DAN. 7:13-14/REV.1:5-8/ JOHN 18:33-37
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Fr. Galadima Bitrus (OSA)
A KINGDOM OF WITNESSES TO THE TRUTH
We live in a world and a time where and when the prospect for a diminution of Christian territories looms large, for both reasons from within such as the rise of secularism, atheism and agnosticism in so-called “traditionally Christian countries”, and reasons from without, such as the immigration of peoples of other faiths into traditionally Christian territories, often carrying with them the beliefs and practices of the religions of their native lands. This often breeds fear of an imminent end to the “Christendom”. What, therefore, can we or must we do about it?
The feast of Christ, King of the Universe, which we celebrate today, offers us an opportunity to reflect a bit more profoundly into the fate of the Christendom. For the situation today is not very different from that which inspired Pope Pius XI to establish the feast in 1925: “Faced with the increasing atheism and secularization of society, he wanted to assert the supreme authority of Christ over human beings and their institutions” (cf. A.G. Martimort et al, “The Church at Prayer, IV, p.107).
Not that Pius XI wanted to instigate the renaissance of a Christendom, but rather, that the feast “might be a vehicle for spiritual teaching” (ibid.). As he wrote in the Encyclical inaugurating the Feast (“Quas Primas”, no. 15), “This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things”, just as Scripture teaches and as Christ by his own actions confirmed.
Responding to Pilate, Christ in our today’s Gospel Reading (Jn 18:33-37) said: “My kingship is not of this world”, if it were, “My followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews” (Jn 18:36). Clearly, therefore, the kingship and kingdom of Christ is not territorial but truth-based.
Having said what is kingdom or kingship is not (definition “via negativa”), Jesus goes further to state in positive terms what his being king is all about: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to witness to the truth. Everyone who listens to the truth listens to my voice” (18:37), an assertion that even Pilate seems to have listened to.
After having asked, “What is truth?” (18:38a), Pilate seems to have opened his heart to the truth of the word of Christ, leading him to the realization of the innocence of Jesus and the falsehood of his accusers.
Thus, immediately after this, Pilate would go out to announce to Jesus’ accusers: “I find no case against him” (18:38b), trying all strategies to release him except that his own people (cf. 18:35), the accusers, did not listen to the truth which is also “the way to life” (Jn 14:6) but chose to hold unto their falsehood which is the way to death. Hence, all they wanted was the condemnation of Jesus to death, by hook or by crook (cf. 18:31-19:16).
This shows us that the measure of our belonging to the kingdom of Christ is not in being followers who would rise up “fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews” (18:36) but in being part of “everyone who belongs to the truth and listens to my voice” (18:37).
Earlier, Peter had risen to fight with his sword to prevent Jesus from being arrested but Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath” (18:11). Matthew’s rendition of this episode makes even clearer the futility of fighting in the name of Jesus: “Then Jesus said to him [Peter], ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’” (Mt 26:52).
Clearly, therefore, Jesus does not need us to defend him but he wants us to defend the truth which in itself saves and liberates. As we read in Jn 8:32, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. And as we know, the truth is not defended by arms. It makes itself evident in witnessing.
Having realized this truth, Pilate tried against all odds to set Jesus free. He also ultimately recognized, now not mockingly but convincingly, that Jesus was indeed the king of the Jews. He tried, like Peter, to defend Jesus but expectedly failed because it is not ours to defend Jesus but the truth.
However, Pilate succeeded in revealing the truth that Jesus’ death was a miscarriage of justice. For he came out and openly told the accusers of Jesus and those who wanted him condemned to death, “I find no case against him” (18:38b).
We see Pilate moving from apparently being threatened by Jesus’ claim to be king, to mocking this claim but ultimately becoming its determined proclaimer. First, we hear him repeatedly ask, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33); “So you are a king?” (Jn 18:37). Then the soldiers crown him with thorns and dress him in the royal purple colour (19:2.5), mockingly greeting him, “Hail king of the Jews” (19:3).
