November 22, 2015 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Daniel 7, 13-14 + Psalm 93 + Revelation 1, 5-8 + John 18, 33-37
There is something very political about this feast. The very establishment of this feast in history was a political statement. Yet there are some who rant and rave at courageous preachers saying that they are talking “politics” rather than “religion” from their pulpits, and that accusation always makes me wonder what those people are thinking on this feast that summarizes all we have heard from the Gospels for the last year. Calling Jesus a King is a political statement. Pilate certainly knew that, and if Jesus is a King, this is problematic not just for Pilate, but for us as well.
The culture in which live has trivialized the truth about this King who threatens Pilate so seriously. Now we have Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson, depending on your tastes. Some think Lebron James is the King of Basketball, and the American Music Awards think Justin Bieber is “King”. With this kind of silliness it is a bit difficult to see what Pilate’s problem was, and how it might be a problem for us as well, but it still is for those who take seriously the Gospel and the Resurrection. If you believe that Christ has risen from the dead, then there is a king your life, and this has real life political and social implications.
Attempts to dismiss this reality by misunderstanding or misinterpreting a response Jesus makes to Pilate is what trivializes the Kingship of Christ to begin with. If the Kingship of Christ is not of this world right now, there is no point in us being in here because it is by establishing his Kingdom here and now that we have that eternal kingdom. It has to start somewhere, and he came to start it here among us and with us. He never told us to wait. He taught how to live and what to do in order to become citizens of that Kingdom right now.
We are so removed from castles and crusades, kings and crowns however that we seem to have forgotten what it means for someone to be king. It is not about rock and roll, pop music, or basketball. It is about power and who rules your life. It is about authority. Maybe we should change the name of this feast and call it: President Sunday, or Commander in Chief Sunday, or Boss Sunday? Maybe Jesus my Coach Sunday because that is what it means – it is about who has authority and power in my life, and that is what makes this a political issues. Those who think that politics and religion don’t mix fail to get the point of John 18. Politics and Religion go together like turkey and dressing.
In the 20th century, not long ago, during the times of racial segregation in South Africa, when the people with white skin ruled over those with dark skin, whole congregations were arrested, because they didn’t follow those rules. They claimed Christ as their king and not the government or the laws of segregation. And they were arrested. All 240 members, from a church, babies to 90 year olds, were put in jail because they claimed Christ as their king, and insisted that Christ would not stand for segregation. It is dangerous to call Jesus king.
The Pilates of the world use their power and authority for selfish reasons with no concern for the community. Meanwhile Jesus gets on his hands and knees and washes his disciple’s feet. He sheds every last ounce of his blood caring for those whom he leads. He gives his life to bring life. The Pilates of the world bring terror, even when things are calm. Jesus brings peace, even in the midst of terror. The Pilates use violence to conquer and divide the world. Jesus tells his disciples to put away their swords. You can see why the Pilates of the world don’t like the Jesus’ of the world.
To claim Christ as your king is to give Jesus authority over your life and no one else. And the struggle is that King Jesus looks nothing like the kings we’ve come to know. He comes not as a boss but as a servant. He comes in power but in love. He comes not enhance his own life but to give it away. Jesus doesn’t waver like Pilate going back and forth from the crowd to Jesus trying to decide whether to cave in to popular ways or do what is right. Jesus has already made his choice. Jesus has decided to love this world and all the people in it. People like us. So the love of Jesus is yours. You have it. The question becomes whether that love has any impact on our life or not. Does it matter? Will we let Jesus be the light in our life guiding us? Will Jesus be our king? I think we are trying to say “yes”; but it can’t just be in here one Sunday of the year.