• Dan 7:13-14
• Psa 93:1, 1-2, 5
• Rev 1:5-8
• Jn 18:33B-37
The kingship of Christ is paradoxical. For instance, we hear today, in the reading from The Apocalypse, that “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth,” while also hearing Christ’s words to Pontius Pilate: “But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” Jesus is King of all—and yet his kingdom is not earthly.
Over the centuries, some have interpreted this to mean that Christ’s kingdom and kingship is spiritual only—and therefore internal and unseen. However, this is a misunderstanding, for the Son did not become flesh and dwell among us so we might ignore the meaning of our physical actions but so we could truly understand the meaning and purpose of the material world. The road to this understanding extends back many centuries prior to the time of Christ, as Scripture is filled with numerous references to kings. In fact, kings are the most mentioned group of men in the entire Bible. While the title “priest” occurs around 500 times and “prophet” about 300 times in the Old and New Testaments combined, there are an astounding 2700 uses of the Hebrew word, melek, and around 125 uses of the Greek word, basileus, both of which are translated as “king”.
Scripture presents two basic royal images: God as King and men as kings. And those two merge—perfectly and forever—in the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. He is the “King of Israel,” the “King of the Jews,” the “King of ages,” and “King of kings and Lord of lords.” His kingship is absolutely unparalleled, as the description of the Son of man in the Book of Daniel indicates: all people and nations serve him; his dominion is eternal; his kingship will not be destroyed.
Yet, again, the kingship of Christ is also unusual. Its power does not show itself in ruthless coercion, but in love poured out on the Cross; its might is not revealed in political coups and military advances, but in the redemption of souls and the transformation of hearts.
That said, the meekness of Christ the King is not a soft and sappy thing, but a pure and holy humility that cuts away the cancer of sin and sears our souls with fiery love—if we only kneel in acceptance and adoration. The Old Testament shows, in many different ways, that the ideal king would not obsess over political alliances and pacts, but would focus on the Law and the covenant (cf. Deut 17:18-20). The true and good king was not a tyrant, but protected his people and urged them to love and serve God. He was a model Israelite in every possible way.
Jesus, the perfect king, exemplifies all of these qualities. Despite being fully divine, the Son of God did not seek glory and power, as St. Paul wrote, “but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” and was perfectly obedient, “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). He was completely devoted to the work of the Father and to the fulfillment of the Law, for the sake of Israel and the entire world: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). And he was the model Israelite, perfect and without sin (Heb. 4:15).
The King has broken the hold of death, wrote John the Revelator, and offers freedom “from our sins by his blood”. He who is The Almighty has come, is coming, and will come again in glory. Will we lament the King’s coming? Or will we rejoice?
(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the November 22, 2015 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
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