As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, is the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Is kingship meaningless to us, as democrats and republicans? Nowadays, democracy, with all its complexities, is the preferred form of regulating society. Except in figurative phrases like "king of the road," words like royalty and kingship, with their absolute demand for respect and obedience, evoke an age that was marked by unjustified privilege and power. The notion of the "divine right of kings" protected radical inequality and allowed for the suppression of individual rights. So we regard kingship as an unsuitable image for our modern world. What then can we make of today's feast, celebrating Christ as our king?
Does he demand our service and submission? Would he suppress our right to self-expression and all other rights? Today's Gospel puts us on the right track to understand what kind of king he really is. Jesus told the Roman Governor that his kingship was like no other: "My kingdom is not of this world." His kingship is far removed from our usual notion of kings. Standing as a prisoner, robed and crowned with thorns as a mock king before this ruthless military governor, Jesus claims a spiritual authority that has nothing to do with external trappings or the power to compel by force. His authority is the authority of truth. He is king by the fact that he lives the truth and has the power to lead others to the truth — the truth that can save them to eternal life: "for this I was born and came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice" (John 18:37.)
Christ lived by the truth and he died for it. Through the centuries his followers have continued to commit their lives and even risk their all for loyalty to him. In him the Son of the Eternal God, the one who reveals the Father of all truth, millions have found the source and the inspiration for their own deepest truth, the truth which makes them free. His word, contained in the Scriptures, gives us the clearest kind of truth.
The truth of Christ is one of word and action, perfectly in harmony. Truth was vitally important to him, who hated all sham and pretense. Perhaps we tend to think of the truth in terms of the spoken word mostly. And we could be economical with it.. All those questions we posed, to see how to conceal the truth without actually lying. The old ironic remark "whatever you say, say nothing!" is still to be heard. But truth is something to be loved and lived, something to be acted upon, as St Paul says, "doing the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15.) It is by doing the truth in love that we honour his kingship. We spread his kingdom, his saving rule on earth. Doing the truth wherever we are, in business, in politics, at work or at home, should be our ideal, our guiding value, the hallmark of our lives.
To get deeper in touch with the truth demands our attention and maybe some change in our lifestyle. It needs periods of quiet, even spending some time with him in personal prayer. Truth cannot really mark our lives without the inspiration which comes from Christ its source. It has to flow from prayer to life, and back into prayer again. A new commitment to the truth can give us a new vision of life. And far from oppressing us, Christ the King of truth will be the one to set us free.
Paul speaks of Jesus Christ at the end of time handing over the kingdom to God the Father. Today's Preface repeats this, describing Christ's kingdom as one of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice. love and peace. This ideal is not to be merely a future hope but is to be worked for in the present. The kingdom is our hope, but somehow it is also in our midst, in the process of becoming. The gospel tells us how we are to promote the fuller coming of God's kingdom among us. It comes whenever justice is done for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed. To behave in this way is to imitate the Shepherd-King himself who is presented in our Gospels as one who rescues from situations of alienation, who feeds, gives rest, heals and makes strong. Among his final words was a promise to the thief being crucified at his side, that he would be enfolded by the eternal love of God, in paradise.
The way to serve Christ our King is to work for the coming of his kingdom. In working for the relief of the deprived, the oppressed and the outcast we are serving Christ in person, because he fully identifies himself with all those in need, right up to his final moment in this life. The disciple of Christ the King cannot afford the luxury of comfortably "keeping myself to myself" or "Well anyway, I do nobody any harm." To be deaf to the cries of the neighbour in need is to be deaf to Christ. To be blind to the anguish of the dying is to be blind to Christ. To take Jesus Christ as our Shepherd-king involves becoming shepherds in some way ourselves; for the work goes on.