Jesus Christ is such a strange King.
It would be much more convenient if Jesus was just a king like any other king. We could overthrow him for good. We could draw borders and forbid him from ever crossing them. We could assure ourselves that he is in his castle far far away. We could ignore him easily enough like we do with any other foreign ruler. He can be a tyrant, for all we care, as long as he’s somebody else’s tyrant!
Or better yet, we could hold him strictly to his word — “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Ah, good! Then stay out of our world, we might say to him! We’ve got things under control here in the real world, Jesus. Leave us alone to our business of running our own lives, please and thanks! If he ever tried to tell us what to do, or order us around, we could politely remind him that we did not vote for him. That America is a democracy, and we don’t want …or need… a king.
But as it is, Jesus is quite a different kind of king.
In fact, his Kingdom extends throughout the entire Universe, and that includes our country, our cities, our neighborhoods, our family rooms, our dinner tables… even our own hearts. We cannot escape Him. He is present everywhere — especially where you’d least expect Him.
The homeless man on the side of the road that you pass on your way home from Mass — That’s Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The person dying from COVID over in Roanoke Memorial Hospital that nobody is allowed to go in and visit — That’s Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The teenager who is picked on for being different, who isn’t part of the clique, who struggles to make friends — That’s Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The elderly woman in the nursing home who has no family or friends left in the area, who spends her days watching Price is Right and Family Feud alone and basically forgotten — That’s Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
The drug dealer who ruined his life and has no chance at redemption according to this world, who is facing a life-sentence under top security — That’s somehow Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
The immigrant who doesn’t speak English. Who doesn’t know our American culture. Who is separated from everything and everyone they know because of political unrest back home — That’s Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
The terrified young woman who believes the awful lie that abortion is her only option now, who is poor and isolated, who was abandoned by her boyfriend when she needed him the most — That’s Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
Jesus is all around us. It doesn’t take long to find Him. We don’t have to look very far at all. He presents himself in the lowest, most deplorable and most disgusting circumstances. He smells like BO. He hasn’t brushed his teeth or taken a shower in a week. He lives under the 581 bridge. He is hard to love and has severe mental illness. He shivers as the weather gets colder. He’s getting arrested right now. He makes you feel uncomfortable. He begs for money and you aren’t sure if he’ll just spend it on booze. He hangs on a Cross as the crowd mocks him below saying:
“He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him!”
If only he was a different kind of king! A normal, worldly king! If only his crown wasn’t so thorny and inconvenient. Perhaps we would be less afraid to look at him…
But that’s our King.
The people of Israel once begged God for a King — “Appoint a king over us, like all the nations, to rule us!” they said. But when they finally got what they asked for — when they received the King of Kings, they were totally disappointed. They found him to be altogether lackluster. As the Prophet Isaiah says of Jesus: “He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him.”
But that’s the King God gave us!
We shouldn’t bother looking for another one, either… because He’s the best there is. He is certainly not a tame or nice King… He means to conquer our entire heart, our entire life — but He is a Good King. He’s a King worth living and dying for.
He is humble. He is meek. He forgives us our trespasses. He anoints our darkest, most unsightly wounds. He suffers for us. He suffers with us. He asks only for the least act of love — the dimmest glimmer of authentic concern — A glass of water. A sandwich. A visit. A conversation. A prayer.
He does not ask us to fix everything. He does not expect us to save the world — after all, that’s His job. Saint Paul promises us as much in our second reading: “Every sovereignty and every authority and power” will one day be subjected to Him — even Death itself, the last enemy, will bend the knee in the end. God will be all-in-all!
But until that glorious Last Day, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, seems to be just fine with an uncomfortable amount of dysfunction in this world. Just look around! Jesus our King allows for so much sin, so much corruption, so much disorder, so many trials.
Any other worldly king would consolidate his power, impose strict control over his subjects, and let his full strength be felt by all those within his kingdom — But Jesus has a drastically different tactic. He shows His royal omnipotence, not by lording it over others, but by letting go of all power, by becoming small, by emptying himself, by letting evil believe that it is winning. If we had to make an honest assessment of Jesus’ rule, we might be tempted to conclude that he’s not a very effective king. Everything seems to be on fire…
And yet — We need to have faith that somehow He is still Lord. Somehow… he’s still in control. Somehow… His Providence is still at work. Somehow: He is still King of the Universe, and despite all odds, we believe He will cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly.
This WILL look like foolishness to the world, but it’s the foolishness of the Cross!
And from that place of foolish faith and grace, we can love those most in need with little, concrete acts.
That’s what it all comes down to, according to our Gospel. Jesus, the King fo the Universewaits for us to make simple, yet deliberate decisions that bring hope and light into this very dark world. He expects us to be His Presence — to extend His Incarnate Kingdom.
We will be judged on whether or not we do that. These little acts of love might seem pointless and laughably insignificant… but it’s the stuff of Heaven. It’s the defining fact that will allow us to hear His Voice say to us:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’”
It all comes down to that…
Left or Right. Heaven or Hell. Eternal joy, life, and peace…or eternal separation, isolation and pain.
We have to make a choice. We’re either with this King of the Universe, or we are against Him. All our faith, all our belief, all our time at Church means nothing if we aren’t willing to love Jesus wherever He can be found.
So while there’s still time: Let’s be radically kind to each other. Let’s cherish the gift of life we’ve been given. Let’s be quick to serve and slow to demand. Eager to be of one mind with the Church. Let’s put away the harsh, bitter spirit of criticism and skepticism. Let’s be people of goodwill. Let’s show mercy. Then one day, we can hope to hear Jesus say to us:
“Come. You are mine forever, because you have already been with me this entire time. You already were serving me. You were already loving me when you loved those who seemed so very unlovable. What you did to the least of these, you did to me.”