St Cuthbert, Philbeach Gardens

28th November 2008

Christ the King

The five-year-old Christopher Robin, told his father, A.A. Milne, what he would like to do if he were a king. He said:

I often wish I were a King
And then I could do anything
If only I were King of Spain
I’d take my hat off in the rain
If only I were King of France
I wouldn’t brush my hair for aunts.
I think if I were King of Greece
I’d push things off the mantelpiece.

… and so on.

To him, Kingship meant "being allowed to do anything I want, when I want."

But if you asked a real King or Queen if their life consisted of doing as they please all the time, they would tell you that kingly life isn’t like that at all. Real kings and queens, find they have to do, and say, and think, what is expected of them.

The Kingship of Christ is more real than any earthly monarch. To understand it, we must adopt a more grown-up attitude than Christopher Robin’s, and look for that information is the New Testament.

For instance, the Wise Men asked Herod the King ‘where is the King of the Jews?’ Now Herod himself was the King of the Jews, and he made it clear, often by exterminating his rivals, that he alone was King. He not only beheaded his wife for plotting against him, but killed all the innocent children in and around Bethlehem to rid himself of this rival, so-called, King.

In a Kingdom there’s only room for one earthly king. Anyone else claiming that title is called a Pretender. So, where Christ is acknowledged to be King we would expect to find that there are Pretenders whose claim to supremacy He is challenging; but also that His Kingdom, wherever it is acknowledged on earth will, far from threatening it, make that earthly kingdom much more secure. So those kings who ‘lay down their crowns at His feet’ need fear nothing from the King of Kings – quite the contrary!

Born King of the Jews. Some earthly kings become so by conquest or manipulation: Herod was one such. He wasn’t really a Jew at all, but like many other Kings in history, by double-dealing, ruthlessness and bribery he’d managed to ‘wade through slaughter to the throne’.

Christ’s kingship, by contrast, doesn’t derive from what He has done (important though that is) but on who He is. The Wise Men recognized that, infant or not, their first duty was to ‘fall down and worship Him before ever they got onto the business of giving Him their gifts..

Next, St John’s gospel tells us that when Jesus, realising that the 5,000 He’d fed were about to seize Him and make Him king went and hid himself until the hysteria had died down. Those people desperately craved a warrior-King who would kick the Romans out. Who better than Jesus? Charismatic, powerful, devout, miracle worker – what better candidate to fill the post of revolutionary leader?

Jesus thought otherwise. At the risk of disappointing them He refused to be the sort of king they wanted Him to be. "My kingdom is not of this world" He said to Pontius Pilate just a few months later having been arrested and tried by the very people who had earlier wanted to make Him their king.

During those days leading up to His death, Jesus revealed much about His Kingship. On Palm Sunday He entered Jerusalem meek and sitting upon a donkey. The time had now come to reveal Himself as their king, but He was to be the sort of king that His Heavenly Father wanted – the servant of His people and a king of peace, rather than the conquering hero the Jews were expecting and hoping for.

Ironically, Jesus was put to death for claiming to be a king. The head-board written by Pilate – to the annoyance of the Jews – read ‘This is the King of the Jews’. ‘You mustn’t say that’, screamed the Chief Priest; write ‘This man said "I am the king of the Jews"’. ‘What I have written I have written’, was Pilate’s tart reply.

Christians see the Cross as the Throne from which God reigns over mankind. But by His resurrection He proved that the last word lies with God and not Man: God is more powerful than death. Death has been transformed by His resurrection into the gate of life immortal. Good Friday seemed the end of the story – but it wasn’t. In the ‘determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’ the death of the Prince of Life enabled mankind, by sharing in that death through Baptism, to overcome death and receive eternal life.

Doesn’t it look, as one might say, extremely suspicious? Existing from all eternity The Son of God, has participated in a plan to save that creation, by transforming it into something different – the Kingdom of God. As the Book of Revelation tells us that ‘the Kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever and ever… and of His Kingdom there shall be no end."

Meanwhile you and I live in a society which refuses to recognize Jesus as its King; and we ourselves, if we were honest, would admit that we only half-heartedly want that sort of King ruling over our lives.

It’s rather nice to believe we have a King ‘somewhere out there’, who lets us do whatever we want. What we certainly don’t want is the God who enters our lives and interferes (as we see it) with our childish ambitions, desires freedoms and pleasures. In church we like to feel the comfort of His existence; but in everyday life, like Christopher Robin, we want to be the undisputed king and priest of our own life!.

But grown-up maturity consists, not in doing the things we want, but in those which God has prepared for us to do. If we submit to Him, we shall find that, so far from enslaving, He is gradually making us more and more free. By submitting our lives to the Kingship of Christ we discover eternal life – and it’s only in His service that we shall ever find perfect freedom.

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