Wait a moment and pause a while brethren! Why are we here celebrating the Kingship of the man Jesus who rejected the name a king and even opposed the kings of the earth while on earth? Remember! God the father discouraged his people Israel from having a king when they requested to have one? Jesus Christ on a number of different times in the scriptures rejected this idea of kingship such that he went and hid when after feeding the crowd; they wanted to make him a king.
More so many are very much uncomfortable with the idea of Christ as a king because of their immediate experience of kings and rulers who are in themselves highly oppressive. The titles of “Lord” and “King” for Christ are unsettling for some folks because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive and irrelevant systems of government. The same man who opposed the name king and avoided vehemently such accolade is whom we are here today acclaiming a king! Remember again that it is aru (taboo) in Igbo land to give a dead man what he rejected while alive. Dear brothers and sisters, what then are we celebrating today?
Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in response to the growing trend of nationalism and secularism. In 1970 its observance was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary time and adopted by Anglicans, Lutherans, and many other Protestants. In initiating this feast, the Church wanted to take our worship of Jesus from the privacy of our hearts and to proudly proclaim his public reign as well.
The title of the feast was “Iesu Christi Universum Regis” (Our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of the universe). When Pope Pius XI established this feast in 1925 he wrote: “because the people of the day — of that time – had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives, there will be no hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations until individuals and states submit to the way of our saviour”.
Pius XI was writing these words and proclaiming them at a time when the world had just come out of one of the worst wars in all of human history, World War I. Literally millions of soldiers had slaughtered each other on the battlefields of Europe.
There was no peace after that war, really, because the winners of the war had imposed a cruel kind of punishment on the German nation, making it almost impossible for that nation to survive. Out of anger, resentment and the hatred that was left as a result of that war, the whole ideology of Nazism grew in Germany and led to another war, a war worse than the first.
The origin of kingship goes back to some 5,000 years ago, among the ancient Sumer, to the marshes of southern Iraq where the Tigris and Euphrates converge before they flow into the Persian Gulf, or back to ancient Egypt and the banks of the Nile, and if one looks at the ancient artefacts that picture kings what one often sees at or under their feet is a crouching, humbled man (or many).
It was practised around other countries until 1043 B.C., when at the request of the people, Saul was anointed as the king of God’s people, Israel. It was threats from outside, it was enemies, it was the need of cities or peoples for self-defence that gave rise to kings, and kings were for putting enemies under our feet. Kings were for war. Kings were for victory over evil. Christ stands for us the king who wins the battle of our salvation.
Brethren am deeply afraid of a question I asked myself early this morning. If the above is a description of Jesus as a king; what is his kingdom like? This phrase “the kingdom of God” appears over 80 times in the Gospels; yet these questions do not have simple answers. What is it? We do know that it is something to strive for. It is more difficult to enter it if you are rich but easier if you are childlike.
This good news was proclaimed by Jesus and his disciples. It belonged to the poor, the humble, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. It has a humble beginning and grows like seed and yeast. It is not here or there but rather it is among us. I think it is simply this: If the fullness of the Kingdom at the end of time is when we live in that perfect world where God had intended us to live, where social hierarchies do not exist, where there is no class or ethnic discrimination, where there exists an unquestioning trust in God and his providence, where all people operate with selfless love of others, where love conquers sin, where wholeness conquers sickness, where peace conquers suffering, where life conquers death, where hope conquers despair, where redemption conquers damnation, where fellowship conquers loneliness, then our glimpses are glimpses of these things here and now.
Quite unlike the worldly kings, Jesus is hardly a threatening figure. He is quite the opposite! Christ’s kingship is that of humility, service, and compassionate care. He is not a king who imposes; rather He invites. He is not a king who coerces; rather He is a king who leads. He is not a king who issues directives from afar; rather He speaks from within our hearts and souls. He is not an imperial king; rather he is a shepherd king. He is not a king filled with anger and wrath; rather He has a heart filled with compassion and mercy. What He asks of us He has done Himself. May his leadership mode be a light for worldly kings.
As we call to the consciousness of Jesus’ mode of kingship as a paradigm for world kings and rulers, we ought to stand conscious of other kings within us that go a long way towards weighing tyrannical powers upon us. These tyrant kings in us are: fear, guilt, hurt and resentment. They cause us to avoid others, to bury our care and concern for others, to have our own little pity-parties, along with a sense of self-entitlement leading to various forms of sensual gratification. Christ would be King of your soul but in order to let Him you must dethrone the false gods that seek to own you and manipulate you. But you must be the actor, you must take the initiative. Christ will not do it all for you, but He will do everything with you. He tells us that with men, dethroning these tyrants is impossible. But with God, all things are possible, even moving the mountains, both external and internal, that seek to crush us.
Many of us today will no doubt join the procession singing and jubilating without actually allowing Jesus Christ to rule over our lives or, knowing what the reason for the procession is all about. It would be an exercise in futility unless we understand what we celebrate and give Christ the chance to reign not only in our lives, families, businesses, and situations, but also in our entire world. Some students were protesting in a certain university shouting: “we no go gree o, we no go gree!”(that is, we will not agree)
A lecturer driving past decided to find out what was happening. He called one of the protesters and asked: “what are you not agreeing about?” The first response was, “I do not know o!” He asked the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th protester and got the same answer: “I do not know o!” What a pity and shame, they have joined the protesting crowd to protest for what they know nothing about. Today, let us not be like these ignorant fools staking their lives for nothing. Let us not just join the procession without making Christ the King of our lives, families, nation and our world at large. We must endeavour to know the meaning, and appreciate the importance of what we are celebrating today.
It was on July 7, 2009, during the funeral of Michael Jackson, the presiding pastor said: “Behold the king of pop ready to face the King of the world.” Today the solemnity of Christ the King, the entire world stands still and bows to the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev 17, 14), and the Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King and Sovereign Ruler of the Universe (Dan 7, 14). We await meeting with this king someday.
As we celebrate the end of the year today, may the king Jesus reign in our hearts, our families and places of work. Just as his reign is a symbol of victory, may this victory be won in all our adversities: in our sickness may he win for us health, in moments of marginalization may he win for us freedom, in our needs may he win for us divine favour e.t.c. Amen