The Highest Majesty of God

The Highest Majesty of God November 24, 2019

 

 

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke:

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 This is the Gospel for the Sunday of Christ the King.
This is the Gospel for the day when we meditate on the Kingship of Christ. Not the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, not any parable where Christ refers to himself as a king or a master, not the Ascension into Heaven, not His nativity when the multitude of angels were visible in the sky. This. Christ stretched out between Heaven and earth, naked, abused in every way a human can be abused. Christ beaten, molested and tortured.  Christ helpless, mocked for His helplessness by members of His own faith. Christ poor, with the very last of His possessions, the bloodstained clothes off His back, taken away by His murderers. Christ with His arms dislocated, nails forced between the bones of His wrists. Christ scourged until His bones were bare; Christ trembling with shock and extreme dehydration; Christ with blood pouring into His eyes from a cap of inch-long thorns the soldiers drove into His scalp.
This is the most perfect expression of His Kingship, or the Gospel for today would be something else.
I love and respect my Muslim brothers and sisters very much, and I find we have much more in common than I’d thought. But the other day I saw a Muslim person on Twitter sharing a painting of the Crucifixion, mocking our belief, questioning how anyone could believe that the all-powerful God could be tortured and killed by His creatures. To which a Christian has to say, Amen. That’s exactly what happened, because He willed to allow it.
I love and respect my atheist brothers and sisters very much, but often I get an atheist in the comment box or other places who wants to mock my beliefs. Sometimes he says some version of that old chestnut, “if God is all-powerful, can He create a rock He can’t carry?” to which a Christian must confidently respond, Yes. He did. He created the wood of the cross and the people who tortured Him; He fell three times under the weight of that cross, and couldn’t pick it up again. He purposely got Himself into a situation where He could not save Himself. His creatures tormented Him for it. And then He died.
And as He died, He pardoned.
Why would He choose to die, and in this way?
Surely not because it was necessary to placate a wrathful Father. That would make the Father pettier than we are, a clear impossibility. Surely not because He had to pay this high a price to win our souls back from Hell. He is King and Hell is not. He could take back His property just by demanding it.
He must have done it this way, to show us how much we were worth to Him. He must have also done it this way so that wherever His beloved was, we would also be. If you are in pain, if you are ashamed, if you are dirty, if you are naked, if you are rejected by your family or your church, if you are a victim of any kind of abuse– there is God with you, not only because He is omnipresent but because He has been in just the same place, helpless as you are. And I believe He also must have done this, to make us understand what the greatest expression of His majesty is– the one thing we can always be sure that we have, the thing that not even a Roman crucifixion could take away.
That one thing is His mercy.
The Crucifixion robbed Him of everything. It was quickly robbing Him of the ability to breathe– that was the normal means of death by crucifixion: suffocation when the victim lost the strength to draw breath anymore. But He still had a little breath left in Him. He used one breath to pardon.
Two men were crucified with Him, on the right and on the left. Insofar as anyone deserves to be tortured to death, these two did. They were that evil. One of them joined the rulers, mocking Him, but the other had a change of heart.  He didn’t know who Christ was, but He recognized in Christ somebody innocent. His act of faith wasn’t perfect, but he was sorry. And he said,”Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
And Christ used one of His last words to pardon Him. “This day, you will be with me in paradise.”
This is Christ our King.
This is the very highest expression of the kingship of Christ you will find on Earth. This, not Christ happy and comfortable on a golden throne somewhere up in the sky that humans can’t get to. Not Christ in wrath and anger, damning  sinners to hell. Not Christ coolly distant, wrapped up in His own majesty. Not some cardinal wrapped up to the eyes in expensive red vestments. Not the Sistine Chapel. Not the National Basilica. This is Christ the King.
Christ the King, when stripped of everything else, pardoned and had mercy.
The most regal thing that God can ever do, is to reach down and draw a human person up into Himself, into Paradise.
The highest expression of the majesty of God, is to have mercy.
Go and do likewise.
(image via Pixabay)
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