situations, accept differences, and befriend the marginalized. Make peace with the people sitting next you, and make peace with your own family, friends, and neighbors. Be their kin. Make the kinship of God with the people around you. Preach the good news and build the kingdom not by force but by love that endures everything.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this Christ the King Sunday, let us not forget who the true king is in our lives and never forget who we are. On the way of living out our kingdom life following our king, let us also never get discouraged or disheartened because we have a solid promise, hope, and confirmation of our king’s eternal reign. AsRevelation tells us today, our king Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom” (Revelation 1:5-6). And this king is “the Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty”(1:8). With this king, let us build his kingdom on earth. Let the love begin with you and me. Let the peace begin with you and me. Let the kin-dom of Christ, his peaceable reign, begin with our church. Let Christ’s love and peace like a river flow through our hearts, become a flood, inundate the deserted world, and transform it into God’s kingdom until Christ comes in his final victory and we feast at our king’s heavenly banquet. Amen.
[i]The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt, “A King Like No Other” on Dancing with the Word, http://words.dancingwiththeword.com
Pastor Earl Kim