Reflection - November 25, 2018

“Pilate said to Jesus,
‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?’
Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? 
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. 
What have you done?’ 
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. 
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’”

This man, Jesus, stands before Pilate accused of being the King of the Jews. It’s remarkable, really. Born in the little town of Bethlehem, likely never traveling more than 100 miles from the place of his birth, and growing up in Nazareth (can anything good come from there), his public ministry only lasted three years. No army followed him and even though he had some public success, almost everyone who cheered him also abandoned him. Perhaps Pilate is being sarcastic. It’s hard to imagine him seriously asking Jesus if he’s the King of the Jews. He knows he’s not. Pilate might just be seeking to find out if Jesus is delusional enough to believe he is the King of the Jews, as he has been accused of claiming by his own people and chief priests. Is this man, Jesus, that crazy?

Pilate can’t believe his ears. Jesus is more crazy. “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Jesus is King of more than Israel, more than the Roman Empire, more than the Earth. We might be placated to think that Jesus is King of Heaven, an eternal spiritual realm. But that’s not really it, completely. Jesus is redefining kingship. He is not a political human king, but the king of God’s realm: of creation (everything that exists), revelation (truth), and salvation (God’s action). Jesus is the king of all reality, seen and unseen. Theological reflection through the centuries has brought clarity to our understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity: his role in creation, revelation, and salvation. To Pilate, he had to appear crazy. Theology has made Jesus’s claim more understandable for us, but the centuries of growth in knowledge have not made his claim any more believable.  

Traditionally, we call this weekend the Feast of Christ the King, but it’s official title is the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. To take our understanding of creation, the universe as it were, as an example, our knowledge today is so much greater than what Pilate knew. The universe, which is all of space and time, began about 13.8 billion years ago. It has been expanding ever since, and is expanding now at an accelerated pace. Space, itself, (hold on) is expanding. It’s not just that the edge of the universe is growing, but that everything in between is growing, too. This means that we, on earth, can observe the distant past of stars from the light they emitted close to 13.8 billion years ago, but which are now 46 billion light years away (try not to get a headache). The observable universe from earth has a diameter of about 93 billion light years, but since the universe is expanding faster than the speed of light, it may be many times larger than we can or ever will be able to observe (ouch!). Just in what we can observer, there are 100 billion galaxies with an estimated average of 100 billion stars each (our own Milky Way has 300 billion). Jesus didn’t claim to be a political king, but to be King of All. He was either crazy, or he is God.