Posted on: 2015-11-21
Source: Rev. Fr. John 'Toye Olayiwola

Many of us are familiar with the Gregorian calendar which runs from January 1 till December 31. However, this is not the only calendar that exists. There is also the Islamic and some others. For instance, the Catholic Church has her calendar. The year of the Church begins with the First Sunday in Advent, which often falls into either the last Sunday in November or the first Sunday in December of the Gregorian calendar. The (Liturgical) Year of the Church ends with the Last Sunday in the Ordinary Time. On this Sunday, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King, in which she proclaims to the whole world, the universal Kingship of Jesus. Of course, the proper name for this Solemnity is Christ the King; however, I wish to call it here: CHRIST, THE PRESIDENT. One may begin to wonder what that means. Yes! You are right to be puzzled by the expression; but wait a minute! In the ancient times, kings were the supreme powers and rulers in their lands. No authority was above theirs. We are conversant with some kings and their titles not only in the Bible but also in our traditions: Pharaoh of Egypt, Saul and David in Israel, Alaafin of Oyo, Ooni of Ife, Olu of Warri and so on. In that light, it was not out place to call Jesus the King as a way to show his supremacy over all these other kings, sovereignties and powers.

However, things have changed in our generation. Kings are no longer the most superior powers of communities. In fact, some kings are now selected by governors from whom they get their pays. Governors in turn, get their pays from the presidents or prime ministers, depending on the systems of the governments. Hence, we have presidents or prime ministers and their equivalents, as the supreme powers in their territories. Then, since Christ is the highest Ruler over all thereis, permit me to address him as the President. You can put any other title you consider best. Nonetheless, changing the title might not change anything about the message of the celebration. So, it is good we maintain it the way the Church rightly puts it: CHRIST, THE KING.

While it is true that many ancient communities were ruled by kings, who were the sole dispensers of justice, administrators of the common goods and the commanders in chief of armies, it is heart-throbbing that Israel, though living in the midst of all these cultures, was for long, without any human king. The reason was that Yahweh, the Living God, the God who made the whole world, was the King ruling over Israel. We can imagine how just would the judgments given by the God of justice would be. We can think of equity that would be found in such a land. We can create the view of the victories of the army led by Yahweh, the Sabbaoth. Were we being ruled by him in our age, we would surely have no issues of injustice, oppression of the poor, terrorism and the likes, which fill our world today. Meanwhile, a time came in the history of the people of Israel that influenced by what they saw around them and the desire to be like them, Israelites made a demand for a human king. Samuel, the priest and prophet appointed by God to oversee things, tried to dissuade them from this request but they would not listen. Eventually, God ordered Samuel to do their bidding, albeit not without telling them the implication of their action which is a rejection of the reign of God over them (see 1Sam 8 for the full story). Just as spoken by Yahweh, Israel saw red in the hands of her kings. Many of them became tyrants and oppressors. The name of king Ahab easily comes to mind here. The details of his wickedness, godlessness and ruthlessness are recorded in 1 Kings 18:16-21:26.

One thing that cannot be exhausted of God is his mercy. In his mercy, he saw the situation of his people and he took pity on them. He promised to rule them by himself. Long time ago, he made this promise to David, when he told him that he would give an everlasting sovereignty to one of his descendants (see 2Sam 7:1-17). The prophet Isaiah (9:5-6) foretold the birth of a son who would have dominion on his shoulders. This promise, this prophecy, was fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the King, who was anointed not with oil as it was the case with other kings (see 1Sam 10:1ff; 16:1-13), but with the Holy Spirit (read Lk 4:16-18). He is the Seed of David (see his genealogies in Mt 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38) whose Kingdom will stand forever (Lk 1:32-33).

Is Jesus a King?

If many Christians are asked: “is Jesus truly a king?” Many would give a word answer: YES! But this answer is not correct. Jesus is never a king. He is THE King. The Bible does not conceal this fact. As soon as Jesus was born, some wise men (the kings, the Magi) came from the East asking: “where is the infant King of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and we have come to do him homage” (see Mt 2:1-3). So, Jesus was not made a king; he was born the King. The wise men from the East were mighty kings in their kingdoms. Yet, they came to pay homage to Christ. This is a recognition of his superiority. Jesus himself did not hide this truth before the Roman Governor, Pilate. When he was asked if he was the king of the Jews? Jesus declared that he was born for the purpose (read Jn 18:37).   

