A statue of Pontius Pilate with Jesus at the base of the Holy Stairs in Rome. CNS photo/Paul Haring

God's Word on Sunday: God will have ultimate victory

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  • November 14, 2021

Christ the King, Nov. 21 (Year B) Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18: 33b-37

Much of our theology, religious imagery and prophetic visions are created at least in part by our experiences.

Both individually and as a people we are often presented with challenges, fears, suffering and injustice. Usually they do not have easy or immediate solutions and God does not come down from the heavens to fix things for us. People need assurance and hope, and that is the key to understanding Daniel.

This book was written during the Maccabean revolt against Judea’s Greek overlords in the early second century BC, although the story was set in the Persian court centuries earlier. The people of God were suffering persecution for their faith as the Greek ruler sought to destroy the Jewish religious traditions and substitute for them the religion and culture of the Greeks.

The visions were allegorical and alluded to Judah’s contemporary enemies. The empires of the day were portrayed in grotesque and monstrous forms, but in the end they were all crushed and ground to pieces by the Son of Man figure described in the vision. He is presented to the Ancient of Days and is given universal authority and dominion.

The message is clear: There is only one legitimate power and authority in the world — God’s. Regardless of how powerful or terrifying earthly powers may appear, their days are numbered and they will all suffer the same fate. Powers that oppose God will crumble for, in the end, God wins.

The vision was intended to give hope and courage to the beleaguered community and to assure them of God’s ultimate victory. The direction was clear: Stand fast, have courage and remain faithful to the laws of God. God is in ultimate control.

It is a message that we need to hear today for the darkness and chaos of our own time has called forth a legion of fearful things, among them fear-mongering people or groups who would use the opportunity to seize power.

In the New Testament, the Son of Man was the way Jesus referred to Himself, stressing His humanity and suffering. This vision became the core of most apocalyptic theology.

As the Alpha and Omega, Christ stands at the beginning and the end of human history. There was never a time in this history when Jesus was not present. He rules the kings of the Earth, although this is certainly not self-evident. It is likely that this was a way of saying that all these kings ultimately answer to Jesus.

When He returns, Jesus will judge the Earth and all its inhabitants and will subdue all of the earthly powers that oppose God. In the meantime, our job is to serve Him and His cause diligently, and make His name and teachings known in the world.

In John’s Gospel, people speak at cross purposes. They use the same words — water, bread, etc. — but Jesus means very different things by them. The word “king” means one thing to Pilate — power, domination and control. He had heard that Jesus was the king of the Jews, and this was troubling. There was room for only one king or ruler and that was Caesar.

Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, but Jesus brushed aside the question by insisting that His kingdom was not of this world. If it were, He would be playing by the world’s rules, complete with force and violence. His power and authority flowed from a higher source.

But Pilate could not get beyond the word “king” and was unable to understand what Jesus was trying to tell him. Jesus insisted that He was not at all interested in earthly power but had come into the world for the sole purpose of testifying to the truth. Those who belong to the truth will listen to Him.

Truth was another slippery word, and Pilate asked contemptuously, “What is truth?” It was not any of the competing ideologies or philosophies of the world. The truth was standing right in front of Pilate — it was Jesus. He reveals the true nature of God, as well as our divine potential.

If only Pilate had been less fearful and more interested in what Jesus had to say, he might have learned that true power comes from God and is always expressed in the form of love.

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