We’ve reached the end of another church year, and it’s fitting that on this Reign of Christ Sunday we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s kingly power. Reign of Christ Sunday is a fairly new religious observance. It was started by Pope Pius XI in 1925. According to the papal encyclical that introduced the Reign of Christ Sunday, Christ the King rules over the church and the whole world—if not now, than at the end of time.
Reign of Christ Sunday is time for us to reflect on our lives and think about how our words and deed will be judged by others and by God. If we have been faithful to God and to our calling, we will be restored. We have to admit our shortcomings as become involved in ministering to others.
Christ is the king who saves us. He associated with sinners so that he could save everyone. The soldiers at the cross wondered how he could save others when he could not save himself. They did not realize that the salvation they wanted was of this world, but the salvation Jesus offered was eternal. Jesus is the king of the cross. He died on the cross but rose again three days later. He died to save us from eternal separation from God. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. When his flock is wandering and lost and without shepherds, God grieves. When the flock is being cared for and is growing in relationship with God, his heart is full of joy.
Jesus is the king because he is the firstborn, just like the oldest male child of a modern king will become king when the current king dies. Jesus has the pre-eminence and the right of inheritance over all creation. He existed before the universe was created and he is exalted in rank above it.
Jesus’ power as king comes not from military power but from inviting us to become one with him. His power is shown in his service to us and his willingness to accept the punishment we deserve as sinners. His everlasting kingdom speaks of the realm of salvation where all believers live in a current and eternal spiritual relationship with God. This relationship will be under the care and authority of Jesus.
When Jesus said in Luke 23:33-43, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” he was referring both to the people who crucified him and us. The thief who asked for salvation had a much more significant salvation than the other thief. Jesus exercised the power of pardon that he has as king. The thief who asked for forgiveness accepted responsibility for his actions, so he was able to ask for forgiveness and receive it. If we believe in Christ and accept responsibility for our actions, we can also receive forgiveness when we ask for it.
We need a Saviour who can bring good news to our sin-filled world. Jeremiah referred to the Saviour in Jeremiah 23:1-8. The people of Israel forgot about the covenant they made with God. They sold out to earthly desires and expected God to forget about what they did. Jeremiah did not want them to forget about the covenant. Their misplaced faith led to judgment. They were faithless, and God was faithful. He showed his faithfulness by sending Jesus. Jeremiah proclaimed what Christ would do. Jesus came to heal the sick, gather the lost sheep, restore the faith and rule with righteousness and justice. The oppressed were restored. Jeremiah was looking to the future, but Christ is here with us today. Jesus is a just and right ruler.
God’s people needed Jesus and so do we. Jesus is our best hope. Jesus is our only hope. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the hallmark of our Christian faith. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus fed us with God’s Word, washed us of our sins and died for us. We are called to be shepherds of Jesus’ flock. We are to follow the model of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We are to care for Jesus’ flock by sharing the Good News whenever and wherever we can.
The earthly shepherds who are our leaders are sometimes less than what they are called to be. The people under their care experienced the consequences of the evil actions of their leaders. The current Senate expense scandal here in Canada is a good example of poor leadership. God’s plans for the people of Israel were a reversal of what their failed leadership had done. Leadership would become a model of God as a true shepherd of the people.
Christ is the creator king. He created us. We were created to be good, but we allowed sin to pollute our lives. Jesus rules over us. As our ruler, he is the head of the Christian body. Just as a human body responds to the head, we as members of the Christian body have to respond to our head-Jesus. That is the essence of the Christian faith.
Our God is a righteous god. This concept can best be explained by acknowledging its opposite-depravity. Depravity-or our sin-filled world-is the very opposite of how we can best describe God. If we stay faithful and obedient to God, we will receive his blessings. We will not have to fear anything, and we will lack for nothing. We will be fruitful and multiply.
During the Korean War, Billy Graham visited American soldiers. He visited hospitals and talked and prayed with wounded soldiers. On one visit, he met a soldier who was lying face down in a cradle because his spine had been shattered by a bullet. A hole had been cut in the bottom of the cradle so the soldier could see through to the floor. When Billy Graham was talking to him, the soldier said, “I would like to see your face, Mr. Graham.” Billy Graham got down on his back under the cradle so the soldier could look down at his face. This is a metaphor for what God did for us through Jesus Christ. God the king came down to our level so that we could see what God is like. It reminds us of Paul’s statement that Christ is the image of the invisible God. God came down to our level to reach us and save us.