When his accusers saw their lie being gradually unveiled, they reformulated the charge from a political one to a religious charge of claiming to be “The Son of God”, apparently interpreted by them as a case of blasphemy punishable by death (19:7), which first made Pilate “more afraid than ever (19:8) but soon came over his fears and began to insistently refer to Jesus as king of the Jews despite the protests of Jesus’ accusers. At one point Pilate said, “Here is your king” (19:14). At another he asked, “Shall I crucify your king?” (19:15).
When they had crucified Jesus, Pilate had an inscription placed on Jesus’ cross which read in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, for the whole world to see, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (19:19), an inscription he defended and would not revise, “What I have written I have written (19:22).
Thus, Pilate moves from interrogation to affirmation, proclamation and defense of the truth of Jesus’ claim to be a king, a process of truth discovery that teaches us not to shy away or discourage interrogation or asking questions. For that is a necessary first step for the seeker of truth. Otherwise, truth becomes something imposed from without, instead of something discovered at the other end of a journey undertaken within. The former leads to hypocrisy, the latter transformation necessary for genuine witnessing.
The 2nd Reading is from the book of Revelation (1:5-8). The book claims to be an “apokálypsis”, that is, a revelation of things that need to happen soon (Gk, “en táchei”), which God gave Jesus to show (“deîchsai”) his servants, and which Jesus in turn signified (“esḗmanen”), having sent his servant John, through the angel (Rev. 1:1). John, in turn, bore witness (“emartùrēsen”) to the word of God (“tòn lògon toȗ Theoȗ”) and the witness of Jesus Christ (“tēn marturían Iēsoȗ Christoȗ”) which he saw (“hósa eîden”) (Rev. 1:2).
Thus, the content of this revelation is the word of God, the truth of which Jesus witnessed in his life and teachings, which John saw and was called to become a co-witness. Here we see already the essence of the life of God’s servant as a participation in Christ’s witnessing to the truth of God’s revealed word.
The passage is part of the opening doxology characteristic of epistolary (letter) greetings, identifying the addresser (John), the addressees (the seven Churches in Asia Minor), and containing a greeting, which in this case, consists of words of blessings invoking grace and peace.
In this greeting, God is described as the “one who is and who was and who is to come” (“Ho ōn kai Ho ên kai Ho erchómenos”). This divine description paraphrases the divine self-introduction in Exod 3:14 as “I am who I am” (in Hebrew, “ehyê ’ăšer ehyê”), also translatable as “I shall be who I shall be” or even the description of Jesus in Heb 13:8 as “the same yesterday, today and forever”.
The seven spirits before God’s throne (1:4) are apparently a reference to the angels or God’s messengers to the seven Churches being addressed. Jesus is characterized as the “faithful witness”, the “firstborn from the dead” and “ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), the “one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father” (1:6).
The characterization of Jesus as “first born from the dead” is found also in Colossians 1:18, a reference to his resurrection, understood by Christians as the basis of their own resurrection (cf. 1 Thess 4:14). So also, the description of Christ as “ruler of the kings of the earth” coming “with the clouds” and with “glory and dominion” forever and ever (1:6), is a reference to Christ’s unequalled dominion repeated in Rev 17:14 and 19:16, also found in Eph 1:21; 1 Tim 6:15; Heb 1:4, etc., echoing Old Testament prophetic texts such as Isa 9:6-7 and Dan 7:13-14, which is the passage of our 1st Reading.
The passage concludes citing God describing himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” and repeating his characterization as the “one who is, who was and who is to come”, as well as “the Almighty” (1:8). All these evocations of God’s essence as the source and summit of being, the beginning and end, as well as Christ’s ever-lasting kingship, is to comfort and reassure the faithful living under the fear of persecution and expecting an imminent end of time.
