Christ - A King as no other

Al Cariño
Feast of Christ the King
Reproduced with Permission

The Feast of Christ the King allows us to reflect on two basic questions which have grave implications in our lives: Is Christ really king? If so, what kind of King is He?

We see in the gospel reading Jesus being interrogated by Pilate (Jn. 18:33-37). Through their verbal exchange, the evangelist John discloses to us what goes on when Jesus confronts political power, when Kingdom confronts kingdom.

Now, to the first question: Is Christ really king?

The scene opened with Jesus, the accused, appearing before Pilate, the symbol of the imperial power of Rome. Jesus was before Pilate because the leaders of the Jews, though they had already decided to put Him to death, needed authority from Rome's representative to carry out their judgment. Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" The phrase "King of the Jews" was a political term. Coming from Pilate, it sounded stupid since he had spies all over and if Jesus had any aspiration to be one, he would have certainly known about it. Moreover, he must have heard that when the people wanted to make Jesus king after the multiplication of the loaves, He escaped from them (Jn. 6:15).

With this blunder, Jesus seized the initiative by asking Pilate, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" This question would expose Pilate's real stance: either he was a tool of "others" (his patrons in Rome and the Jewish religious elite whose support he needed) or he genuinely desired to know who Jesus really was. Here we see that even at the trial where His life was at stake, Jesus still tried to win Pilate over. But Pilate's choice was revealed in his answer: "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me." Not willing to compromise his office, Pilate thus lost the chance to be won over to Jesus' Kingdom.

Pilate next asked Jesus an open question, "What have you done?," hoping that Jesus would reveal Himself as a political king and thus a threat to the Roman emperor. Jesus avoided the question and instead made clarifications about His "kingdom": "My kingdom does not belong to this world." This gave Pilate an opening to return to his original question, "Then you are a king?" To which Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth." Here Jesus reveals for us the origin, quality and meaning of His kingship: it is not "of this world" and it is related "to the truth." He is a king who exercises power over those who believe in His truth, that is, His revelation of God in His person, words and actions.

From this brief exchange, Pilate rightly inferred that Jesus had conceded that He was a "king." But Pilate missed the whole point because he did not understand the word "king" in the sense implied by Jesus. Pilate's contemptuous question "What is truth?" which Jesus ignored, revealed of what "spirit" he was.

We now come to the second question: What kind of King is Jesus?

From the dramatic presentation earlier, we see that Jesus is not a King as the world's kings are. Neither is membership in His Kingdom. Rather, it is a gratuitous gift from God (it can not be merited by anyone as the Pharisees taught) who out of love for humankind sent His Son Jesus to establish His Kingdom on earth and invite all peoples to be its members. In turn, they may accept or reject it in full freedom. When they do accept, one of their primary tasks is to work for the transformation of all of human reality according to the values of the Kingdom.

Finally, Jesus' kingship is in the hearts and minds of those who have accepted His gift of Himself. Its driving force is love. Thus, wherever a believer is, there Jesus is, too, influencing his every thought, word and action towards his and society's transformation. No power can be greater than this. And no kingdom has this kind of jurisdiction.

When we were baptized, Jesus as King and His reign over us were accepted in our behalf by our parents and godparents. We freely reaffirmed this when we grew older. But having been exposed to the current "values" of society, do we still live our baptismal commitment and make our lives as counter-signs to these "values"? Or do we allow other "kings" to reign over us - power, greed, envy, fame, lust, anger, revenge, etc. - which are all manifestations of our pride and egoism. If so, then we are no different from the people at Jesus' trial who shouted, "We have no king but Caesar!"

As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King today, how about doing a reality check as to which "spirit" has the greater influence in our day-to-day life: Christ's or the world's. One way of doing this is to determine whether what we think and say about Jesus and His message corresponds to what we do by ourselves or with others.