Can you see the king?

In the nineteenth century there was frequent contact between the royal families of Europe, who were mostly related to one another. One afternoon King George of Greece, Tsar Alexander III and the Prince of Wales were walking in the grounds of the Fredensborg Palace, the home of the King of Denmark. The park was vast and open to the public and people frequently lost their way in the labyrinth of paths. One man who was hopelessly lost stopped the three royals and asked them for directions to the exit. As they accompanied him to the exit they talked of the weather, crops and politics. The stranger thanked them for their kindness and asked them for their names, ‘well’ said King George, ‘I’m the King of Greece, this is the Prince of Wales and this is the Tsar of Russia.’ ‘And I’m Jesus Christ!’ The man replied and fled from this band of evident lunatics, their hearty laughter ringing in his ears.

You would not expect to bump into a king in a park, let alone. You not expect him to talk about the weather and crops. And how would you recognize a king if he is not wearing a crown. I’m sure most of us when young think that a king and queen wear their crowns all the time, it is a great disappointment to find that they don’t.

Christ called himself many things, shepherd, bread of life, the Son of Man, but he did not say ‘I am King. ’ He did not deny that he was the king of the Jews,  but it was thrown at him as an accusation. The Jews were enraged that he should have the King of the Jews on his charge sheet pinned above the cross, they said he should have had ‘this man claimed to be the King of the Jews.’  Jesus had an enigmatic exchange with Pontius Pilate regarding his kingship, telling him that his kingdom was not of this world.

If Jesus is a king, he is a servant king. He is shepherd king like David who was a shepherd boy, before he was set apart and anointed king to shepherd the people of Israel. King Saul had failed to live up to expectations whereas David had proved himself in leading the army and people of Israel.

I wonder whether you find the image of Christ the King a helpful one. To some the image may be an unhelpful one, an anachronism. But I think the image is important because there has been a tendency to treat Jesus with a certain chumminess over recent decades, to think of Jesus as ‘my mate’. To some extent he is, he calls his disciples friends, they are servants no longer. It is good to feel close to Christ, but we should beware of demeaning him, of rendering him rather ordinary. He deserves to be treated him with awe and reverence. Some Christians call him, ‘Lord’ likes it’s his nickname, without the awestruck reverence of St Thomas who acclaimed the risen Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God’. We do well to repeat these words when the host and chalice are raised at the altar and Jesus becomes present in the sublime mystery of the eucharist. 

We see the fullest expression of the significance of the British monarchy in the State Opening of Parliament, when the Queen delivers her speech from the throne in the House of Lords. In the person of the Queen are enshrined all the laws and liberties of this country. The Queen is just a person but the crown is more important than the individual who wears it, shown by the fact that the crown is carried in its own carriage to parliament.

We too must enthrone Christ. If Christ is not king, he is not supreme. There is a danger in the church today that Christ may be downgraded to being just a good man, a prophet who had some good ideas. Christ is much more than that he is the way to penetrate the mystery that is God. He is God expressed in human terms. He is the living word of God, the truth of God made flesh.  He is the head of the church, even in the Church of England, where the Queen is not the supreme head just the supreme governor.

Christ’s throne is not a golden chair, but a bare wooden cross. The site of his coronation is not a splendid temple but the rough stone mount of Calvary. His crown was not made of silver and gold, but of thick, sharp thorns. The robe of purple around his shoulders was placed in mockery. His acclamations were derisions of barbed contempt.

But one criminal recognized his royal nature. When he asked to be remembered in his kingdom,  Christ bestowed on him the greatest of all royal pardons as the reward for his repentance:  ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

Only those with eyes of faith can perceive the true power of Christ the King, hanging on the cross.