Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
I’d often asked myself why we celebrate Christ as King in an era when we’ve either overthrown kings or reduced them to figure heads.
But then we still tell children stories about kings, while our fantasy movies may depict kings in faraway places and times. They even show up in our dreams: perhaps history is the wrong place to look!
What do the oldest and most persistent stories tell me about kings? A king represents his people and is wedded to the land, mediating–if only for a time–those powers of heaven and earth that sustain us. Most of all, he willingly sacrifices himself for the good of his people.
What elected leader does anything like that?
The King is dead. Long live the King!
It is not incongruous that over the cross where he is dying, a tablet identifies Jesus as King of the Jews. The Romans may have been ironic, sending a political message: this is what happens to any “king” who isn’t Caesar! They would never realize how right they were to proclaim King Jesus.
Even more than the mythic kings who die to renew their people and who rise, renewed in their successors, Jesus offers a Kingdom to anyone who is willing to risk following in his steps–even the thief crucified with him.
In a society as impatient and slothful as ours, this crucified king offers an antidote. Instead of instant gratification, he endures the cross and its shame in a long agony from Thursday through late Friday afternoon. Rather than negligently evading suffering, slipping from the Garden of Olives to the adjacent, trackless Judean desert–an option taken by criminals of his day–he stands firm and faces his opponents, not to win but to submit.
Yet he conquers through his dying. He overcomes the fear of death and annihilation by embracing it. His trust in God is radical. And accessible to any of us who accept his invitation to take up our own cross and follow him.