November 24-25, 2012
I’ll be the first to admit that “Christ the King” is a strange holiday….
It’s strange because here in the United States we don’t have a king
and we don’t much want one.
It’s strange because if Jesus Christ is king,
there are days and weeks and even years when he doesn’t seem to be ruling very well.
There are wars and violence, hunger and poverty all around us.
It’s strange because Christ as king is only one aspect of who Jesus is…
We don’t have a “Christ the Healer” Sunday or “Christ the Miracle Worker” Sunday.
Christ is king….and he’s more than that – much more.
The great African-American theologian Delores Williams
tells a story from her youth at a black church down South.
She remembers Sunday mornings when the minister shouted out:
“Who is Jesus?”
The choir responded in voices loud and strong: “King of kings and Lord Almighty!”
But then, little Miss Huff, in a voice so fragile and soft you could hardly hear her,
would sing her own answer, “Poor little Mary’s boy.”
Back and forth they sang – KING OF KINGS…Poor little Mary’s boy.
Delores says, “It was the Black church doing theology.”
Who is Jesus?
“King of Kings” cannot be the answer without also seeing “poor little Mary’s boy.”[i]
Today we sing “King of kings and Lord Almighty!”
Next week as we prepare for Christmas, we consider “poor little Mary’s boy.”
Both images of Jesus are important.
And both images of Jesus are a bit strange.
The image of God as a king isn’t all that strange…
but a king who is standing before Pilate, the Roman governor,
about to be crucified – that is strange.
He’s trying to do his job…
As the Roman governor, he’s supposed to be the one asking the questions.
He’s supposed to be the one in control of the trial.
But he’s not in control at all.
Throughout these chapters of the gospel of John,
we can see that Pilate is agitated.
He walks back and forth in and out of his headquarters.
He finally summons Jesus back inside and asks, “Who are you?”
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Seems like a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question…
But Jesus doesn’t answer the question ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Instead he asks Pilate a question.
He asks Pilate a question which will force Pilate to think for himself.
Pilate cannot be a mere observer to this trial.
Jesus insists Pilate become involved personally,
and he asks, “‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’
Pilate, what do you think?
You’ve heard the charges…Do you think I may be a king,
or are you just going along with the crowd?
Pilate blusters a bit.
He’s taken off guard by the fact that Jesus is right – he has been wondering.
He’s heard stories of Jesus.
He’s heard about the miracles…and he hasn’t quite figured out what to make out of them!
And he doesn’t understand why Jesus has so many enemies!
PIlate doesn’t commit…
He says, “My thoughts don’t matter…it’s your people who are accusing you!
What did you do?”
What did you do Jesus?
What did you do to end up here in front of the Roman governor?
“My kingdom is not from this world.”
My kingdom does not consist of what you can see around you.
If it were from this world, everyone (Jews, Romans, pagans, visitors from foreign lands, and even you Pontius Pilate) would be shouting out together,
“King of Kings and Lord Almighty!”
But my kingdom is not from this world;
I am not that kind of a king.
I’m the kind of a king who is not only “King of Kings and Lord Almighty”,
but also, “poor little Mary’s boy.”
I’m the kind of a king who was born to a poor young unwed mother.
I’m the kind of a king whose father was not a king but a carpenter.
I’m the kind of a king who touches lepers and makes them well.
I’m the kind of a king who chooses fisherman as friends.
I’m the kind of a king who speaks with women.
…who takes children into his lap
….who raises the dead
….who helps a paralyzed man walk
…who opens the eyes of a blind man
…who protects a woman caught in adultery
…who eats with prostitutes
…who casts out demons
…who calms storms
…who blesses peacemakers…and the poor…and the grieving
I’m the kind of a king…
…who condemns greed
…who cares for the poor
…who calls strangers neighbors
…who washes the feet of his friends
…who picks up a man at the side of the road and carries him to an inn
…who invites people on the street to his banquet
…who sows seed on soil and finds some of it good and some of it bad – but sows it all anyway
…who searches for one lost sheep until he finds it
…who seeks a single lost coin until he discovers it
…who rejoices with a father at the return of a lost son
…who sells everything for the sake of a single pearl
…who takes two loaves and five fish and feeds a multitude
I’m the kind of a king…
…who calms the fears of the faithless
…who forgives the sins of his betrayers
…who provokes authority
…who challenges religious leaders
…who is thrown out of his hometown by his neighbors
…whose family thinks he may be mentally ill
…who gets irritable and impatient
…who warns of judgment
…who curses a fig tree
…who sings at the last supper and weeps at the death of a friend
Jesus is the kind of a king
…who in the final hours of his life,
stands at the foot of the Roman Governor and
says to Pilate, “What have I done?
Just this… this is all I’ve got …this is my testimony to the truth.
“You say that I am a king..
Yes, King of Kings and Lord Almighty…
and also poor little Mary’s boy….and also so much more.”
Thanks be to God.