Today is Christ the King Sunday, or the Last Sunday of the Church year. We’ve been aiming for this, all month, with the end-time readings from the prophets, and Jesus’ Little Apocalypse, which leads us, ever so gracefully and tactfully, into Advent, a season with the similar theme of, the-end-of-the-age, slash, dawn-of-a-new-realm, that’s about to come and break things open, by the birth of a savior, in just over a months time.
Actually, we’ve been trying to prepare for this day, ever since that gospel reading, way back in June, when, “Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem!” That’s Luke’s significant shift from his Galilean ministry in the rural north, where Jesus was raised and called his Disciples, and the start of his very deliberate journey to Jerusalem, where he predicted quite plainly, he would be rejected, and like all the true prophets, be killed, but, after 3 days rise again.
Christ the King Sunday reminds us that Jesus fulfilled his mission of going to Jerusalem, not just to die, but to overcome the last enemy, death, and be raised, and to ascend to the right hand of God, as a new kind of king. This is where his life, and ours as baptized people and followers of Jesus, are pointed. All is revealed in the cross. And, not coincidentally, revealing is what apocalypse and end-times are all about, for they mean, a pulling back of the curtain or veil, in order to reveal the truth.
On the cross Jesus reveals a world of false saviors, and also for us today, a world of pseudo-cultures. There is planted among us, the culture of competition. A culture that promises that everyone can be a winner, but, if you lose, it’s your own darn fault. That’s lie #1 which the leaders in Jerusalem advocate as Jesus hangs on the cross. We are bombarded with that one every day. Its power can be very subtle, and many don’t notice, unless you’ve experienced how the rules are written to favor a certain class or group, over another. The second pseudo-culture is represented by the soldiers, that of bullying and ‘might makes right.’ They follow their orders, torturing and crucifying Jesus, but some didn’t stop there, they had to bully him on the cross too, mocking him, as a king without power. Let’s see you “save yourself” now, they say, after nailing him to the cross. Bullying is a real threat today to peace and justice for all. The culture of bullying is not a mere teasing, but is a targeting and vicious demeaning of those who are different, vulnerable, and Jesus gave himself to overcome it. And the third false culture, is the culture of blame, or not taking responsibility for your own power, which we see in the first criminal. He is desperate to escape from the sentence he is under. When Jesus happens to show up at the place called “The Skull,” he thinks it’s his lucky day! That it’s all about him! Yet, he has not faced up to who he is, as the 2nd criminal does, and actually blames Jesus for his problem! Who is the one in your life that insists “it’s not my fault.” The one who has a ready excuse, but will not look themselves in the eye, turn around, and go in a new direction, asking Jesus for forgiveness?
These are the three cultures that taunt and tempt us, just as they “mocked,” and “derided” Jesus. Left to ourselves, we would surely follow them, as these invasive cultures spread out and insidiously attack the good world God has created. Only in practicing discipleship as followers of Jesus, are we able to discover a new way.
Jesus reveals the way, not in buckets of blood and gore, as some have suggested. Jesus willingly goes to the cross, one step at a time, with healing in his wings. He has “set his face to Jerusalem” for this task, from the beginning. On the cross, we see with the eyes of faith, he is king indeed. King of a new world and a new culture, the culture of forgiveness. And even for those who deride and mock him, who’s eyes are not opened, the veil not yet pulled back, the door is still left open. Jesus is the savior-king, even as he gives up his life, not to save himself, but to give his life over to God completely, that like the criminal invited to paradise, the rest of us sinners are saved too.