And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
All four Evangelists tell us that when Jesus was crucified on Calvary there was an inscription written on the upper arm of the cross which said that he was “King of the Jews”. In doing this Pilate was proclaiming to the world that the vengeful leaders of the Jewish people had condemned the messianic King for whom they had been waiting for centuries, to the shameful death of the cross. Pilate was doing even more. He was proclaiming that the innocent one who hung on that cross was the and “King of Kings” the King of this world and of the next.
Down through our history thousands and millions of subjects have died for their kings. This was their duty when the needs or the defence of their realm demanded such a sacrifice. They neither expected not received much praise for it. But we Christians are serving a King who died for us. Their ruler and head of our kingdom is Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who accepted crucifixion as the climax of the perfect obedience to his Father. He became man in accordance with God’s eternal plan. He, as man, was the representative of all humanity. He gave perfect obedience to God and thus made atonement for all the disobedience, of the human race. All acts of penance and atonement of the whole of humanity put together could not reconcile us sinners with God. Christ, being God as well as man, was able to make and did bring about this reconciliation.
Today we are honouring this King, a King who humbled himself in order to raise us up to the status of sons and daughters of God, a King who suffered the cruelest of deaths as that we could have an unending life of happiness when we leave this earth.
Do we really honour our King as we should? Do we really meditate often enough on all he has done for us? Do we really appreciate the supernatural privilege conferred on us by the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ? We are no longer mere mortals, we are sons and daughters of God. We are no longer enemies of our Creator and Lord, we have been reconciled to God and can call him “Our Father”. We have still to die our earthly death but it is now the door to heaven. Unfortunately, we still can sin but we have the means of atonement within our reach, in the sacraments which Christ left to us. Any Christian who fails to get possession of the eternal heritage which Christ has made available to him will fail because he willingly and knowingly wished to do so.
Please God there will be few such people because Christ our King is always with us, helping us on our journey to heaven. What we say of Christians is true also of all who are non-Christians, through no fault of their own. Many of us will get some pleasant surprises when we meet the elect of God on our arrival in heaven. To get there is our present principal preoccupation. But it is not so hard. Keeping the laws of one’s country and carrying out their legal obligations is not difficult for the vast majority of sane people. Keeping the laws of God’s Kingdom and being loyal to him is not difficult either. Serving God is a privilege not a duty for the Christian who realizes what God has done for him/her and who appreciates what a future reward God has in store for him.
Today let us renew our loyalty to Christ the King. We are privileged and proud to be his subjects. As members of his Church on earth we are as yet in the preparatory stage of that Kingdom. If we do the little that he asks of us, during this period of preparation, we are assured of being full citizens in his eternal Kingdom of happiness and peace. Amen.