We are arriving at the final Sunday of the liturgical year — a Sunday known as the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe or sometimes just called Christ the King Sunday. We end the liturgical year with a bang, going out on a strong note with the proclamation that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He reigns over all that is and was and ever shall be.
And what Gospel passage do we read to celebrate his power and authority? We have Jesus being crucified, dying on the cross, being taunted by leaders and soldiers and even another person being crucified. Many people would argue that this sounds more like a failure than proof of his kingship.
How do we make sense of this Gospel passage for this celebration? How do we wrap our minds around Jesus being our king at all when the world we live in doesn’t see it that way? He’s largely ignored, the popular media has banished him from even being mentioned and all around us, we see things that are commonplace that we know Jesus has told us are sinful. Shouldn’t the King of the Universe hold more sway than this?
Let’s start by talking about his kingdom. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of which Jesus is king, isn’t something that we can readily touch or see here in this life.
Jesus tells us in Luke Chapter 17:
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
But Jesus is indeed King of the Universe. One day when we pass from this life — and we all will — we’ll all see this reality in its fullness. We’ll realize that our time here on earth was a pittance compared to the time we’ll spend in eternity. And our eternity will either be with Jesus in the full reality of his kingdom or without him in the full reality of eternal damnation.
Let’s also consider his introduction into the world as our king. Jesus became incarnate in the most humble of settings, being born in a stable. His family was desperately poor. The secular world held him in no regard. In fact, Herod wanted him killed.
But what was going on in the Kingdom of God at the time of his birth? We read from Luke:
The angel of the Lord appeared to (the shepherds) and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
That’s quite a contrast between the secular world’s response to his coming and the response of the angels and heavenly hosts who are fully in the kingdom. This is also true of his life, passion, death and resurrection. The world’s view of what transpired is far different than what those in the kingdom of God know to be true.
What type of king is Jesus? He isn’t a king as the world would think of a king. Rather, he’s a king who serves his kingdom. He came to rescue us from our sins. He came to die for our sins.
And so where did he come into his glory as king? Right there, on the cross. The cross was his throne. It was there that he completed the will of his Father to die for our sins. And this is why we have this Gospel passage on Christ the King Sunday.
Jesus’ kingdom is here, but it’s not yet fully revealed. Those of us who are his disciples know him to be our king even if we struggle to see his kingdom in our world today.
And we who are disciples of our king know full well that we won’t be celebrated for our faith any more than he was. In fact, Jesus made it clear that the world will hate us for what we proclaim.
We saw concrete proof of this just a few weeks ago with the passing of Proposal 3. The Church threw all of her weight into pleading with people to vote no on Proposal 3. We preached about it, we wrote about it and we bought TV advertising space to fight it. And yet, it passed.
So did the Church lose? No. She lived up to the commands of her king. She preached the truth about the sanctity of life and the need to protect the most vulnerable in our society —the unborn. On November 8, as the results rolled in, the Church was right there on the cross with Jesus our king being taunted by the leaders of our time.
And at that moment, as many concluded that she had lost, she came into her glory as well. She was willing to preach the truth right up to the end. I’m proud of the Church for standing up for the truth and for not caving into the pressures of our woke culture. The Church didn’t lose nor did the Kingdom of God. Someday, everyone will understand this. But today, the kingdom cannot be observed by the world.
The same is true for you and me. We who are disciples of the Lord carry a message that’s countercultural. We carry a message of love, forgiveness and obedience to our king Jesus Christ. The world doesn’t understand this, and she never will on this side of heaven. Jesus made this very clear to us in his preaching while he walked the earth.
Today, we are called upon to recommit to taking up our cross and carrying it. To witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is our King, even if the world at large doesn’t understand or appreciate it.
Will we be respected and admired for holding to our Christian values? No, we won’t. In fact, we’ll be taunted and laughed at as our king was on the cross.
But think about this: has any other kingdom survived as the kingdom of Jesus Christ has? The Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Mongol Empire — they were all enormously powerful in their time, but they have all passed away. But the kingdom of God has thrived for over 2,000 years despite more efforts than we could count to eradicate it.
Jesus Christ is indeed King of the Universe, and while we await his second coming, we are his loyal subjects here on earth. He’s our head, and we’re his arms and legs.
Being citizens of the Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ as our king won’t be easy, but the rewards are infinite.
And so we can say with pride on this Christ the King Sunday: Long live the King!