CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY
This Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year. It is on this day that we turn our thoughts and minds to the concept of Jesus being our King. Today’s readings will cause us to reflect on different aspects of this idea. Combined, they help us to envision and understand the full meaning of this concept.
DANIEL 7:9-10, 13-14
Up to this point, the book of Daniel has been about stories of men who were strong in their faith. The book takes a turn in the seventh chapter. It takes the apocalyptic form. This is a dramatic, highly symbolic style of writing. Some of the symbolic references we understand, and others are lost in antiquity. But the message is clear, as we will see below.
- Daniel is experiencing a vision or heavenly dream. He is allowed a glimpse of God, the “Ancient One”, on his heavenly throne. When you see something that is indescribable, you try to explain it using things that you are familiar with. God’s clothing was “white as snow”. This is remarkable back then, because they did not have chlorine bleach. Pure white clothing was either rare or non-existent. His hair was white, “like pure wool”. Since the average age back then was about 40 years old, I wonder how many white-haired people there were. His throne was on wheels, and appeared to be on fire. Fire was issuing forth from His presence! Revelation 4 gives us a similar description. (vv. 9-10a)
- There were “a thousand-thousand” serving Him, and even more attending Him. You can do the math, if you like. Those serving total a million, and the attendants equal 100 million. But I don’t think Daniel counted them all, or was given an attendance report. He’s just trying to explain that there were a lot of people there! (vv. 10b-11a)
- Now we come to the “why are we here?” statement. This is a court of law, and the books were opened. (v. 11b)
- Next, Daniel sees someone “like a human being” descend from the clouds, and go before the Ancient One. Some translations use “Son of Man” for “human being”. In the Old Testament, they are interchangeable terms. In the New Testament, the Son of Man is very specific. (v. 13)
- The Ancient One gives the human being “dominion and glory and kingship” over all peoples and for all time. (v. 14)
Have you ever been to a large sports stadium or concert hall that was packed with people? Some of the newer baseball stadiums can hold about 100,000 people. Imagine ten times that amount of people. That’s the amount of people in the first group of Daniel’s vision. Yet, this is only a fraction of the number of Christians who are living in this world today, let alone those who passed before us. No, Daniel was not exaggerating. If anything, he was understating the number of people before God’s throne.
What did this vision mean to the people of Daniel’s day? It gave them the hope and reassurance that God was their king. God was in control, even though at the time it seemed like God was nowhere in sight. Their hope was that God was still involved, and would restore the promised kingdom of David.
What should this vision say to us? We should hear the same message of hope and reassurance. In spite of global warming, nations fighting nations, world hunger and poverty, and scary or inept world leaders, God is in control. God is not only on his divine, fiery throne, but He has given us His son, to be our king forever. God’s got this!
These are some of the beginning lines of John’s revelation; the message from God to comfort and strengthen the believers under John’s care in Asia Minor. They are called the “seven churches” here. There may have been more then seven, but they are grouped together for the sake of John’s writing. Instead of doing the detail verse-by-verse, I’m going to approach it phrase-by-phrase.
- Jesus is “the one who is and who is to come”. He is living now, and will come again.
- Jesus is “the faithful witness”. He was sent from heaven to preach, teach, and die for us. He was faithful to his duty.
- Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead”. He was the first human to have eternal life. Now, because of him, we too, receive this special gift.
- He “loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood” on the cross.
- Jesus “made us to be a kingdom, priests” to serve him and the Father”. Yes, we are all priests. We’re just going to have to own that, and live up to it.
- We all proclaim “to him be the glory and dominion forever and ever”. We praise him and claim him as our king, when we say these words.
- Hey, “Look! He is coming with the clouds”. Look at verse 13 from our reading in Daniel.
- “Every eye will see” this, even those who killed him. No wonder that “all of the earth will wail.” When Jesus takes his judgement seat, heads are gonna roll!
- “So it is to be!” You can’t change it!
- Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega”; the beginning and the end (of the Greek alphabet). He was there at the beginning, and he’ll see this through to the end.
The word “dominion” has popped up both here and in the first reading from Daniel. The word has two meanings. First, it is the power and authority that a ruler has over his people. But it also refers to the country or land he has power over. So, a king has dominion over the people of his dominion.
Jesus has been given the power to be our king, and his dominion is the whole world. Thanks be to God!
In today’s gospel, we find ourselves with Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was a prefect, or governor of the province of Judea. He was the Roman Emperor Tiberias’ representative in Judea. His main tasks were to collect taxes and keep the peace. The Jews have brought Jesus before Pilate, with accusations of claiming to be a rival king. They are inciting a riot, which is why Pilate is forced to intervene.
- Pilate gets right to the point—“Are you the King of the Jews? (v.33)
- Jesus is not at all intimidated by the power that Pilate has. He is a little “mouthy”, and asks “Is this your idea, or someone else’s?” (v. 34)
- Pilate doesn’t take it as insubordination, but dishes it right back. It’s not really his fight, because he’s not Jewish. He asks Jesus what he has done. (v. 35)
- Jesus ignores this question, and answers the first one. His kingdom “is not of this world”. (v. 36)
- Pilate says/asks “So, you are king?” You could say that he has declared Jesus a king with his own lips. (v. 37)
- That’s how Jesus takes it! In effect, Jesus says “so you say!” Then comes the jewel of this passage. “For this I was born… to testify to the truth.” (v. 38a)
- This sentence is for us—“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” In other words, if we listen to his message, we are part of his kingdom. (v. 38b)
Much of Jesus’ teachings were to help us understand the kingdom of God. This kingdom is a community without borders or barriers. It is everyone who loves God, and shows it by loving one another. This is the kingdom that Jesus is the king of. You and I are part of this kingdom!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We are blessed to live in a land that has never been ruled by a king. (At least if you don’t count our colonial years.) So, for nearly 250 years, we have not had any experience with answering to a king. This is a good thing, of course, but it hinders our understanding the full meaning of the kingship of Jesus. Here are a few points to consider about kings:
- They rule for life.
- You never get to choose your king; they are given that position by birthright.
- A king’s decrees are absolute. There’s no debate. What he says, goes!
- When you are called to fight in the army, you fight for king and country (in that order).
- If the king passes by, even if you’re working in the field, you stop and bow to the king.
- One of the king’s duties is to act as the supreme court. When he sits on the throne, he hears cases, and passes judgement. No appeals may be considered.
Nowadays, we like to think of Jesus as our brother. We sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. We sing beautiful songs about walking alone in a garden, and “Jesus walks with us, and talks with us”. This is all very good, of course. But we must also remind ourselves that Jesus is all powerful. He will come to judge the living and the dead. Since we are part of his kingdom, we are expected to dutifully obey his commandments without question. You know. The commandments he gave us, like:
- Do not judge others, and you won’t be judged. (That’s his job, not ours!)
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (And everyone is your neighbor.)
- Love your enemies.
- “Feed my lambs.”
- Forgive one another, just like God has forgiven us.
- Share from your abundance. (“If you have two coats…”, remember?)
Yes, Jesus is most certainly our friend and brother. But he is also our mighty king, sitting at God the Father’s right side. Let us not only love, honor, and praise him; but let us also remember to respect, glorify and obey him as our king.