Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world”… So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” (Jn 18:36-37)
Kingship was granted to man when God uttered these words to him, “… fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth” (Gn 1:28). Some would say that this command of God granted to man only “stewardship” over the earth. However, as the psalmist declares, “the kings set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed (Ps 2:2)…” indicating that all men are as kings in the world, even though each is tempted to use his personal dominion to usurp God’s all-encompassing authority.
Just as all baptized Christians share in the “common priesthood”, so they also share in the common kingship. This kingship extends beyond the confines of the world. Once God is victorious, his dominion will be given to his disciples so that they may “wreak vengeance on the nations, and chastisement on the peoples, to bind… their nobles in chains of iron, to execute on them the judgment written, such is the glory of all the faithful” (Ps 149:7-9). Still, it is God, not man, who writes the judgment (Mt 7:1).
The dominion of man failed in Eden and has been failing ever since. It is not surprising then that God was affronted when the Israelites demanded an earthly king to rule over them (1 Sam 8:7-8). God is the Supreme King over all and since man’s share in kingship had been spoiled, so that he no longer practiced dominion with love, but instead with greed and suspicion, God warned the Israelites that they would suffer under a national kingship; and so they did, even being led back into idolatry (1 Kg 11:4-7).
When we speak of our common kingship, we really speak of a renewed, spiritual kingship which comes exclusively through Christ the King. Jesus, the prince of peace and king of heaven and earth, restores our human dignity, raising it to royalty as we become through Him holy sons and daughters of God (2 Cor 6:18). It is only through the merit of our goodly king, Jesus Christ, that our dominion is restored; a dominion which we must exercise with wisdom and compassion if we are not to fall back into corruption.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. In acclaiming Jesus thus we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Ukrainian realist Nikolai Ge entitled What is Truth (or Christ and Pilate) (1890). This work is representative of today’s gospel narrative.
Sadly, Ge had associations with radical socialists and Gnostics. Still, this painting of his is effective in portraying how the kingship of Christ is stripped of all worldly pretense so as to perfectly testify to eternal truth. In this image, the figure of Pilate (i.e. representing cruel and disgraced kingship) may stand in the limelight for a time, casting a shadow of debasement upon the world. But it is Jesus Christ who emerges as the true light of the world (Jn 9:5) and in His kingdom, Jesus is the everlasting light (Rv 21:23).
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services