Today we celebrate Christ the King. For those who do not know Jesus, what could be the first impression of using the words Christ and King together? Some may think of power, oppression or dominance. For others, glory, majesty and awe.
Personally, I think it is an odd word to describe Jesus. And it seems that Pilate is having the same difficulty calling Christ a King. Who can blame him? Pilate has everything – status, money and power. So imagine Pilate’s first impression of this poor and beaten man standing before him.
This much does not have a home, how can he be a King, where is his Kingdom? Yet what does Pilate really know of this Jesus? That he challenges judgmental religious authorities, preaches strange things like acceptance, love and this Kingdom that involves God. But Jesus a King? What kind of King would walk with the poor? Or touch the sick? What King would eat with outcasts? Not any King we know of.
But Pilate only has heard one side of the story. What he knows is what others have told him. I doubt if Pilate heard of how comforted those in pain, how Jesus smiled at the outcasts, the way he took little children into his arms and blessed them. Pilate did not see how Jesus looked into your eyes and said – I love you just the way you are.
No, people took Jesus and used him for their own advantage. Used his words against him, distorted his message. They took this beautiful man and battered his body to the point of disfigurement. The Jesus that is presented to Pilate, made him unrecognizable to the people who follow him.
When Pilate looks down and asks ‘Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus’ answer is telling, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ In reading this encounter, I not only thought of the Pilate and the Pharisees, I thought of how Christians have presented Jesus to the world? What do we tell others about him?
Is Jesus a King or a Servant? Judgmental or asking that we not judge? Does Jesus accept or condemn? Include or exclude? What interpretation of Jesus has been presented to the world? Sadly, there are instances where Jesus has been used for power and oppression.
We believe that the Church is the body of Christ and it is painful to acknowledge that many have taken that beautiful body, the church, and disfigured it with the beatings of exclusion and condemnation. To the point that the word – Evangelism, taking the message of Christ to world, now has a negative connotation for many.
Whose is this Jesus presented to the world when we have supposed Christians picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers as a way to condemn homosexuality, or Christians allowing injustice to occur in the name of religion, clergy excluding others from Christ table as if one can claim sole ownership of Christ’s body. Not any Jesus I recognize.
What Jesus is presented to nonbelievers when there are those who spread the Good News by laying out a list of unattainable expectations and then stating that if those expectations are not met, or worse met and broken, you may suffer eternal fire and damnation. Now it may be me, but who would want to join that club.
God is always reaching out to us, reaching out to us in love. And we have allowed Christianity to be portrayed as a pointed finger rather than as an outstretched hand.
This is important because by pointing a finger you are requiring the other person to do all the work, to change their behavior, to fit into your expectations.
With an outstretched hand you are required to participate, to help the other, to use your strength and to rely on the strength of others. God is always reaching out to us. And the greatest act in the history of this fragile plant is when the divine reached out to the world. It was reach out to each one of us in the divine plan. To bring hope and not despair, light and not darkness, love and not hate. That is Christ.
Pilate did not recognize Christ, and today many would not recognize Jesus. You know those insignificant instances when we saw him hungry and we fed him, when he was a stranger and we welcomed him, we he was hungry, sick and poor and we reached out and responded, when we reached out and loved.
We are blessed by the amazing power of God to transform, to overcome the darkness. And for every negative portrayal of Christ to the world, there have been millions of beautiful pictures.
Like the head of British television, Malcolm Muggeridge. An affirmed agnostic, until one day, while in India, he watched as Mother Teresa pushed a wheelbarrow carrying a dying man infested with maggots to a Hindu temple.
Mother Teresa wanted this man to die with dignity. Surrounded by love and in his own faith tradition. She told Muggeridge that the poor were really Christ presented in a distressing disguise and that we must “do something beautiful for God.” Muggeridge converted to Christianity.
Or of the Anglican nun in Africa, cleaning those dying from the Ebola virus. The television interviewer stating “I would not do that for a million dollars.” The nun responding “neither would I.”
Millions of instances where Jesus is presented as the individual who becomes a voice for the voiceless, the person who cared for the sick, the one who included those on the margins, the person who fed the poor. The politician who fought against injustice Christ presented to the world as we know him..
Now the question becomes – how do we present Christ to the world. You know those little things like love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, fighting for justice.
St. Francis said to preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. Christ presented in our homes, in how we treat our families, wives, husbands, partners, children. It can be something as simple as a smile. It can be over pie in the Parish hall.
You are presenting Christ to the world in song, or when we bring up cans of food at the offertory. By teaching the loving and accepting message of Jesus to our children. You are presenting Christ with just a bit of forgiveness, patience and kindness. It is there that Jesus becomes recognizable in each one of us.
King, Savior, Messiah, Jesus. Many words used to present Christ. When I think of that beautiful message that he preached, the love he represents, there is not a word that can describe him. It just makes me what to follow him.
And when I follow him, I have hope. It is that hope of Christ that I want to present to the World. As we begin Advent, remember that in the cold fields of Bethlehem, God presented Jesus with these words:
An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and singing Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all people on earth.
Let’s present that hope, that love, that Christ to the world.