Monday, November 27, 2006

Scripture Reflection: Feast of Christ the King (November 26, 2006)

This isn't so much a reflection on the Scripture passages (Daniel 7:13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1:5-8, John 18:33-37) for the Feast of Christ the King this year as it is a reflection on the concept of Christ the King. I'm not going to delve into the history of the solemnity, although Wikipedia can help you out there. Rather, I'm going to focus on one of the temptations Christ underwent in the desert after his baptism and the fulfillment (by the Father) of the empty promise made to him by Satan.

Before I go on, I'd like to refer to On the Way to Jesus Christ (ISBN #1586171240), a collection of essays by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict XVI). One of the essays mentioned the temptations and their fulfillments, and that essay was one source of inspiration for this post.

The Scripture I'd like to focus on is Matthew 4:8-11 (Jesus is tempted with worldly power) and Matthew 28:16-20 (the Great Commission). Look them over and you will immediately see the connection. When Satan promises Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in return for Jesus's worship of Satan, Jesus rebukes him with the Scripture of Deuteronomy 6:13. Then, just prior to the Great Commission (to make disciples of the nations), Jesus announces that he has received authority in heaven and on earth (using the same language found in Daniel 7:13-14).

The juxtaposition of these two excerpts shows that Jesus indeed has authority over all of heaven and earth (including earthly kingdoms and nations) without the "help" of Satan -- in fact, specifically by rejecting Satan. Now, I don't believe that 2 Timothy 2:12 (we shall also reign with him) is speaking of us holding the authority which God alone holds, so I'm not saying that we can somehow attain power over heaven and earth through Christ, simply that Jesus as perfected man (and perfect God) has power over all creation because of his obedience to the Father in all things. So with this authority, Jesus is King of the universe (as the collect reads).

So what does this all mean? I've come up with three things to "take away" from this feast day:

Renounce your own kingship. What does this mean? You're not God. You don't control everything... you can't. A "king of the hill" mentality, where you must remain on the top at all costs, where there's nowhere to go but down, where the smallest failure means depression and disappointment on a massive scale, is clearly unhealthy but it seems to be what's thrust in our faces all day. Accept that there are things outside your control. Accept that there is always room for improvement. Accept appropriate criticism graciously. Admit you can be wrong... admit you are wrong, even. Accept forgiveness and forgive others.

Recognize Christ's kingship. We might be "helpless", but God is not. Our failings do not diminish Christ (Galatians 2:17). His perfection provides salvation for us, despite our shortcomings. Recognize that it is God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- who is in control. God knows you more intimately than anyone else knows you.

Be a subject of Christ and a citizen of his kingdom. This is the aim of Christian life. I suppose the Protestant terminology here is "accept Jesus as the Lord of your life", but I don't think that in doing so you "hand everything over" to Jesus in the sense that you rescind control and responsibility and ownership of everything. Rather, to be a new creation in Christ is to finally accept your humanity -- your being formed in the image of God -- and the responsibility of your abilities, talents, resources, and decisions. In truth, the faithful steward returns to God that which God has given him with interest, but God has placed that seed in the hands of the steward. As stewards charged by God, we are to take what we have been given and invest it in the world so as to make a return to God. Yes, the praise and glory is God's, but the endeavor is ours! God so loved the world that He works through humanity all the time. Not only did He humble Himself to share in our humanity in Jesus, but He is in constant partnership with us. God works through us when we choose to make His will our own. So be a subject of Christ: recognize him as the leader of your life. Be a citizen of his kingdom (Philippians 3:20): show God's love, forgiveness, and mercy.

1 comment:

Maeghan said...

Good post!

In one of our classes last month, we discussed about the temptation of Jesus. I posted it briefly here, but mostly on why Jesus had to be tempted.

You have approached from the other perspective and it is good - an excellent reminder - renounce, recognise and be subject to our King - how many times do we flaunt our own kingship in made-up palaces. And I got reminded of the naked king in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes - God help us when we can be that gullible.