Sunday, 21st November, Feast of Christ the King

John 18:33–37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “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.”

We must first go to the events leading to the scene of today’s gospel reading, if we want to gain a better understanding about what is happening.

At the time of the Roman occupation of Palestine, the highest governing body of the Jewish people was the Sanhedrin. It had condemned Jesus for blasphemy because he claimed that he was the Son of God. Despite the high authority that it enjoyed among the Jewish people, the Sanhedrin did not have the legal authority to order capital punishment. Since it wanted to get rid of Jesus, members of the Sanhedrin framed Jesus with the charge of inciting the Jews to revolt and to oppose payment of the tribute to Caesar because he claimed himself a king (Luke 23:2) and passed him to Pilate, who was the governor of Palestine and had the authority to pass the sentence of crucifixion.

Having failed to convince the Jews, who brought Jesus to him and waited outside the palace because they did not want to spoil the coming Sabbath by visiting a pagan home, to deal Jesus with their own laws since he found Jesus done nothing wrong, Pilate went inside to his palace and questioned Jesus again in attempting to get the true fact of the whole thing. This is the beginning of today’s gospel reading.

Jesus knew Pilate did not suspect him of being a leader of a revolt against the Roman authority. Being the governor of Palestine, Pilate had his own spying networks and knew perfectly well about who was who in the movements against the Roman. However, he wondered why Jesus’ reply to his question, “Are you the King of the Jew?” was: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

Pilate again showed that he did not accept the accusation of the chief priests who handed Jesus to over to him for condemnation. He asked Jesus what he had done to merit this treatment from his fellow Jews. Jesus told Pilate that the priests’ accusation about his claim to King was not a true one in the sense that they wished Pilate to understand it, but he was a true king and was founding a new kingdom which was a spiritual kingdom, one not concerned with political causes because his kingship was not of the world.

Jesus agreed with Pilate’s statement that he was a king. He told Pilate that he had come into the world as man to teach men the fundamental and real truths concerning God and man. And his message would be accepted gladly by all lovers of truth and likewise would be rejected by all those who preferred the darkness of ignorance. In fact, Pilate did understand Jesus’ kingship was something other than political from his later attempts to free Jesus.

The kings of this earth demand of their subjects that they should be ready, if necessary, to lay down their lives to defend their king and realm. Men have always accepted this and millions have gladly given their lives to defend their country and rulers.

Being Christians, we have a king who laid down his life for us and set us an example unlike that any earthly king. Following his Father’s will, he did this to make us worthy to share in the Father’s eternal kingdom. The incarnation, which made us adopted children of God, and the crucifixion, which obtained remission of our sins, surely proves to us the love and the esteem in which God holds us. In honouring Christ today as our King, let us especially thank him for all the humiliations and sufferings he endured on our behalf. Amen.