Jesus connects us to the divine source

  • November 14, 2012

Christ the King (Year B) Nov. 25 (Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)

Suffering, oppression and persecution form a fertile ground for dreams and visions. When hope begins to flicker out and faith starts to waver the Spirit often sends visions of deliverance and hope into the minds and hearts ofsensitive individuals. They usually should not be taken literally but as reinvigorating inspirations and messages of hope.

Written during the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian Greeks in the second century BC, the Book of Daniel spoke to the yearning of the hearts of Israel for a deliverer and saviour. The one “like a son of man” (human being) was to be given a universal and eternal dominion over all peoples, nations and languages — not a bad portfolio! In its original context it is unclear who this figure is — it could have described the archangel Michael, another unnamed figure or as many scholars believe, a collective symbol for Israel. To the suffering Jews of the time it meant only one thing: God had not forgotten them and would intervene to vindicate and save His people. The unjust exercise of power by the kings and rulers of the Earth was going to end as God asserted total control over the Earth.

Although no such heavenly deliverer arrived during that period Israel did shake off foreign control, at least for a brief period. Two centuries later the authors of the New Testament reinterpreted this passage and applied it to Jesus — Mark 13 and the second reading from Revelation are good examples. Apocalyptic literature such as Daniel and Revelation is easily misused and can often disappoint if we expect that they predict events in our own time. They were intended to give meaning to the life of the people during very difficult times and to exhort them to persevere in faith. Read as ringing affirmations of the majesty and sovereignty of God and the illusory and fleeting nature of evil these visions can continue to inspire us in our own difficult and uncertain times.

The Book of Revelation portrayed Jesus as a king over all the Earth and there was a fervent prayer that this glory and dominion last forever. Revelation looked forward to His return on the clouds when He would be clearly manifested and vindicated before all. This has not yet occurred, but there is no reason for disillusionment. The time that is expressed in this passage is divine rather than human time. God is the beginning and the end, the one who is and who was and who is to come — in other words, God and the Lord Jesus are always present. We need not feel that God is in the distant past or the far horizon for He is eternally present and active in our world.

As we saw in the first reading, it is best not to take labels such as “king” and “dominion” in the literal or ordinary human sense. Nowhere is this more evident than the trial of Jesus in John’s Gospel. A very nervous and fear-ruled Pilate questioned Jesus about His alleged kingship for that was the word on the streets of Jerusalem. Talk of kingship over Israel was dangerous in the volatile atmosphere of Jerusalem. Jesus turned the question back on Pilate and only accepted kingship if it was understood in a completely unique sense. By saying “not of this world” He does not mean “up there” somewhere but that the authority He exercised did not reflect earthly conceptions of power. He firmly rejected violence and force, for His authority consisted of unity and love. Pilate was unable to see or understand anything except through human and worldly concepts. He was not the likeable but weak character portrayed by the evangelists. Other sources portray him as a brutal, unscrupulous governor who was well-versed in Roman power politics and the use of brute force.

Jesus brushed aside Pilate’s focus on kingship and insisted that His only mission was to testify to the truth. The truth to which Jesus bore witness was a non-violent God in whom there is only light and love, manifested perfectly in Jesus Himself. In His witness Jesus challenged all earthy models of power and authority. Our violent and fearful world desperately needs to learn of the creative and healing power of this light and love when human hearts are open and in harmony with the divine source.