LAST PENTECOST, PROPER XXIX - B - 15 JOHN 18. 33-37
Today is the last Sunday after Pentecost and is traditionally referred to as “Christ the King” Sunday as the readings refer to Christ as King. The first reading from Daniel portrays Christ being crowned as king. The reading from the Revelation of St. John the Divine portrays Christ already enthroned as king, and the gospel reading has Pilate asking Jesus if he is a king.
Daniel and Revelation are visions of the future given by God and fall under the category of scripture referred to as “Apocalyptic literature.”
Daniel’s vision is similar to several aspects of St. John’s revelation, including the throne, the multitudes of worshipping angels and other creatures and the books. Both readings are visionary and prophetic and reveal something about the “last days” or “end times."
They are not meant to frighten us, but rather to encourage Christians in every generation in their struggle against sin, the principalities and powers of darkness in this world and the fear of death. These writings assure the faithful that even in the midst of the battles against evil the Lord will bring final victory over all forces of evil.
The reading from Daniel and Revelation are timely. We should take courage in hearing them read this morning believing as the Collect says that it is God’s will to restore all things in His beloved son, the King of kings and Lord of lords. To speak of Christ as king is a matter of faith. Through the eyes of faith we picture our world ruled over by Christ.
Recent events in Paris and other parts of Europe and the Middle East confront us with the hard facts of evil and destructive forces that seem to deny and test our faith’s picture of Christ as King and our world ruled over by Him. It was no different during the time of Daniel or St. John. The evil of their own day stood to destroy God’s people, to deny their faith, and to rend them hopeless.
The essential purpose of their writings was to encourage the faithful to be full of hope and prepared to persevere to the end, no matter what happens. But sometimes that is easier said than done especially when hate seems stronger than love. Conflict is more prevalent than peace. Lies win out over truth. Pain often overshadows happiness.
What hope is there for the future? Can we hope for a victory of love, peace and truth over hate, conflict and lies? Can we hope that goodness and happiness can win out?
Daniel and St. John’s vision of Christ as King was futuristic. They were holding out for that “day” in the face of real persecution. In his vision, Daniel saw “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him who was given dominion and glory and kingship; a dominion that is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and a Kingship that shall never be destroyed.”
As St. John saw Christ, “the firstborn of the dead,” already enthroned as the ruler of the kings of the earth. Both Daniel and St. John were encouraged by their vision to persevere knowing that the final victory belonged to God. Where can we find sure and certain hope for the future?
Today’s first two readings point us beyond the world as we know it to the world to come when the fullness of God’s Kingdom will be ushered in and Christ as King will rule over all other powers. Until then, we live by faith, and our faith enables us to live with the hope that our future is with God.
Yet to some it appears that the powers of evil and destruction have gotten out of hand. Hate and conflict, lies and pain seem to be ruling the world today. God’s ways are not our ways, however, and to some the very idea that He allows such powers to operate at all is a perplexing puzzle. Why can’t there be more good than evil? More love and less hate? More peace and less conflict?
It’s easy to lose hope in the wake of such evil and destruction as witnessed in recent days and with the threat of more to come. Life sometimes seems to be just one big tragedy, no matter what we do. And when we lose hope, when we give up, that is when life really becomes hopeless, for hopelessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
These puzzling questions are often without answers. But even so, faith assures us that Christ is King and whatever suffering our King permits in this age, he suffers with us, for He is with us to the end of the age. Faith makes us feel confident, then, in the final Victory. Faith moves us to see beyond hate and conflict, lies and pain to Christ the King. He holds our future in His hands.
Faith enables us to believe that our King will work things out for good. Evil and destruction will be subdued. Then life will be Truth not lies. Life will be Peace, not conflict. Life will be Love, not hate, Happiness, not pain. Christ promises that such a life will come to those who choose to remain faithful, who do not lose hope, who remain watchful and expectant, and who persevere to the end.
Today’s readings are meant to inspire us to look through the present darkness and to behold the ultimate victory of Christ and the joyful consummation that awaits His Bride - the Church - who, through Her sacraments, has prepared herself for “His coming with the clouds; where every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.”
On that “day” the fullness of His Kingdom will be ushered in; a kingdom without end, where the peoples of the earth, heretofore enslaved and divided by sin, are freed and brought together under the most gracious rule of the King of kings and the Lord of lords; the King of Truth.
Pilate asked him, “So, you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my voice.” AMEN+