Christ the King – 21 November 2021
Lectionary Readings: Dan.7:13-14; Ps. 93:1, 1-2, 5; Rev. 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
Theme: Jesus Christ, the authentic king.
In the gospel for today, we see Jesus, the prisoner, standing before Pilate, the representative of Caesar, the King. Pilate asks Jesus: Are you the king of the Jews? (v. 33)Nicholas King in his translation of the Second Testament (2004: 242) interprets this as: “Are you the king of the Judeans?” He translates Pilate’s reply to Jesus as: “Do you think that I am a Judean?” John L. McKenzie in his “Dictionary of the Bible” (New York: 1965. p. 437) speaks about ‘Judahite’ as a member of the tribe of Judah. David was a Judahite (p, 437). McKenzie states further that John uses the term ‘Jews’ to “designate the adversaries of Jesus in the contexts where the Synoptic Gospels would use ‘Pharisees and Scribes’”.
We focus now on Jesus’ words in answer to Pilate: Do you say this of your own accord or did others say it to you about me? (v. 34)I think Jesus is asking Pilate for the truth: does he want to know to make a fair judgment? Pilate answers on the defensive – he cannot give Jesus a straight answer nor can he judge independently. My kingship is not of this world! (v. 36)Is Jesus giving Pilate a chance to see beyond the prisoner in front of him? Pilate already suspects that the charges against Jesus were trumped up. Jesus continues to say that those of his kingdom would have come to his aid if his was an earthly kingdom but it is a very different kingship. Pilate understands that Jesus is saying he is a king. Then Jesus again tries to reach Pilate by saying that his kingship is about truth and sacrifice but the world of Pilate and the ‘Jews’ cannot and perhaps, will not, understand the meaning of Jesus’ heavenly mission.
Daniel describes apocalyptically the bestowal of the kingdom upon the ‘son of man’ which unlike earthly kingdoms will never pass away nor be destroyed (vv.13-14).
Who is this King of ours? Revelation tells us: Jesus is the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and ruler of the kings on earth. (v. 5) He loves us and frees us from our sinfulness in his blood. Thus we are made priests and kings of his kingdom given to him by his, and now, our God and Father. In Ex.19:6 the LORD tells Moses to relate to the Israelites at the foot of the mountain that you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation (NRSV). In 1 Peter 2:9, we read: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (NRSV). This promiseof the LORD to Israel becomes fulfilled in Jesus Christ and then in us as the Baptized Gentiles and then eventually for all who are the believers and followers of the Son of God. Paul tells the Romans: For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (1:16. NRSV)
How does this wonderful act of liberation by Jesus Christ, and accepted by us, enable us to live? We shall recognize and praise his glory and dominion now and for all eternity (v. 6).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) How ought we to live as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people”? 2) This was said first of the Israelites now the Jewish people. What ought our relationship be to them?
Bibliography: King, Nicholas. The New Testament (Great Britain: 2004); McKenzie, John L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965); NRSV, taken from www.biblegateway.com
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008