As our Metropolitan wrote in his shepherd’s letter for December, today marks the end of the church year with Advent beginning next week. Today the celebration or Solemnity of Christ the King is observed. Through this year we have travelled through the life of Jesus culminating this morning with his Kingship. Here we will take a look at his kingship beginning with the gospel portion.
In St. John 18, we see that Jesus has been brought before Pilate with the charge of being a King. A charge that He did not deny outright, but rather qualified. He stated, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” The Fathers are quick to point out that while the kingdom does not belong or is not of this world, it still resides here. This statement merely means that its origin is not from here.
Jesus also shows us where the power of an earthly kingdom lies i.e. in its servants. St. Chrysostom tells us, “But that which is above is sufficient of itself. It needs nothing….And so, he also says that his kingdom is not from this world – not depriving the world of his providence and governance but rather showing, as I said, that his power was not human or perishable.”1
All the kingdoms of this earth come and go the Greeks, the Romans, the British Empire, the French empire etc. Although they may have become empires for different reasons and were governed differently they hold the common denominator that they all ended. This the Kingdom of Christ does not do, but lasts forever and ever.
It is also not a threat to the rule of earthly kingdoms i.e. it is not in competition with them but is on a different plane altogether, as St. Augustin explains,
“Listen, everyone, Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised. Listen, all kings of the earth. I an no hindrance to your rule in this world, for “my kingdom is not of this world.”…What further assurance do you seek? Come to the kingdom that is not of this world. Do not be enraged by fear, but come by faith. In a prophecy Christ also said, ‘He,’ that is, God the Father, ‘has made me king on Zion his holy mountain.’ but that Zion and that mountain are not of this world.
What in fact is Christ’s Kingdom? It is those who believe in Him.2
Christ’s kingdom consists not in ethnicity, but in believers. Therefore, every nation upon the earth can be part of the kingdom of God. Everyone who believes is our brother or sister. Thinking about it, this is what the world wants but cannot achieve. We are a threat to the world not because we threaten to take over nations, but because we love and serve those who should be our enemies. Few people actually want war, but they cannot love without Christ.
Jesus was born to be king. Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that if he has been born for this he will remain for this because his kingdom is not temporal but eternal and it is extended through His teaching.
“The throne of the kingdom conferred on Jesus is nothing mortal or temporal. Rather, it truly is extended throughout the whole world like light shining as the moon established forever, enlightening understanding souls through his divine and heavenly teaching.”3
His kingship has been prophesied from of old. In our psalm reading we have both hints and outright statements of this. St. Augustin, sees them right from the get-go of the psalm. “‘David’ is interpreted ‘Strong of hand,’ for he was a great warrior… prefiguring…someone strong of hand to destroy His enemies, the devil and his angels.”4
He was born to be king and to destroy the enemies of the human race. In verse eight we read, “Arise, Lord come into your resting place”. This St. Augustin tells us refers to Christ and His resurrection. The verse continues, “you and your mighty ark.” “that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His church: He arose first, the Church will arise also.”5
When Jesus is before Pilate, He is indeed king, but his kingdom has not yet had its victory in time and space. The resurrection is the triumph of Christ’s Kingdom. He rose defeating the domain of darkness and the realm of the Evil one, and we will rise also. His resurrection is the hope of our resurrection. In his resurrection he made us priests. He has clothed us with justice. In addition let us pray with St. Augustin that our priesthood also be clothed with faith since the just shall live by faith.
“For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed.” Christ is victorious why then the necessity of this request? Let us turn again to St. Augustin for an explanation.
Since then Christ arose to judge those by whom He had been crucified, and turned away His Presence from the Jews, turning His Presence towards the Gentiles; God is, as it seemeth, besought in behalf of the remnant of Israel; and it is said unto Him, “For Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed.” If the chaff be condemned, let the wheat be gathered together. May the remnant be saved, as Isaiah saith, “And the remnant hath” clearly “been saved:” for out of them were the twelve Apostles, out of them more than five hundred brethren, to whom the Lord showed Himself after His Resurrection: out of their number were so many thousands baptized, who laid the price of their possessions at the Apostles’ feet. Thus then was fulfilled the prayer here made to God: “For Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the presence of Thine Anointed.”6
Whether it was Christ praying through David or David foresaw, Israel was prayed for and a remnant were rescued for the kingdom of Christ. A kingdom upon which one of his offspring would sit forever i.e. Christ.
