To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom…to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
These words from the Revelation according to John are words which speak of a ruler, of one who has authority to free us, to forgive us, and these are words which tell us that glory and dominion are due to him, to Jesus Christ or Lord.
On this holy day, the day we recognize Christ as the King we are confronted by these words at the beginning of John’s Revelation, and they are words which speak of a cosmic Christ, the Christ enthroned, the Christ who is the alpha and the omega — the first and the last.
The book of Revelation is certainly dear to me, some may remember that last year I led a Lenten study of Revelation here last year, and I can now say without any hesitation that this, of all the books of the Bible is my favorite.
As some may know at the center of Revelation is a Christ who is reigning. A Christ who calls us to await a creation renewed, a creation fully realized.
Christ is there in glory, in opposition to Satan, to the powers of the world. Through it all Christ is at center as a most unlikely King, that of a lamb at times as a slain lamb. A king now but also a lamb. A lamb which was slain, Jesus, the sacrifice. The One who came to reign for many through his own self-giving, his own rending of flesh, an unlikely King to be sure.
The reason I love Revelation so is that this imagery so encapsulates what is at the heart of our faith, a lamb who laid down his life, a life given to be a ransom for many. And his reign, his Kingship was not acquired through the usual things— through conquest, or earthly power, or edict. No but it is the lamb as king, the perceived loser as king, the crucified as king. The unexpected King.
What then is a king? A king is often defined as being a ruler who inherits a kingdom and reigns over it.
To many of us here present Christ the King is a comforting image. An all sovereign God who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. A sovereign Kingly Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. We are held by this King, a King who rules with justice and with truth.
Our hearts are also ruled by him, and our minds, our wills are striving to be in his Kingdom, subject to his power and to his love forever throughout all time.
While Christ and King may be synonymous things for us, while Christ and King may be indistinguishable things for us, for some kingship is an inconvenient term, for some a king is a tarnished figure, a figure who rules with ferocity, or through fear, or alongside corruption.
For many, king is not synonymous with Christ. For many kingship is spoiled by wicked men and women throughout time who through their own ends made life for many chaotic, and altogether pained.
Why is this? People in different lands often fall victim to the whims and fancies of dictators, of all-powerful leaders, of kings and queens. For many a king is tyrannical. A king can come to exemplify the worst traits humankind is imbued with. A king can be self-serving, or oppressive, or abusive.
Again there are many who, when thinking of the figure of a sovereign see malevolence where some may see benevolence. They see uncertainty where others see assuredness.
How then, in light of an understanding that many in this world are victims of fear, injustice, and oppression due in part or fully to king or queen-like figures, how are we to look upon this holy day in our Church Calendar— the day of Christ the King, with this in mind?
We need not trouble ourselves with denying that many in this world go hungry due to wicked rulers, and that many were and are murdered in oppressive governments, or reigns, or theocracies.
So then, is it not surprising to come to understand that the equating of Jesus with a king is for some devout Christians on this earth just too much to grasp.
The evils which certain rulers can bring to humankind can so cloud ones estimation of what a king is. Experiencing tyrannical rule can bring a person to even lose sight of Christ who is a king, and who said his kingdom was not from this world.
The ills brought to one through corrupt regimes and careless leadership can bring one to disconnect Christ from Kingship. To equate Christ with kingship is just too saddening for some.
Think on that. Human rulers, kings, queens, tyrants, have sometimes made it so that some who lived on this earth, and some who live now on it are unable to bring themselves to think on Christ’s kingship for it is just too painful. As a result of the hardships, and memories, and strife some endured its just not worth mentioning the word.
On this feast day we together continue to look heavenward, awaiting His coming with the clouds where every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.
There is no best way to help those who do not want to bring themselves to consider Christ as King. It is their prerogative, their right as Christians who have been hurt by wicked rulers to not equate kingship with Jesus. They think on Jesus’ divinity with other terms and in other ways, and for them it still brings them to the knowledge of Christ’s saving deeds.
A good king is hard to find. The ancient audience of Revelation knew that, and we too know that. Perhaps in a way John in his apocalypse is making it known that there never was nor shall there ever be a good king. Except one.
We do not typically associate a slain lamb with an almighty, all-knowing King, but, again, this seemingly unreconcilable pairing, this pairing of Lamb and King which seem to be at odds with each other, is what is there before us. The lamb is plain. The lamb need not be brightly adorned, but instead its wounds are its vestments.
What we hold out hope for is that day, when, yes, Creation is made whole, the world is made complete, and Christ who reigns now and forever assures,
through love, that he is indeed a king, and that his kingship is above all others,
that his sovereignty is the truest.
Christ will be in the midst of it all as the ruler he was intended to be, a fair one, a loving one, the One who is before all tarnished kings.
And when we behold him, when we behold him, the King, in glory everlasting, whose to say that we will not behold a lamb?