The 1st Reading (Dan 7:13-14) presents Daniel’s vision of “one like a son of man” coming with the clouds (7:13) and being given everlasting dominion and glory and indestructible kingship (7:14).
This passage has been interpreted in Christian tradition as a prediction of Christ who is severally referred to in the New Testament as “The Son of Man” (Mt 12:8; 18:11; 20:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 9:58; 19:10; Jn 8:28), i.e., although a heavenly being (divine), he came in the likeness of men (Phil 2:6-11).
As we read these texts towards the end of the year and at the end of this liturgical cycle, in a period where Christians are increasingly becoming an endangered species, let us not conform to the negative impulses of fear but be transformed by the courage of truth, listening to Jesus who in Peter tells us, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52), as well as remembering what Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world”, if it were, “My followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews” (Jn 18:36).
Therefore, in the famous words of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 inaugural address), we have “Nothing to fear but fear itself”, which can make us lose the truth of our being, especially our being witnesses to the truth, the measure of which is not so much in being followers of Christ willing to rise up to fight to keep Christ from being handed over to real or imagined rival forces, but more in being part of those who belong to the truth that transforms us from within and makes us listeners to the voice of Christ who continually defines his kingship as not of this world but a vocation to the truth: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to witness to the truth. Everyone who listens to the truth listens to my voice” (18:37).
Happy Sunday of Christ the King of the Universe!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Jesus the King of the Universe
Today is the last Sunday in the Church’s calendar and as usual the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. Jesus Christ is a King. In today’s Gospel Pilate asked Jesus ‘So you are a King?’ Jesus answered “You say that I am a king”. This was not an attempt to hide the truth from Pilate, rather “You say that I am a king” in Oriental language is equivalent to saying “Yes I am a King”. Jesus is a King; John 12:15 says “fear not… your King is coming…” Who is this King? 1Tim.6:15 says he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in Rev. 19:11 he is the Rider of the Heavenly white Horse. Beloved Jesus is a King. Beyond this assertion; the second reading makes us to understand that not only has the Jesus been made the universal king, he has also made us a line of kings to carry on his work and to serve God. Therefore, let us conduct ourselves as such.
Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This means that, at the end, all other rulers will be conquered or abolished and He alone will reign supreme as King and Lord of all. The Scriptures further expatiates his reign when it says in Isaiah 40:23–24 that the Lord brings “princes to nothing” and makes earth’s rulers “emptiness.” Thus, he has dominion over all. Daniel in the first reading refers to Jesus as “the Ancient of Days” whose everlasting dominion is over all people, nations and languages.
Again, Jesus’ Kingship is not of this world. The Kingdom of Jesus has an eminently spiritual character. It is not bad to be a king in this world after all David was a king. You can be a king in this world; but your kingship should be under the surveillance or supervision of the King of kings. You cannot submit to occult powers and spirit and you expect to be numbered among the saints. You cannot submit to strange kingdoms and be a member of God’s kingdom. Many persons today have the spiritual character of demonic kingdoms; some of us in the Church are kings and queens in many satanic kingdoms. Some are messengers; others are in the recruit department luring people into their kingdoms.
Celebration of the Lord’s Kingship offers us the perfect opportunity to submit to the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus. Submit your powers, submit your staff, submit your rings, submit your crown and your charms, submit your thrown. To submit is to surrender to his majesty, it means repent and be saved. As you submit today may you be saved. If we don’t possess the spiritual character of the Lord’s Kingdom; we cannot be members of his Kingdom.
Beloved, let us accept Jesus as our King. Unlike the Jews who said in John.19:15 “We have no king but Caesar”. Whenever we sin against God we are simply saying “we have no King but Caesar”. Whenever we fornicate; we are simply saying that “we have no king but Caesar” Whenever we seek other gods we shout the louder that “we have no king but Caesar”; when we don’t bear witness to the truth; when we take bribes, when we submit to other kings the loyalty attributed to the Divine; we are simply saying “We have no king but Caesar”; whenever, riches, poverty, phones, drugs and alcohol determine our worship we are saying that “we have no king but Caesar”. Beloved, let us dethrone what we have enthroned and exalt Jesus who is on the Throne.
