The Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King Sunday
The Rev. George Pejakovich
John 18:33-37


IN THE PAST WEEK, OUR MAILBOX HAS BEEN OVERFLOWING WITH CATALOGS FOR VENDORS I HAVE NEVER EVER HEARD OF, UNCLE PHIL HAS PERFORMED THE ANNUAL TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ON THE TURKEY, BLACK FRIDAY HAS COME AND GONE, SANTA HAS BEEN SPOTTED, AND CAROLS WAFT ON THE BREEZE. THIS HAS LED ME TO ASSUME, SMART PERSON THAT I AM, THAT CHRISTMAS MIGHT SOON BE UPON US. BEFORE WE LEAN TOO FAR FORWARD TOWARDS CHRISTMAS, LET US STOP FOR A MOMENT AND SEE WHERE WE ARE. THIS IS THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR, KNOWN AS CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY. THIS IS A RELATIVELY NEW FESTIVAL OF THE CHURCH, ESTABLISHED BY POPE PIOUS XI IN 1925, AND HIS DECISION TO SET THIS DAY ASIDE AS SPECIAL WAS QUICKLY ACCEPTED BY MOST LITURGICAL CHURCHES; AS WAS HIS REASON FOR DOING SO.

WHILE THE WESTERN NATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, ENGLAND, AND FRANCE WERE CELEBRATING A TIME OF UNPARALLELED PROSPERITY, KNOWN AS THE ‘ROARING TWENTIES,’ GERMANY, AND THE REST OF EUROPE, WAS IN THE GRIP OF ECONOMIC CHAOS. IN ITALY, MUSSOLINI WAS SOLIDIFYING A NEW KIND OF IMPERIALISTIC STATISM CALLED FASCISM; WHILE IN GERMANY, A DANGEROUSLY CHARISMATIC MAN CALLED ADOLF HITLER HAD BEEN OUT OF PRISON FOR A YEAR, AND WAS GATHERING THE FORCES TO CONTROL THE GERMAN NATION. IN RUSSIA, STALIN WAS MURDERING MILLIONS OF HIS PEOPLE TO ENSURE STATE CONTROL OF EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE. IN THE WEST, MONEY WAS KING; WHILE IN EUROPE, THE STATE WAS BECOMING THE KING. THE POPE ESTABLISHED CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY TO END THE CHRISTIAN YEAR AS A WAY TO SAY NO TO BOTH MONEY AND THE STATE AS KING, AND TO PROCLAIM THAT, FOR CHRISTIANS, CHRIST IS KING.

THE PEOPLE WANTED TO MAKE JESUS THE KING OF ISRAEL, AND RESTORE THE THRONE OF DAVID; THEY SAW HIM AS THEIR POLITICAL SALVATION; WHICH IS WHY HE WEPT AS THEY GAVE HIM A TRIUMPHAL ENTRANCE INTO JERUSALEM. THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES SAW HIM AS A THREAT TO THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH ROME, TO THEIR POWER AND AUTHORITY, AND THE WEALTH THAT GAVE THEM, SO THEY WANTED HIM DEAD. PILATE DID NOT CARE ABOUT JESUS ONE WAY OR THE OTHER; HE JUST WANTED TO KEEP THE PEACE SO THAT HE COULD CONTINUE HIS REIGN OF GRAFT AND CORRUPTION WHICH WAS MAKING HIM RICH. RELIGION MEANT NOTHING TO PILATE, SO THE ONLY CHARGE IN WHICH HE MIGHT BE INTERESTED WAS THAT JESUS CLAIMED TO BE A KING. IF THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES TOLD PILATE THAT JESUS CLAIMED TO BE THE SON OF GOD, HE WOULD HAVE LAUGHED AND RELEASED HIM, BUT THEY SAID HE CLAIMED TO BE THE KING OF THE JEWS; AND TO THIS CHARGE, PILATE HAD TO RESPOND. THERE COULD BE NO KING BUT CAESAR, OR THOSE WHOM CAESAR NAMED AS KINGS UNDER HIS LORDSHIP.

PILATE WAS WORRIED ABOUT A POSSIBLE REVOUTION AGAINST ROMAN RULE, EVEN THOUGH THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES SUPPORTED HIM, SINCE THE COMMON PEOPLE DETESTED THE ROMANS. HE HAD THREE THOUSAND SOLDIERS UNDER HIS COMMAND, BUT ONLY A FEW HUNDRED IN JERUSALEM; SO THINGS COULD TURN NASTY IN A MOMENT. THIS IS WHY, WHEN HE RETURNED TO THE PRAETORIUM, HIS FIRST QUESTION TO JESUS WAS, “ARE YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS.” JESUS’ RESPONSE OF “DO YOU SAY THIS BY YOURSELF, OR DID OTHERS TELL YOU ABOUT ME,” SHOWS THAT HE WAS PERFECTLY AWARE OF THE GEO-POLITICAL REALITIES OF THE TIME, AND OF THE POSITION IN WHICH PILATE WAS PLACED BY THE TEMPLE AUTHORITIES. PILATE’S DISTAINFUL REJOINER OF “I’M NOT A JEW, AM I,” SHOWS HIS CONTEMPT FOR THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MINISTRY OF JESUS; HE JUST WANTS TO KNOW WHAT JESUS DID TO MAKE THE TEMPLE AUTHORITIES CHARGE HIM WITH CLAIMING TO BE A KING.

WHAT JESUS SAYS NEXT IS THE CRITICAL MOMENT OF THE EXCHANGE, AND IS THE REASON HE STANDS BEFORE PILATE FOR JUDGMENT; AS WELL AS A STATEMENT OF HIS ENTIRE MINISTRY. “MY KINGDOM IS NOT FROM THIS WORLD. IF MY KINGDOM WERE FROM THIS WORLD, THEN MY SERVANTS WOULD FIGHT, THAT I WOULDN’T BE DELIVERED TO THE JEWS. BUT NOW MY KINGDOM IS NOT FROM HERE.” THIS STATEMENT NEEDS TWO POINTS OF CLARIFICATION: FIRST; JOHN IS WRITING THIS GOSPEL FOR THE GREEKS, SO WHEN HE USES THE TERM “THE JEWS” HE IS REFERING TO THE TEMPLE AUTHORITIES AND NOT THE JEWISH PEOPLE. SECOND; WHEN JESUS SAYS HIS KINGDOM IS NOT FROM THIS WORLD, HE MEANS THAT HIS AUTHORITY IS NOT DERIVED FROM THE MILITARY POWER OF THE STATE, NOR IS IT FROM THE ECONOMIC POWER OF WEALTH. LET US NOT MISS THE IMPORTANT LITTLE WORD OF “NOW:” AT THIS TIME HIS KINGSHIP IS DERIVED FROM OUTSIDE OF THE WORLD; IN THE FUTURE HIS KINGSHIP WILL BE OVER THE ENTIRE WORLD.

THE WORLD, THE KOSMOS IN GREEK, MEANS EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS, AND THE KOSMOS IS IN REBELLION AGAIST THE RULE OF THE ONE WHO CREATED ALL THINGS. FOR THIS REASON, THE KING OF HEAVEN HAS COME INTO THE WORLD TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF RESTORING THE KOSMOS TO ITS PROPER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. JESUS CAME NOT TO BUILD A WORLDLY KINGDOM, BUT A GODLY ONE; THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE KINGDOM OF JESUS IS A COMPLETELY OTHER-WORLDLY ONE. IT WILL, IN FACT, BE WORLD-CHANGING; A TRUE REVOLUTION THAT BEGINS IN THE SPIRIT OF EACH MAN, WOMAN, AND CHILD WHO HEARS AND BELIVES THE WORD OF GOD’S TRUTH IN JESUS.

ONCE WE HEAR THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD IN JESUS, WE, WHO ARE IN THIS WORLD BUT NO LONGER OF THIS WORLD, BECOME THE AGENTS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE KOSMOS; AND GOD’S KINGDOM IN JESUS CONTINUES TO BREAK INTO THE WORLD THROUGH US. WE NO LONGER CAN SEPARATE THE KINGDOM OF GOD FROM THE WAY WE SEE THE POWER OF THE STATE, NOR OF THE WAY WE UTILIZE THE POWER OF WEALTH. TO DO SO LEADS TO PIOUS HYMN SINGING WHILE WE LET THE WIDOW AND ORPHAN STARVE. TO DO SO LEADS TO THE ABSURDITY OF THE NAZI EXTERMINATION CAMP WORKERS WHO DEBATED IF IT WAS APPROPRIATE FOR A CHRISTIAN TO GO TO THE CAMP DANCES; EVEN AS THEY STOKED THE FURNACES TO BURN THE BODIES OF THE SUPPOSED ENEMIES OF THEIR STATE.

“EVERYONE WHO IS OF THE TRUTH LISTENS TO MY VOICE,” PROCLAIMED OUR TRUE KING AS HE STOOD IN JUDGMENT BEFORE THE POWERS OF THE KOSMOS. AS WE COME TO THE END OF THIS CHURCH YEAR, WE ALSO MUST STAND IN JUDGMENT, IN THE EYES OF OUR GOD AND KING, AND IN OUR OWN EYES; AND WE MUST ASK OUR SELVES, AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS THE BODY OF CHRIST, HOW WELL DO WE LISTEN TO HIS VOICE? DO WE HEAR HIS CALL, AND TRUST AND OBEY, DESPITE THE DEMANDS OF THE POWER OF THE STATE AND THE SEDUCTION OF WEALTH, THEREBY BEING GOD’S ACTIVE AGENTS OF CHANGE; OR DO WE LET THE CLANGOR OF THE KOSMOS STOP OUR EARS TO HIS VOICE?

WE CAN HAVE ONE KING, AND ONLY ONE KING; ONE CAN NOT SWEAR ALLEGIENCE TO A KING AND HOLD DIVIDED LOYALTIES. AS WE CLOSE THIS YEAR, AND ENTER THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF THE COMING HOLIDAY SEASON, IT IS A VERY GOOD TIME TO ASK OUR SELVES, “WHOSE VOICE DO WE HEAR?” IS IT THAT OF THE KOSMOS, OR THAT OF THE KING OF HEAVEN? IF IT IS THAT OF THE CHRIST OF GOD, THEN, ABOVE ALL ELSE, AND BEFORE ALL ELSE, WE MUST HEAR HIM AND FOLLOW WHERE HE LEADS.

HIS KINGDOM IS NOT FROM THIS WORLD; THE KINGSHIP OF THE CHRIST DESCENDS DIRECTLY FROM THE THRONE OF GOD. HIS KINGDOM IS DEFINITY IN THIS WORLD; AND THE GRACE AND LOVE OF THE RULE OF GOD’S KINGDOM STANDS IN JUDGMENT OF ALL THAT IS NOT OF GOD AND FOR GOD. WHEN WE PRAY, AS WE WILL TODAY, AND AS WE SHOULD PRAY EVERYDAY, “THY KINGDOM COME,” WE ARE PRAYING THAT THE FULNESS OF GOD’S KINGDOM MIGHT COME SOON; AND WE ARE ALSO PRAYING THAT HIS KINGDOM MIGHT RULE IN OUR HEARTS AND LIVES THIS DAY AND FOREVER.

AMEN.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>