Feast of Christ the King
FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
Today we proclaim Jesus as savior of the world, as our king. But just as it is important to proclaim Jesus as our king, it is equally important to know where our king is to be found. Jesus is not found in the places that kings are usually expected to be. He is not found in a royal palace, or in the halls of power where our politicians sit. Jesus is found on the cross. That is good news for all of us who struggle with evil in our world.
The fact that the king of the universe is found on a cross is good news to the thief in today’s gospel. Now we know almost nothing about this thief. We do not know how old he was or if he was married. We do not even know the crime for which he was crucified. But we know that as he hung on the cross next to Jesus, his life was coming to a violent and a cruel end. We know that as he hung in agony, his mind must have gone back to earlier times in his life when he missed certain opportunities, when he made decisions which he wished he could have made differently. He certainly thought of past choices which might have brought him to a different outcome other than this brutal execution. Now that he was crucified, his death was certain, and his hope was gone. There were no more choices that he could make. There was no way to find salvation at this last moment. Where could he possibly find reason to hope on that bloody hill of Calvary?
The joy of today’s gospel is that the thief at the last moment found salvation. He recognized that the King of the Jews was hanging on the cross next to him. He recognized that the king of the universe was suffering with him. If that was the case, then salvation was near. In a remarkable mixture of surprise and faith the thief posed the ultimate request, “Jesus, remember me when you enter into your kingdom.” And the king replied, “Truly, I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
In his darkest hour the thief was able to find salvation because the king of the world was with him on the cross. That experience of the thief is good news for us, because every time you or I need to face a crisis in our lives, every time we must endure trouble or suffer pain, we know that our king is with us. Jesus is not aloof or unconcerned. In our troubles Christ is with us. He walks with us through the valley of death.
Now this truth that the king of the universe is with us does not eliminate evil from our lives. It does not allow our pain to evaporate. We believe one day Christ will return and establish the kingdom, and at that time every evil will be destroyed, and every tear will be dried. But that time is not yet. For the present, evil is real and continues to touch our lives. The innocent suffer, cancer kills, our hearts are broken by rejection by loss. The victory of Christ has not yet destroyed the evil which surrounds us. But until that day when it does, Christ the king is with us amidst the evil. This presence of Christ can make a fundamental difference in our lives.
Although evil continues, if Christ is with us in that evil, then we can find the strength to fight it. We cannot avoid suffering or pain. But if Christ is with us, we need not suffer alone. Death is inevitable. But if Christ is with us, then like the good thief we can hear the promise of life eternal. Christ is our king, and we know where to find him. We find him amid the struggles of our lives. So, as we look forward and anticipate the fears, the troubles, the pains of this upcoming week, let us remember that we are not alone. As we cope with issues in our family, in our work, in our world, let us remember that strength is close at hand. As we deal with doubt and discouragement, with rejection and pain, let us recall that our king is near. Christ is with us. Christ not only recognizes our need. He stands with us amid the evil in our world. We must know what the good thief knew. Our king is near us. Our king and our salvation is hanging on the cross next to us.
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