Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?”
I have always found it a bit bizarre that for the solemnity of Christ the King, this Gospel passage, of Christ’s interrogation and crucifixion, would be used. After all, is this not the Lord’s lowest moment?
A King should be defined not by the crowd, but by how he handles himself at all times. A King’s supremacy should not be measured just at its peak; it should also be measured at its lowest moment as well. In all moments, Christ our King and Lord remained absolutely the same: above all things and above all others. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No man changed him. No condition changed him. No sentence changed him. No man controlled him. No man ever usurped him in authority, dignity, prestige and power.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rev. 1:8)
Yesterday evening, I spent some time at a birthday party. A little boy was celebrating his third birthday. The mother has three children, all from the same man, but no husband. The child’s father refuses to make a commitment to her (More and more young men seem to have this problem). Although the mother of the child did not invite the father, she did invite his parents who decided to attend. They were shocked at how well they were treated. No bitterness. No hatred. No hard feelings were expressed. As they left, the child’s grandfather told his mother, “You have done a great job with the kids. I am proud of you.” This young mother showed remarkable restraint, courage and love in face of real hardship and hurt. She took it upon herself to define who she was and what she was made of. And she did a great job of it.
Going through hell. Going through hell can leave us feeling cold, bitter, pragmatic, uncaring, and devoid of empathy. The very thought of being crucified could easily annihilate who we are; change us into a deformed creature or monster we never wanted to be. Christ is King. Though He was whipped and disfigured, He never changed. While his body was left twisted, his thoughts never turned dark or sinister. Hatred can easily convert a wise man into a fiend. Love sustains all things, endures all things, hopes all things. Love never fails because it never changes. God is love. He never changes.
While in exile on the island of Patmos and while the Christian community was experiencing horrific persecution and hardship, St. John received a vision (the Book of Revelation) from an angel of the Lord. It was a vision for the faithful to raise their arms in prayer and not against their persecutors. It was a call to imitate the slain lamb, not to seek His revenge. The Lord was calling all Christians to trust in Him, to keep His commandments, to imitate Him at all cost so as to receive the crown of victory. Victory would not be achieved through sin or through negotiations. It would not be achieved with anger, resentment, bitterness, or even the slightest hint of revenge. It would only be achieved through fidelity. Remain in me as I remain in you.
This is what separates kings from The King. This is how Christianity conquered the Roman Empire.
How? By showing pity for the pitiless and compassion for the remorseless. The Lord, fully conscious yet from the cross, gave the command in a clear voice with his disciple listening: Forgive them for they know not what they do. What a King! The Lord remained not only in charge of his disciples, but also in his persecutors. He was still giving out commands while being nailed to the Cross. As the Pharisees and Romans tried to erase him from their memory, He called out to them in a memorial way.
From that moment on, the Christians showed warmth, care and humility towards those who had crucified their Lord. They reached out to them as they were being hunted down by them! By defining for themselves who they were (often with blood and love), they unmasked their persecutors.
Sin deforms only if it is given the opportunity to entrench itself, to take root. The early Christians forbade it. They would not allow their demise to dictate their every word or actions. They knew the story line well: If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. They would not create a new identity for themselves or take on a new form or shape. They would remain with what they knew worked extremely well. Though it may happen slowly, for God has all the time in the world, they knew (and believed) that "love conquers all things".
My dear friends: though enemies abound and sin often prevails, we know with time and great reflection, that those who disgrace eventually become disgraced, and those who were once disgraced for righteous sake, eventually become heroes. Herod was not a hero. He was a disgrace. Pilate was not a King. He was a puppet.
I have the power to crucify you. No one has the power to crucify you, my friend. No one. No one has the power to strip you of your dignity. For by attempting to do so, they strip their own away! By crucifying you, they crucify themselves. Yes, the crowd shouts today, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” But the next day, they mourn and say, What have we done! We have crucified our Lord, our friend!
The know-it-alls actually know nothing at all.
That's when the King appears, not to seek revenge, but to seek sinners. The victim becomes the rescuer! His followers become the rescuers of the so-called “rescuers”!
Now that’s a King for you.