JESUS, THE SERVANT KING
FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING – YEAR B
November 22, 2015
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Palm Springs, CA
Rev. Dcn. David Justin Lynch
II Chronicles 5:1-2;11-14 Psalm 150
Colossians 3:12-17 John 18:33b-37
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
When we think of kings, we think of sovereign rulers, someone in charge of a country who rules autocratically by decree. Living in a country where there is a king gives some people a high degree of security. We who live in a constitutional democracy have trouble with the concept of a king. Kings have a bad reputation among Americans: this country was born out of rejection of a monarchy, to escape an oppressive King of England. Hereditary rulers with absolute power are an anathema to us. We’re accustomed to elected officials who return to private life. In the rest of the world, monarchies have constitutionally limited powers in most of the countries where they still exist, with kings and queens having a largely ceremonial role. Despite the fact that many people don’t want to be bossed around by someone not of their choosing, the notion of kingship still has some appeal to some people. Some people want a king to rule them, and others want to be king. We see that is some parts of the Church as well as in secular life. Many people want someone firmly in charge of things, and others want to be in charge.
People look to kings for security, for personal safety. In the years following the death of Moses, the Israelites lived without a king. They had regional judges. A judge in those days was not like the judges we know, someone in a black robe hearing cases and dispensing justice in a courtroom. No, they were leaders said to be divinely inspired with direct knowledge of God. They had two roles. They were military leaders expected to deliver Israelites from oppression by foreign kings. They also settled disputes and enforced laws in accordance with the ToRAH. But whatever they did, they didn’t do a very good job. The very last verse of the Book of Judges reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”
The Israelites wanted a king, so they met with the prophet Samuel, who was the father of two of the judges. At first, Samuel tried to dissuade them from having a king. He told them a king would tax and enslave them, conscript them into war, and take their crops and livestock. The people refused to take what Samuel said seriously, and clamored for a king anyway. God came to Samuel in a dream and told Samuel to anoint Saul as King. But Saul was none too successful. God regretted having made Saul king. The next king was David. He united the northern and southern kingdoms, and reigned for about forty years. He was a wise ruler and successful military leader. He was, by far, the most successful of all the rulers of the Israelites.
All the messianic writings written after the time of David in the Hebrew Bible reflect a yearning for a king like him. His reign was considered the “good old days.” The people of Israel yearned for a re-establishment of the Davidic dynasty. The first part of Isaiah, called “proto-Isaiah”, speaks of a child with authority resting on his shoulders who will sit on the throne of David who will righteously judge the poor and rule with equity in an age of peace. Jesus was thought to be the one to fulfil that role, and that was recognized by the three wise men who specifically sought out Jesus as “King of the Jews.”
However, Jesus rejected any notion that He was a king in the Davidic sense. In all four gospels, the procurator Pilate is heard to ask Jesus, “Are you a king,” to which Jesus replied that His kingdom was not to be found in this world. Jesus never claimed to be an earthly king. Yes, Jesus was a king, but a different kind of king. He did not come to re-establish the Davidic dynasty, but to establish the Kingdom of God. Unlike oppressive, earthly kings, God’s kingdom was that of freedom and hope. Much of what Jesus taught described what the kingdom of God is like. Signs of the arrival of God’s kingdom included the release of prisoners, the restoration of sight to the blind, and freedom for all who were oppressed. In his parables and teaching, Jesus stated that God, not Caesar, was king of Israel. That is what got Jesus in trouble with both the Roman emperors, and the Jewish kings, that is, the Herodian dynasty, who ruled in concert with them.
Jesus Himself was the king of love. He came to heal. He came to show concern for those on the margins of society. He came to share his wisdom about better way for human society, one based on loving instead of retaliating against one’s enemies. Jesus was the kind of king who washed the feet of his followers instead of compelling them to wash His feet.
Jesus ruled by serving those whom he ruled. That works in the real life of today’s world as well. On August fifteen, two-thousand fifteen, Paul Goldenberg, died at age eighty-seven. He was famous for his T-V store. In every radio commercial, he called himself, “Paul, the King of Big Screen.” Paul made himself very wealthy selling Panasonic and Mitsubishi televisions with screens over forty inches. Paul was successful, because had some things in common with Jesus. Like Jesus, he was Jewish. Like the human Jesus, he was mortal. But even more like Jesus, he was a servant. What set him apart from other, similar businesses was his service to his customers. He promised and delivered televisions to customers in four hours. His suppliers considered him a genius in sales and marketing. He was the largest and most successful single-location television store.
Jesus the most successful person ever to get into the religion business: the world has now over a billion Christians. The secret of his success was to be a king of all of us in the same way Paul the King of Big Screen sold televisions, with outstanding service. Unlike earthly kings who ruled countries, Jesus came not to conquer and dictate to people, but to serve them. Jesus was in the service business. He never produced or sold any goods. If you look at all of what Jesus did, it was service. Healing people is serving them. So is feeding them and teaching them. But Jesus was more than a social servant. His saving work was more than what charities, governments, and other institutions do. He served us by loving us. He loved us enough to serve us by willingly going to the cross rather than stopping His earthly work to save His own skin. Because Jesus was God as well as human, could have served Himself instead of us by calling on the armies of angels to save His life. But no, He chose to serve humanity by Jesus putting death and evil to flight by way of His resurrection and ascension. That is more than any earthly king did, or will ever do.
Today being the Feast of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, I will close with a song. The words are a metrical setting of Psalm twenty-three by Henry Williams Baker, set to music by John B. Dykes.
”The King of Love, my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am His,
And he is mine for ever.”