By Barbara Klugh
2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.
Christ the King: This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, known as Christ the King Sunday. Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925 as a protest against the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. It was, and is, a reminder to all Christians that we live under the gracious rule of Jesus Christ regardless of who is ruling on earth.
The rule of Christ isn’t established by political or military power, but through the power of self-giving love. Although sometimes we do not see very many signs of that rule, we can continue to follow Jesus and, with the help of God and our community of faith, we can resist the false claims and empty promises of worldly power.
2 Samuel 23:1-7: This week’s reading is an oracle, meaning a prophetic word from God, called “The last words of David,” who is remembered as the greatest king of Israel. These final words are full of hope; they center on what makes an ideal king and on the everlasting covenant.
David identifies himself as “son of Jesse” and anointed by God. He proclaims, “The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his work is upon my tongue.” He declares that one who rules justly in the fear of God is like the light of the morning. The godless will be like useless thorns “thrown away” and “consumed in fire.”
In the Davidic Covenant, God promised David that his dynasty would last forever. After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, prophets understood God’s promise to mean that God would raise up a descendant of David who would usher in an everlasting kingdom. This is known as the “Messianic Expectation.” As Christians, we see Jesus, David’s greatest descendant, as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Psalm 132: This royal psalm was probably sung during the annual ritual of the enthronement of the Lord when the ark was carried into the temple. It celebrates David’s efforts to secure a permanent place for the Ark of the Covenant symbolizing the Lord’s presence, and God’s promise that a descendant of David will always sit on David’s throne, provided he faithfully keeps the covenant with God.
Revelation 1:4b-8: In the Book of Revelation, John announces that he has received a revelation from Jesus Christ revealing God’s ultimate purposes for creation. It opens as a letter as a letter to seven churches in Asia.
In this week’s reading, John sends greetings to the church from the eternal Father, from the seven spirits, which may be the seven archangels who are closest to God, and from Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
We give praise because Christ loves us, freed us from our sins, and by his blood and made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve God the Father.
John then announces the second coming of Jesus: “Look! He is coming in the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.” Then Jesus or God (scholars disagree) proclaims, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
John 18:33-37: Our reading this week explains what kind of a king Jesus is through his dramatic exchange with Pontius Pilate. Jesus is on trial before Pilate who asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus asks Pilate if this is his own question or had others said this about him. Pilate replies that he is not a Jew—the Jewish religious authorities handed him over and Pilate wants to know what Jesus has done. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not from this world.” If it was from this world, his followers would have put up a fight. Again Pilate asks, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
In the Bible, “truth” is not simply a statement of the facts, but has a richer meaning in the sense of reliability and faithfulness. The kingdom of God is created by a community of believers who hear and obey his voice. That’s the truth Jesus offers to the whole world. As Jesus said in chapter 14, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”