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Sunday 25 November 2018: The Reign of Christ

Christ the King

Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33–37

By Keith M Phipps

Supernumerary Methodist presbyter, Ripon


Context: a regular preaching service

Aim: a call to Christian discipleship, service and prayer


Maybe you were amongst the many people who watched the wedding of Harry and Meghan earlier this year? It was an occasion of celebration, memorable not only for the dress but also for the address. The setting was Windsor and its castle from which was flying the Royal Standard saying that the queen was in residence, saying she was still ruling and reigning over her kingdom.

For us today’s Gospel sets the scene where Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king and asks the harder question ‘What is truth?’ So today we are invited to consider what truth is for us, as Christians, and what it means to say that Christ is King.



As we heard in the Gospel Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king. The response of Jesus is to say that his kingdom is not of this world and that his kingly authority comes from elsewhere. His kingdom is not secular nor of military might but spiritual: being in right relation with God.

Pilate and the Jerusalem Jewish leaders debate with one another the fate of Jesus. The Jewish authorities eventually are heard to say ‘that they have no king but Caesar’ thus denying the true God of Israel and playing into the hands of Pilate who finds no case against Jesus. Yet Pilate, to satisfy the Jewish authorities and Caesar, has Jesus handed over to be crucified.

Pilate writes the inscription ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews’ in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Thus Pilate, a Gentile, prophetically tells the whole wide world who Jesus really is. Jesus is ‘lifted up like the serpent in the desert’ and the Cross becomes a royal ensign, a rallying post. This royal ensign, found at the Place of the Skull, is where we truly see the Human Face of God.

The Cross then, for us, serves as a rallying point and royal ensign where we can regroup and hear again the call to Christian discipleship.



But what does it mean to say that Christ is King? Looking to John’s Gospel, we see that Jesus is the one greater than Moses, who gives a new commandment to his disciples. They are to love one another which becomes the royal commandment above all others. The setting is the washing of the disciples’ feet. Here, Jesus takes the form of a servant when he takes a bowl, towel and water and makes them clean. Thus, as Christians, we are called to a life of service and sacrifice amongst our families and friends, in the church and community and wider world as Christ rules and reigns in our hearts and lives.

In our world today, where tit for tat is often seen as the natural response of many, are we not called to follow the pattern of our Saviour? Where the attitude of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves people blind and toothless and therefore powerless to see and speak, are we not called to break the cycle of vengeance by intervening with the grace of forgiveness, thereby washing away the sins of the world? We are called to retaliate not with violence, vengeance and revenge, rather with love and forgiveness towards those who have wronged us and whom we may have also wronged.



This then leads us on to see Jesus as a High Priest. Only here, at the Cross, in John’s Gospel do we find the story of the seamless tunic something like a shroud or a priest’s robe. For John, Jesus is therefore presented as the go-between and intercessor, the mediator between God and human beings. Jesus continues this work of intercession beyond his death. He is the one who atones for the sins of the world as the Lamb of God.

As followers of the Lamb, we should devote ourselves to a life of prayer and intercession, not only for ourselves, our families and friends but for the needs of the wider world. In our reading from Revelation we heard that we are ‘a royal house, to serve as the priests of our God and Father.’ We can be active in the world, serving one another with our hands, but there are times when we need simply to put our hands together in prayer for the sake of the world.



As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, we are invited to ask what is true for us?

Today we are challenged to crown Christ as King in our lives as we rally around the Royal Ensign, the Cross. There we can all make a new and fresh start with God. Here at the foot of the Cross, we gaze upon the crucified redeemer who with outstretched arms pours out the perfume of his mercy and forgiveness. Here we find God’s peace in our hearts.

We respond as we become his servants who endeavour, in the love of his name, to wash away the sins of the world by breaking the cycle of victimhood and violence with acts of mercy and compassion through our care and concern for the world.

Finally, we find the strength for this activity through our prayer and intercession which addresses the wider issues of the world, both local and global.

As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, let it be true that he rules in our hearts and lives as King. Amen.

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