Rev. Leon Cadsap,
High Prairie St. Mark’s Anglican Church
Churches in the Liturgical tradition celebrated the Feast of Christ the King on Nov. 23. It is a celebration that highlights the goal of the church seasons throughout the year: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and of all the Sundays and feast days.
They all pointed in relation to the truth that Christ is Judge of the living and the dead, the Lord of Lords and King of the Universe. This feast, however, was instituted to counter growing authoritarianism and emerging secularism in the 1920s by Pope Pious XI through his encyclical Quas Primas.
The last thing Jesus looked like as He was hung dying on a cross is not a picture of a king. He was nailed to a cross, not seated on a throne. He was bathed in His own blood, not clothed with fancy and expensive royal garb. He was wearing a crown of thorns, not with precious diamonds and gold.
Pilate, to ridicule Jesus, had written and placed above the cross an inscription that read, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” [INRI – Iesus Nazarenus Rex Eudaeorum]
Instead of showing sympathy, the crowd and one of the thieves crucified with Him even mocked and humiliated Him by saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” [Luke 23:37]
It was a shallow and misguided understanding of Jesus’ power and kingship. Despite the crowd’s indifference, Jesus’ kingship was not lost on everyone. Because the other thief who was crucified with Jesus had the faculty to see and feel how special the One being crucified beside him was.
This other thief – others call him the repentant thief – could feel in his own body the incredible pain Jesus was experiencing a few feet away, and yet he could see that pain had not gained the upper hand. He realized that for Jesus, to reign is to serve, to reign is to love, and that love was triumphing beside him.
This other thief was transformed by what he saw and his life was changed forever. He knew that Jesus, mysteriously through suffering and death, was about to enter into His kingdom. He turned to Jesus and pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” [Luke 23:42]
Such was a powerful witness and a testament to the kingship of Jesus. And Christ the King responded and promised that He would do more then remember Him says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” [Luke 23:43]
St. Paul, writing to the Philippian Christians on Christ Jesus, “who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness … He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross,” [Philippians 2:6-8]
Christ’s whole kingship and regality is caught up in this service. As He Himself said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many.” [Matthew 20:28]
Out of His shepherdly love that Jesus offers us this very clear-cut message, so that like His good sheep, we may “hear His voice and follow Him,” [John 10:27]
And this is a fitting reminder for Christmas all over in this season of Advent as we all prepare in the celebration of the birth of the Servant King.