Since we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King this Sunday, I was curious to find out what artistic expressions of Jesus as King might one see. So I decided to Google these words: Christ the King famous pictures”. Many of the pictures that I found online had pictures of Jesus with a crown and also a sceptre. The pictures depict authority and also power. It is not unusual because there was a time in our human history when kings, queens, princes and princesses were seen as people with power, authority, and not to mention wealth too. And therefore when the title “king” is attributed to Jesus, He too was depicted in this manner.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Pilate poses his question to Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Contrary to what artists have depicted Jesus the Universal King to be, Jesus stands before Pilate neither with a crown on His head nor a sceptre in His hands. He stands before Pilate like a fugitive – humbled and humiliated, with a jeering crowd behind Him. Far from what a king in today’s world would receive.
The “king” that stands before Pilate in today’s Gospel certainly does not conform to our worldview – Jesus came not to claim His power and authority; He came to demonstrate a different kind of kingship, one that the world was not accustomed to. Standing humbled and humiliated, Jesus presents His four-fold view of the king that He came to be. The first two alluding to what it is not and the other two showing what He, the king stands for.
Firstly, the kingship that Jesus presents is not a political one. When Pilate asks Jesus the question, Jesus refuses to affirm Pilate’s view of kingship. Jesus rejects the association of power and authority with the kingship He came to demonstrate. Secondly, the kingship of Jesus was not going to be of this world. His closest companions even wanted Jesus to seize power but it was not what Jesus came to show. Thirdly, the kingship of Jesus geared towards witnessing the truth: “to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” Fourthly, Jesus came to exercise His kingship by making known the love of God.
In this sense, the “throne” from which Jesus demonstrates His kingship is not a marble throne but a wooden cross – lifted on the cross, Jesus draws us all to Himself, showing us more than words, how much He loves us. The universality of Jesus kingship is grounded in God’s love – that is why Jesus refused to answer Pilate since Pilate’s view of kingship was incompatible with Jesus’ view. Jesus does admit to be a king but the power, glory, and triumph of Jesus’ kingship is in His love for all of us.
Though the kingship of Jesus may not fit the mould of the royal families in the world but we experience His power and glory by His love, joy, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. This is the truth that Jesus came to reveal – God loves us. If we are celebrating and proclaiming Jesus Christ as our true and only King, the King has only one demand of His subjects… “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). In fact, love and service are going to be the marks of the true followers of Jesus and members of His eternal and glorious kingdom.
If we can be true to the call to love that expresses the kingship of Jesus, that kingdom never loses its power, this kingdom never crumbles to dust. The kingship of Jesus should not be kept hidden by us because “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35.)
If the kingdom of Jesus is to extend to all the world, the only “power” that is needed and can conquer is when we learn to love one another in the way Jesus loves us – love is God’s greatest power. When we love, the kingdom of God expands and Jesus’ kingship extends over all – believer and non-believer alike.
It is our duty to help Jesus, our King to build up His kingdom in this world. But we can only do this, we can only build up the kingdom that Christ came to the world to establish, when we put aside our differences and love one another. Let us take on the mission to extend the kingship of Jesus to everyone.
Solemnity of Christ the King (21 Nov 2021)