May Jesus the King who is our King reign in our lives, businesses, schools, markets, homes, farms and in our streets. May He reign mightily in our church and cause a fresh fire of revival. Amen!
LET US PRAY
Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Christ is the Servant king
One of the difficult things for us today is to render service. And that is why everybody wants to be a leader; to be a king. Everybody wants to be the president and leader not because they want to serve but because they want to be served. Because the office of leadership has been derobbed of its nature of service everybody wants to be one. Even within the Church, many people want to be the president of this and the leader of that so that people will see them and bow to them. We have forgotten that Jesus himself told us in Mathew 23:11 that “the greatest among you should be your servant”.
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King of the universe; the feast of Christ who was a king before he was born and a king after his birth and will continue to be king forever. He is a king whose kingship was even prophesied before his birth. Hence our first reading from the book of Daniel which was written two centuries before Christ came on earth tells us that “the son of man would receive from God his father, dominion and sovereignty over all peoples, nations and languages. He will be the king of kings and the Lord of glory and his kingdom will last forever.” Going through the Old Testament we also find many other Messianic prophecies which gave Christ the title of a king even before he was born. In 1000 B.C prophet Nathan in 2Sam.7:16 prophesied to king David that a descendant of his would come “who would establish his throne forever”. Again in Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah says of the future Messiah that “he will sit on David’s kingly throne, to give it a lasting foundation of justice and right”. Jeremiah 23:3 says that “a time is coming,…when I will raise up from the stock of David a faithful scion at last.” And then in Luke 1:32 the angel told Mary that the child she is to conceive “shall be known as the son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his Father David…and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And today Jesus did not only confirm his kingship in the gospel reading, by his confession to Pilate’s question he also underlined the complete otherness of his kingship. The Sanhendrin or the highest governing body of the Jewish people at that time had condemned Jesus as guilty of blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Son of God. For this crime they judged him to die. Because they wanted him to die the most shameful and painful death, they brought him to Pilate to pass the sentence of crucifixion. And so they accused Jesus in Luke 23:2 “we found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king”. But Pilate was not impressed and satisfied with the accusation and so he questioned him to know if truly Jesus is a King. Hence Jesus in response to Pilate’s question answered in John 18:37 “you say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” With these words Jesus creates a new concept of kingship and kingdom; a kingdom which has as its essence witness to the truth.
Dearly beloved, the kings and rulers of this world demand that their subjects; those they rule should be ready, if necessary, to lay down their lives to defend their king. They demand service from their subjects. Millions of people have given their lives in defense of their king and leaders. You and I know the number of soldiers who flock around the white house in Abuja in defense of the President; we know the number of guards in Alafin of Oyo’s palace and other palaces. These guards will have no choice but to die rather than allow the king to die. Yet we have a king who laid down his life for us His subjects; a king who became poor so that we may be rich; a king who was flogged so that we may be healed. A king whose death bed is not even his own; a king who owns all but has nothing; a king who loves and cares for us so much so that everything about us interests him. Unfortunately many of us have dethroned this king in our lives; many of us have dethroned this great king in our families; many of us have dethroned this king in our businesses and works; we have dethroned him in our families. There is basically nothing that can be done in a community without consulting the king of that community. In every community people think in the direction of the king; no matter how wicked the king may be, people will still respect him. Unfortunately many of us no longer consult Christ the king in our families; we no longer consult him in our lives and works. We no longer even respect him; and that is why our lives seem to have no bearing. Because we have abandoned the king, the king himself is staying one side waiting for us to invite him back into our lives. We must therefore enthrone Jesus back in our lives and families so that all may go well with us.
HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU