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Sunday Scripture: His dominion is an everlasting dominion

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

By Terrance Callan

Christ the King: Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37

This Sunday we celebrate our belief that Jesus is our king, and look forward to the time when His kingship will be manifest to all. As they did last Sunday, the readings call us to reflect on the present and future aspects of God’s salvation, now expressed in terms of the kingship of Jesus.

The reading from the Gospel according to John explores the way in which Jesus is presently a king. This passage is part of John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. Pilate has heard that Jesus is king of the Jews, that is, a claimant to the title of messiah, and he asks Jesus if this is true. Jesus implicitly says that He is a king, but attempts to clarify what this means both positively and negatively. Negatively, He is not a king with an army to fight for Him; He is not the kind of king Pilate is worried about. Positively, He is a king in the sense that He witnesses to the truth.

What being a king means for Jesus is that He is the revelation of God’s truth.  Those who see that God is revealed in Him are taken out of the world, the sphere of illusion and ignorance of God. In this sense, a sense that does not interest Pilate, Jesus is a threat to him and to all who remain in the world. But our recognition of the truth of God in Jesus makes Him our king and makes us part of a kingdom which is not of this world.

The reading from the Book of Revelation also speaks of Jesus’ present kingship, but in more familiar terms. Jesus is king in the sense that His death and resurrection freed us from our sins and made us a royal nation. The reading then goes on to speak of the time when Jesus’ kingship will be visible to all, namely, at the end of the world when Jesus comes amid the clouds.

This description of the second coming of Jesus alludes to the passage from the Book of Daniel that forms the first reading. This passage is the culmination of a symbolic vision. In it one like a Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven to appear before the Ancient of Days, i.e., God. And God confers on the Son of Man an everlasting kingship.

As is reflected in our passage from the Book of Revelation, the early Christians understood this passage from Daniel as a prediction of the second coming of Jesus and His final establishment as king of heaven and earth.

These readings invite us to think of Jesus as our king who has made God known to us, above all in His death and resurrection, which has set us free from the power of sin. And they invite us to hope for the day when all will see this hidden kingship.

Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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