I am fond of the title “Christ the King.” I think it is a wonderful name for a church or chapel. It says something – Jesus is in charge here! It is the will of God made known to us through Jesus His son that we abide by. Of course this is how all Christians should act regardless of the name of their church or chapel. The whole point of becoming a Christian is to receive God’s grace and in response shape our lives according to His will.
When we look at images, statues, iconography or other representations like that pictured here we see a strong Christ the King message. Jesus is enthroned, the world is in His one hand, His other hand is poised in the bestowal of His royal blessing, the angels attending Him, supported by the foundation of the Twelve Apostles, and served and worshipped by Kings, Bishops, Priests, Soldiers, Monks, and others from all walks of life. Jesus is in charge and it is plain for everyone to see. This particular sculpture is over the doors to Westminster Abbey – a wonderful visual message greeting you as you enter to worship.
This Sunday however, the Gospel reading assigned by the lectionary does not exude kingship.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Jesus, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.” ~Luke 23:33-43~
Hanging in agony, dying on an executioner’s cross is not the first thought in anybody’s mind when the word King is used. This is most especially true when thinking of the King of All Creation. But there Jesus was dying with the others – Christ the King, executed.
But look again – there in the last minutes of life Jesus says, “I am still in charge.” Jesus tells the thief, “Don’t believe what you see. I am still in charge. You will be with Me in Paradise.” The rulers, those that had set Jesus up for the sham trial and conviction, scoffed. “We have won!” they thought. One thief joined them in their dismissing Jesus. To all of them Jesus responded with a message of “This is not over – I am still calling the shots – you who repent, I say to you – You will be with Me in Paradise.”
A little while later the Gospel narrative tells us that upon the physical death of Jesus the ground shook, the sky turned black, and the veil in the Temple was torn in two. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus opened the Holy of Holies, forever before forbidden to enter, to all of the faithful people of God.
Today there are many people who recite many reasons to believe all is lost. Whether you are troubled over personal, professional, or political problems there are plenty of problems from which to choose. If you do, if you decide to stand by like the people or openly scoff like the rulers in the face of problems you miss the message. Jesus is still calling the shots. Our circumstances are temporary, our problems are passing, all nations will ultimately fade away and the Kingdom of God will rule eternal with Christ as King. Will you have faith? Will you believe? Will you repent? If you will then listen to the words Jesus spoke to the repentant thief – Don’t believe what you see – This is not over – I am still calling the shots – “You will be with me in Paradise”!
God the Father, Help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. AMEN