King. Who is King? There was Elvis. There was Michael – both Jackson and Jordan, depending on your tastes. Who is king today? Some might say Lebron James, the basketball star, is king. They call him King James. This past year, Justin Bieber, the 18-year-old music sensation, got a crown tattooed on his chest. Don’t ask me why I know that. But it does beg the question, is Justin Bieber king? The American Music Awards thinks so. Who is king?
Friends, today is Christ the King Sunday. And it is the last Sunday of the Christian calendar. This is it. This is New Year’s Eve. And like New Year’s Eve, we are called to celebrate. We are to throw a party for Christ as being our King. Which means the point of the Christian year, is that when we come to the end of it, when it reaches its culmination, we might be able to name and claim Christ as our king. So this is that day. Christ the King Sunday.
Does that sound ridiculous? It does to me sometimes. Does king and royal language even apply anymore? What does it even mean to be king? Based on culture, being king seems to mean being the one with the most fame and the one we can’t stop talking about. I don’t know about you but I almost never hear people talking about Jesus. Christ is king? Really?
Perhaps we are so far removed from castles and crusades, kings and cloaks that we have forgotten what it means for someone to be king. Today isn’t about rock and roll, or pop music, or basketball, or dreamy teen heartthrobs. It’s about power. It’s about who your ruler is. It’s about authority. And it’s about who has it for you and your life. So maybe this Sunday just needs to be renamed. How about Christ our President Sunday? Christ our Commander in Chief Sunday. This is Jesus is my boss Sunday. Jesus is my coach. That’s what it means to say Jesus is my king. It means Jesus is my president. Jesus is my boss. He is the one with full authority in my life. He is my ruler.
Which makes today a political event. A political rally. Sorry, if you are one who likes your politics and your religion on separate plates. Contrary to popular opinion, they go together like turkey and stuffing. Because Jesus was political. And for us to call Jesus king is a political statement. It is to say that Jesus has number one authority in my life. No one else. Just Jesus. Which means anyone who has power and authority should be nervous. Especially today. The United States government should be investigating churches for treason because we do not pledge allegiance to a flag, we pledge allegiance to Jesus.
Christ the king. It is a political statement today and it was a political statement back when Jesus was alive. Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you king of the Jews?” This is a political and problematic question because if it is true. If Jesus is king of the Jews, then he too is guilty of treason. And subject to death, for the emperor of Rome is the only one allowed to be king.
I know it doesn’t seem like it but if we really take seriously calling Jesus as our king, it should feel dangerous for us to be here. So it’s dangerous for us to be here, folks. To be here and to call Jesus king. In the 20th century, not long ago, during the times of racial segregation in South Africa, when the people with white skin ruled over those with dark skin, whole congregations were arrested, because they didn’t follow those rules. They claimed Christ as their king and not the government or the laws of segregation. And they were arrested. All 240 members, from babies to 90 year olds, we put in jail because they claimed Christ as their king. And Christ would not stand for segregation. It is dangerous to call Jesus king.
Which means this risky stuff we are doing here. It’s risky what we’re doing with Carter today. Carter is baptized and entrusted into a life and community in which Christ is king. Where Christ gets the final say. And that puts all other people with power and authority at risk. People like Pilate and the Roman emperor. Because there is a big difference between the Pilates and the Emperors, the Presidents and the bosses of the world…and Jesus.
The Pilates of the world use their power and authority for selfish reasons with no concern for the community. Meanwhile Jesus gets on his hands and knees and washes his disciples feet. He spends every last ounce caring for those whom he leads. He gives his life to bring life. The Pilates of the world bring terror, even when things are calm. Jesus brings peace, even in the midst of terror. The Pilates use violence to conquer and divide the world. Jesus tells his disciples to put away their swords. You can see why the Pilates of the world don’t like the Jesus’ of the world.
Now I don’t want to completely demonize Pilate, because I know what it is like to be Pilate. Notice what word shows up at the very beginning of our text. It’s in that first line. Then Pilate entered the headquarters again. Again. You see, Pilate has been going back and forth between talking with the crowd outside who want Jesus killed and talking with Jesus in his headquarters. And he doesn’t do this just once or twice. Seven times, he goes back and forth, back and forth, between those who want Jesus dead and Jesus himself. He’s wavering. Unsure of what to do, back and forth he goes. Does he cave into political pressure to please the crowd and kill Jesus? Or does he set Jesus free. He knows which is answer is right. He also knows which decision is easy.
I know what that is like. To waver. To be confronted by Jesus. To be invited to make Jesus my king and to feel split between the right decision and the easy one.
Anytime I am asked to love or care for someone who I don’t particularly want to love or care for, I know it is Jesus showing up in my life. I know what I am called to do. But I waver. I hesitate. I hesitate to roll down my window and to give a buck to the guy on the street. I hesitate to call when someone is hurting and I’m scared to face it myself. And sometimes, more often than I like, I hesitate too long. And the opportunity to be Christ-like, the opportunity to claim Christ as my king vanishes.
I think most people know what that’s like. To waver between what’s right and what’s easy. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to visit a young man in prison. He has been tangled up and tortured by drugs and destructive behavior. It wasn’t his first time in prison. He has been wavering too. He asks, Do I change my life now, when I get out in a couple days? Or do I change later? He knows. He knows which one Christ is calling him to. Especially for the sake of his daughter he hasn’t met yet. But he also knows which would be easiest. He got out on Tuesday. I don’t know what he decided.
Christ the King. It’s a political statement. It’s dangerous too. To claim Christ as your king is to give Jesus authority over your life and no one else. And the struggle is King Jesus looks nothing like the kings we’ve come to know. He comes not as a boss but as a servant. He comes in power but in love. He comes not enhance his own life but to give it away.
Jesus doesn’t waver. Jesus has already made his choice. Jesus has decided to love this world and the people in it. People like Carter. People like you. So the love of Jesus is yours. You have it.
The question becomes whether that love has any impact on our life or not. Does it matter? Will it impact us in anyway? Will we let it be a light in our life guiding us? Will Jesus be our king?