Sunday 25th November was the last Sunday of the church year, and marked the feast of ‘Christ the King’. This is a relatively modern feast, having only been instituted in 1925, and is not marked in all parts of the church.
The Bible is less than positive about the idea of human monarchy. In the Old Testament the people of Israel demanded to be given a king in the same way as the nations around them because they were looking for a human authority to rescue them from what they feared at that time– a foreign threat in the form of the Philistines – rather than trusting in God. Eventually they got their wish, starting out on a path that would eventually lead to the destruction of the nation.
By the time we get to the New Testament the view seems to be that human kings are a necessary thing, but they are only to be trusted and obeyed in so far as they rule in accordance with God’s will. Jesus himself tells us “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”. Much more importantly Jesus transforms the idea of kingship, as a king whose authority is not rooted in the exercise of power to meet the whims of the ruler, but in the suffering sacrifice of one who loves his subjects so much he gives his life for them. This is the great transformation. That the one who has all power, from the beginning to the end of time does not use it to force obedience but sacrifices himself.
This is a very different model of kingship indeed.
The psychoanalyst Carl Jung identified The King as what he called an archetype, by which he meant a deeply set, even inherited, psychological model which drives how we think, feel and behave. If we look around us we can see how the old model of kingship works – exercising power to bend others to the will of the person with the power. We see it in politicians and presidents, but also close to us in manipulative behaviour, perhaps sometimes we even find ourselves acting in that way ourselves. But we do not have to do that. When we truly make Jesus our king, the way we exercise our power has to change because we have his example to follow – the king as servant, using power to serve others in love. When we let Jesus reign inside us, then we can truly say his kingdom is already here.
Revd Peter Wright