Witness to the Truth

Christ The King
Cycle B
John 18:33-37
Tony van Vuuren

The Church’s liturgical year comes to an end this week, starting this weekend with a great feast in which we rejoice in calling Christ our King. We owe Him an allegiance we would not give to any other power on earth. Today’s feast unites all Christian believers, no matter our national or political allegiance. All human deities and powers, even the very best, will fade. But our primary citizenship is as members of the world (dominion) over which Christ rules. With Him as our King and model we are citizens of His reign trying to live as He did; not by exerting power and influence over others, but as servants, whose King gave His life in service for us all. Our lives are meant to bear witness to His Kingdom.

In today’s gospel we are listening in on a private conversation between Pilate and Jesus in the praetorium. We hear, for the first time, the charge that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Pilate doesn’t know this of his own accord, but has been told by the Jewish authorities. His only understanding of kingship is a political one. He must wonder; is Jesus really the King of the territory occupied and ruled over by the Romans? Is Jesus a threat, someone who will gather an army and revolt against the Romans? Of course Jesus wouldn’t be the first to try that.

Suddenly Jesus starts interrogating Pilate; inquiring whether Pilate thinks that He is a threat to Roman rule, or have others been telling him that? So who’s on trial here now? Obviously Jesus is in control and is actively choosing the path ahead of Him. This King is subject to no political force, as He has said earlier in John’s Gospel, “… I lay down my life….No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (10:18).

Pilate asks Jesus directly, “So you are a King? Jesus seems to accept the title, but not in the worldly way Pilate is suggesting.  Instead Jesus distances himself from what Pilate is asking by responding, “My kingdom is not of this world.” When Jesus explains His rule He distinguishes it from the type of rule whose origins, values and methods Pilate knows well. Jesus says He will not use force to defend Himself.                                                                                                           The kingdom to which Jesus refers is not a location somewhere; it is neither of this world nor some place in the clouds. Jesus’ kingdom is His way of being; totally and completely within and for God.                                                                                                                                                                     It is not Pilate’s world of oppression and fear, but a place where humans are respected and treated with dignity. The world of Pontius Pilate, and rulers like him, is ruled over by force of arms; whereas citizens of Jesus’ kingdom are members because they “belong to the truth” and listen to His voice. Jesus is redefining the very notion of what “king” and “kingdom” mean. This “King” is not ruler of any piece of territory, but His domain is the truth. The truth we witnesses have discovered and accepted through John’s Gospel.

Throughout John’s gospel Jesus draws members to His kingdom and to Himself through the truth of His words and the love He engenders in those who hear and receive His message. He has come from the Father to share love with us and He has made it clear that we experience this love when we love one another.                                                                                                                                                      The kingdom that Pilate represents and rules over and the one in which Christ is our King, represent two very different ways of experiencing and living in a world. Which rule shall we choose and live in? Will we live a compromise and choose the one where the strong triumph and the less powerful are exploited; where competition creates winners and losers; where society is fragmented and divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots”; where the privileged are secure and those who lack are always vulnerable?                                                                                                                                         Or, shall we recommit today to the world where Jesus reigns and has sway over our hearts? Will we continue to accept His life of self-giving love as our way of life as well?                                                            Jesus says to Pilate:  “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  We need to listen to the voice in our hearts that guides us in our relationship with Christ the King.  We need always to seek the truth so that we may become truth ourselves.  We pray that we be guided to treat others as Jesus did, and may we give Christ the King glory and praise by how we live our lives.

The kings of our time, and all those who rule or guide nations, organizations, churches, communities, and even families, should take heed to act likewise.  The glory, dominion, and kingship of Christ the King accompanies His caring for, and right treatment of others.  The image of a king or royalty is one of privilege… the privilege to care for others, not just to be cared for oneself. We all have “privilege” of some kind; a job or a home or a family or friends or even education or financial wealth.  Our faith is a privilege.   In truth, we are all brothers and sisters of the King of Kings, making us royalty as well.  How do we share that privilege with others?  The task of all Christians, as we approach the New Year and new beginning, is to help the Kingdom of God to find a place in the hearts of all of mankind. It is a sacred duty, an honourable task, a privileged undertaking.                                                                                                                                                           Christ’s kingdom will finally triumph when he comes again. And so on this great Feast day, let our hearts be filled with hope and optimism. This is best summed up in the words spoken by our priest (Fr Harry) as we greet the flame of the new Easter candle on Holy Saturday Night:

Christ yesterday and today,                                                                                                                        the beginning and the End,                                                                                                                                     Alpha and Omega.                                                                                                                                                           All time belongs to Him and to all ages.                                                                                                                             To Him be glory and power                                                                                                                                           through every age forever. Amen.

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