The King with Differences

It may still look as if we are lying against Jesus by calling him what he is not. Why? In Jn 6:15, we read that when Jesus noticed the people were about to force the crown on him, he escaped alone to the hills. Hence, he refused to be a king. He rejected the crown. Yes! He refused to be made a king because he was the King. He refused to degenerate to accepting to become a kind of king the people wanted: a bread baker who would be giving them breads even when they are not working. Is that not the type of leaders we want too: people who will be sharing money even though many of us might not go to our places of work? (This does not in anyway, support a leader who does not pay workers. Jesus is not an exploiter; not a tyrant and not an insensitive ruler). Jesus refused to be a revolutionary, a warrior-king who would be going to wars against their real and imagined enemies. Do we not long for such a leader too: someone who will kill all the terrorists around us over night? (This is not to say that a good leader should not ensure the security of his or her people). Jesus refused to be an aristocratic, an opulent king, who would be going about in exotic and expensive wears as many kings of his time did. Is that not the way many of our leaders are? Go to where they build their houses. Go and see their cars on the highways. Jesus refused all these!

On the contrary, he chose to be the King who would bring about true and lasting peace by preaching love of enemies, tolerance, patience, forgiveness and other virtues which are lacking in our world and account for the many of our challenges.  He chose to be the friend of the poor and the lowly from womb to tomb. He chose to be born by a poor virgin; from an unpopular village. He was born in a cave. I wonder how many of the wives of our leaders would even choose to go to the best hospitals in the country if their times for delivery come. Would they not choose to go abroad? The richest King, who chose to be poor for our sake, did not ride on horses or elephants as great men of his era would. He rode on a borrowed colt, a donkey, not just only to teach humility but also simplicity. As the King, he was not buried in a tomb adorned with gold; he was buried in a borrowed cave. I wish many of us his subjects and our leaders can emulate this King; and the world would become the best home for all.

His Territory

If one meets someone who calls himself a king or is addressed as a king but he is said to have no kingdom, no subjects under his control, one may find oneself saying spontaneously: “a king indeed!” Since Jesus is the King, he must have his Kingdom and the subjects of the Kingdom. Where are they? The wise men called him the infant king of the Jews (Mt 2:1-3). The same title was written on his saving Cross by the Pagan Procurator (see Jn 19:19). Would that not mean that only the Jews are the subjects of his Kingdom? Wait a minute! Did the Jews not say before Pilate that they did not have any other king but Caesar (Jn 19:15)? Thanks be to God for Nathaniel who in John 1:49 calls him the King of Israel. Israel here does not mean the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob but the people of God; people called and set apart by and for God (read 1Pt 2:9). These are the subjects of the Kingdom. This Kingdom is open to all but there are requirements: the first requirement for admittance into this Kingdom is the acceptance of the principles of the King. This is manifested through the profession of the true faith during Baptism.

But Jesus said before Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Yes! He is right and sincere! The Kingdom of this sort cannot co-exist with a kingdom of oppression and injustice. Herod knew what having the Kingdom of Jesus established would mean for a tyrant like him. Thus, he sought to do away with him but without any success (see Mt 2:13-18). We still have many “Herods” around us: those who are ever threatened by virtues and good people. Those who are always opposing the reign of justice and peace. Indeed, if the world had truly accepted the lordship of Christ, it would have been better than this. The world prefers to do things in her way. The world does not want to be challenged. Just as Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, his subjects too are not of this world. Therefore, a Christian who conforms himself or herself to the pattern of this present world should have a rethink. Does this mean Christ’s Kingdom is not present in the world? No! Christ’s reign is in the world, though has not fully manifested itself. The Church represents Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Hence, she is meant to further the course of justice, love, unity and all other things that Christ, the King stands for.

Why the Celebration?

The celebration of Christ the King is to remind us of the mission of Christ in the world. We should ask ourselves how much of his messages we have allowed into our lives, families, cities and so on. It awakens in us the sense of membership of his Kingdom and to challenge us to rise to the call to propagate the agendas of Christ in the world by working for peace, love, justice and harmony in the world.

As we go out singing: “the King of glory comes the nation rejoices...” we are reminded that Christ is also the King of mercy. Consequently, as we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us not forget to be agents of the mercy of God to those around us. Let us stop thinking of God as a Terrorist who is only interested in striking us any time we sin. Let us learn to see him as a loving and merciful Father. The appreciation of his mercy and love should, however, help us to live a better Christian life.

May Christ, the King, grant his peace to our troubled world. Amen!