As we have spoken earlier the resurrection is the moment of victory in the kingdom of Christ. Now in St. John’s revelation, we will look at that resurrection from a slightly different angle.
In the wisdom and mystery of God Jesus Christ became the firstborn of the dead. What does it mean to be the firstborn of the dead? It means, in the words of St. Irenaeus that God the Father sent the creative Word, who, when he came to save us, put himself in our position, and in the same position in which we lost life.7 It means that God completely took upon himself our humanity, so that he could experience death in the very same way that we experience death. God would not make believe our humanity, he actually, participated.
St. Irenaeus continues speaking of Jesus abolishing death and breaking our bonds and then he says, “He showed forth the resurrection, becoming himself the firstborn from the dead, and raised in himself prostrate man, being lifted up to the heights of heaven, at the right hand of glory of the Father. Just as God promised through the prophet, saying, ‘I will raise up the tabernacle of David.’ This means that which is fallen, the body sprung from David. This was in truth accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ, in the triumph of our redemption, that he raise us in truth, setting us free to the Father….as the firstborn of the dead, head and source also of the life unto God.”8
Of this we also read in Romans “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.” He destroyed the power or the reign of the kingdom of the world through his death and resurrection. He is now free to reign where the world formerly reigned.
In his reign he has made us a kingdom of priests. Let us bear in mind that in Psalm 132 we remember that David spoke of how the priests are clothed. One of the Fathers asks basically what is the point of being a kingdom of priests and then answers. Our worthiness as a priesthood to God proves to us that the kingdom to come and the assurance of unspeakable glory is with us here in the present. I think Metropolitan has mentioned various times about the invisible reality around us. Christ’s kingdom is here, if we would but have the eyes to see it.
This Father also stated that to be made worthy to be priests and prophets to God is a far greater and more miraculous than to be washed from our sins. To be washed of our sins is another way of saying that we are clothed with justice. There has never been so great a gift from God than to be made worthy to serve him. Sure, it is great and miraculous to be washed clean from our sins by His blood, but Christ will not leave us there. He empowers us…to serve Him…the ruler of the universe. Salvation is not given to sit around but to serve.
“Behold, he cometh with clouds,” the Fathers are a little unsure of its meaning and I don’t think any of them said emphatically one or the other. Revelation, as we know, is a book of symbols. He is coming amid or on clouds so this could either be that he is coming on physical clouds or he is coming with the angels. For this latter view they cite such passages as Psalm 18:10 – “And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.” This first part they are content to leave as being unsure and so should we.
However, whether it is angels or clouds, the Fathers are agreed on the second part – He will not come quietly. Whereas, when he first came, he came hidden or in a corner, but when he will come again he will come in view of all. He will be seen by both the righteous and the unrighteous. He will come in glory as the beginning Whom no one precedes and the end Whom no one succeeds.
Let us praise the Lord for his victory in becoming King and restoring us and washing our sins away and thank him for the Holy Spirit whom he has given us to enable us to be His prophets and priests. As such, let us live a life of service. We show and demonstrate our love and service to God, by laying down our lives and serving one another. If someone needs help, let us assist them, or if they are hurting, let us comfort them. Perhaps someone is discouraged, let us encourage them and so on and so forth. Let us live a life of faith. Finally, let us await and hope for his glorious coming.
~ Dn. Fr. Matthew
1 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 289
2 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 289-290
3 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007),291
4 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume 8, Augustin: Expositions on the Psalms, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1888 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickoson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 616
5 Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D Editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume 8, Augustin: Expositions on the Psalms, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1888 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickoson Publishing Marketing, LLC), 618
7 Thomas C. Oden and William C. Weinrich Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament XII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 4
8 Thomas C. Oden and William C. Weinrich Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament XII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 5
Christ the King of Kings, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55319 [retrieved November 27, 2018]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_King_of_Kings_(Greece,_c._1600).jpg.
Ge, N. N. (Nikolaĭ Nikolaevich), 1831-1894. “What is truth?” Christ and Pilate, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55296 [retrieved December 7, 2018]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:What_is_truth.jpg.
Bartolo, Andrea di, -1428. Resurrection of Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55333 [retrieved November 27, 2018]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrea_di_Bartolo_-The_Resurrection-_Walters_37741.jpg.