Devotional Message: Christ the King Sunday (11/25/2018)

Lessons

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Continuous
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18]

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

St. John 18:33-37, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: A King Unlike

Should a Christian obey the decrees of a political leader who seems to have no grounding in Christian faithfulness, no concern for justice, an inordinate lust for power, and a willingness to strike out against any and every opponent?

As the story goes, in 1925 Pope Pius XI was concerned about the rise of secularism and the dangerous dictatorships emerging in Europe and beyond. He was particularly concerned about the emergence of nationalism in Italy under the destructive influence of Benito Mussolini (Prime Minister of Italy from1922 to 1925, who then dropped the pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship which lasted until the end of World War II in 1945). In response, Pope Pius instituted “Christ the King Sunday,” which intended to serve as an argument against the totalitarian claims of fascism, communism and nazism. In his 1925 encyclical “Quas Primas” he notes that Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence. “Christ,” he writes, “has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.” The encyclical and the feast remind Christians that their ultimate allegiance is to their spiritual ruler, Christ, as opposed to any earthly power.

In this week’s Gospel lesson we are presented with an exercise in contrast. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judaea, appointed by Tiberius Caesar to rule from about a.d. 26 to 36. Of all the rulers dispatched to Judea by Rome, Pilate was among the most brutal. He had no regard for anyone, interested only in the desire to amass and preserve his own power. On the other hand, Jesus is presented in this passage as a ruler of very different sort. “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” As Pope Pius noted, it is his essence, his nature (we might add his love, his grace, his commitment to justice and righteousness, his desire to connect us to God…), which lie at the heart of his rule.

This is not to say, of course, that Jesus rules with no authority. His authority comes from the truth to which he bears witness. We were reminded of this on Reformation Sunday (if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free), and again today (for this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth). In an era when far too many political leaders are willing to abandon truth in quest of power, Jesus shows us where genuine authority rests.

The crowds on Good Friday are said to have called out, We have no king but Caesar! We know better. On “Christ the King Sunday” we direct our attention to the King of kings, who comes humbly, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey; who loves the unloved; who welcomes the un-welcomed; who forgives the sinner; who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.

Dare we hope for this kind of leader in our time? Indeed, we have one. It is Christ the King. The question is how, and to what extent, we will allow him to rule in our lives.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. In what ways is the contrast evident between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, the Christ?

  2. Why is Pilate so determined to make Jesus define what it means that they call him king?

  3. What does Jesus mean when he describes his mission as testifying to the truth?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What sort of ruler do people of our time seem most interested to have?

  2. How does the kingship of Jesus differ from that of earthly rulers who are currently in power?

  3. When have I struggled with contradicting messages between my faith and my earthly citizenship?