Last Sunday we closed off the liturgical year with the Sunday commonly called The Reign of Christ. Even though we stand on the threshold of Advent, ready to hear the news of the Christ’s birth, we heard again about his death. Again we enter the climax of God’s salvation story, as The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is cruelly and violently put to death. This is what it means for Christ to be King.
Before we reset the clock and start our liturgical year over again, let me ask a question: what is our response to this King?
Imagine, for a moment, that you are the thief on the cross. You are being executed for your crimes. You know you deserve what you are receiving. You broke the law—probably several times. You did what you shouldn’t have done, and you will now pay the price. But these truths also plumb the depths of your spiritual self; you know there is no religious righteousness to claim for your favour. You are scared—what will the result be when you finally meet God, face-to-face?
Then a curious thing happens. You find yourself hanging beside Jesus. You’ve heard about him, maybe even seen him, but have never mustered the boldness to approach him. But here you are, in his presence. Deep within, in that place of heart and soul you have long ignored, you hear a voice tell you to reach out to him. The voice tells you that in Jesus’ presence you will receive God’s acceptance and love. It tells you that, in that moment, hanging beside Jesus, there is nothing to fear. And so you turn and say the only words you can think of: “Jesus, Remember me.”
What do you think happens next, when your eyes shut to this world but open to the next? What is your first response? Would it be to pontificate about political power and the dangers thereof? Would you spend time crafting theological treaties about how kingship and humility rightly go together? No. I bet you would worship. I bet you would express your love to the one who secured life.
Christ is King, which means he is our redeemer, the one who turns to us, intimately and personally, and bestows his peace and forgiveness. His Kingship means he is our rescuer, the one who brings us to a way of life in which we are wrapped in the eternal love of God. But more than all of this, for Christ to be King means he is the love of God—he is the one who ravishes us, who delights us, who soothes us in his presence. He is the one in whom everything in us finds its rest. Charles Spurgeon wrote.
He charms us, not by cold comeliness, but by a living loveliness, which wins our hearts. He is an approachable beauty, which not only overpowers us with its glory, but holds us captive by its charms. We love him: we cannot do otherwise, for ‘he is altogether lovely’. He has within Himself an unquenchable flame of love, which sets our souls on fire.
Yes, Jesus is our leader, the one we follow, the one who holds claim over our lives, but he is also the lover of our souls. He is the one for whom our hearts burst with expressions of adoration and praise. Yes, he is our Lord and teacher, we labour to learn his words, to know his teachings, and we attempt to model our life on his. But he is also the one in whose presence we simply long to be. He is the desire of our hearts. He is the one who arrests us with his beauty and magnificence—we close our eyes, we breathe deeply, and we feel at peace, safe in the love which surrounds us.
To this King, may we respond with simple, pure, and passionate love. Amen