Reflection 11/23: Christ the King
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
Way back in the book of Samuel, the chosen people wanted a king. Both God and the prophet Samuel argued this wasn’t a good idea. The people were insistent. So, God let the nation have its king, although the prophet said the nation would rue the day. Spring forward, the last king of Israel, the despicable Herod, who plundered and murdered the nation for three decades, died in his sleep in his own bed. Jesus, the King of heaven, who was born just before Herod died, would subsequently die on the cross, seemingly humiliated, broke, and bled dry, another three decades later. God’s heart was so broken, the sky grew dark, the earth trembled, and the veil of the Temple was torn in two.
Spring forward two millennia to the last century—the crowned heads of Europe decided to go to war with each other. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. That total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians. We marked the centennial of that ghastly blood bath on Veterans Day, November 11. We can’t even estimate the number of wanton deaths because of kings (and queens) over the past 3,000 years, since God warned about the tragic, inevitable nature of monarchs.
Our Jesus, “King of kings, and Lord of All,” didn’t kill anyone, and rather was killed by others’ craven evil. God reversed Christ’s murder three days later.
We celebrate the feast of Christ the King this coming Sunday. It is the culmination of the church’s liturgical year. Comparing the King of heaven to the kings of earth leaves us humans shaken. So debased is the notion of kingship, many of us have used language in recent years to sidestep Jesus’ kingship. However, we shouldn’t allow that. Just as the failings of humankind should not denigrate the humanity of Jesus, the reprehensible history of earth’s kings should not sully and primitivize the notion of Christ the King.