Luke 23:35-43
A Different Kind of King by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  As they approached to offer him wine they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."  Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us."  The other, however rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal."  Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

We have reached the final Sunday of the Church's liturgical year.  For the last several seeks, the church has invited us to ponder the four last things.  The world as we know it will come to a dramatic end.  Jesus Christ will come again in all His glory and majesty.  He will conduct the final judgment of the world.  Finally, Christ's kingship will be definitely established for all ages.  This Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the high point of creation when mankind and all that is, even death itself, will be subjected to Christ who, in the words of St. Paul, "delivers the kingdom to God the father after destroying every rule and every authority and power" (1 Cor 15:24).

The notion of kingship during Christ's public ministry is complicated.  On the one hand, Jesus did not seek the title "king" because he knew that its meaning would be radically misunderstood by His disciples.  In John's Gospel, after the miracle of the loaves and the fish, the crowds wanted to name Jesus king, but He cleverly slipped away from their midst and avoided this crowning.

On the other hand, Jesus did come to establish a kingdom.  The first words on His lips in Mark's Gospel are "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15).  Jesus speaks constantly of the Kingdom of God, as when He likens it to the fisher's net or the pearl of great price.  St. Paul, in this Sunday's second reading, highlights that God the Father "delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13).

It is clear that Jesus is not a king in the usual, earthly sense.  He did not come to establish political or military power.  He did not come to govern a country or raise an army.  There are no $5 bills with His image on them.  His kingdom is different: "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36).  Christ's reign is of a spiritual nature.

Christ the King did wage a war.  Instead of using arrows, chariots and armies, Jesus used a simple cross and the gift of His love, offering His life to the Father on our behalf.  Instead of parading around in a crown of gold, He donned a crown of thorns.  As King, He crushed earth's three biggest tyrants: sin, Satan and death.  Not that these forces of evil have vanished from the earth.  In fact, they are still very present in our world, causing all kinds of destruction, but their despotic power has been broken.  They do not have the final say for those who believe in the King of kings and Lord of lords.  When we offer our lives to Christ, we are set free from the bondage to these tyrants.

One of the most striking characteristics of Christ's tactics as king is the lack of force.  He commands no one to be a member of His kingdom.  Though He bought my freedom, He does not compel my obedience.  I am really and truly His subject only if I acknowledge Him as my Lord and Savior.  Only if I freely surrender my will to Him in an act of faith do I become a member of His kingdom.  In the end, Jesus is King of hearts.  He draws me to Him with the cords of love.

As we come to the conclusion of the Church's year and ponder the end of the world, it is good to remember that we are standing before a mystery.  It is not possible for us to fully comprehend Christ, His presence in this world and His role as king of heaven and earth.  Yet, those with faith know that great peace and comfort is given to those who surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus.  Lord, help me to believe in You, love You with every fiber of my being, and allow You to reign over my heart.

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