The essential paradox: Christ the King on the cross

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast Day of Christ the King. We end this liturgical year hearing the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. This has got to be the greatest paradox in all of our Christian faith and narrative. Have you ever wondered how the words “crucifixion of Jesus” are connected to “Christ the King”? What about this association could possibly make sense? In the gospel of Luke, a simple statement announces this dramatic act: Jesus is crucified, set between two criminals, one who joins in the taunting and mocking, and the other who recognizes the reality of Jesus and asks to be remembered in paradise.

During my trip to the Holy Land, one of the most meaningful experiences I encountered was at the Garden of Gethsemane. It was the moment when I comprehended the role and truth of Jesus’ suffering — the suffering we are all invited into. Jesus suffered so that he would know and sanctify our very humanly existence which includes suffering, but most of all Jesus’ suffering was essential because the world was not yet ready to claim him as the Lord of lords, the King of kings; not ready yet to allow him to be sovereign over their lives, to move toward hope and promise, rather than despair.  Jesus only wanted our world to be changed by God’s abundant love, but people rejected it. They couldn’t see it; they couldn’t move toward or into it. Sadly, we can see remnants of that kind of disbelieving in our world today. But we can make a different choice (preview of my sermon on Sunday). We can indeed live our lives as if Jesus were our King. We can lay down our cloaks, hailing Jesus with the words, “Hosanna in the highest!” We pray it each Sunday: “for thine is the Kingdom, power and glory, now and forever.” Let us imagine together what it means for Jesus’ kingdom to be for us now, in our lives. This is what he whispered to the criminal to his side in his statement, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Here are some of my favorite photos from our time in Gethsemane. I hope they speak to you, as they did to me.

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Our prayer service as we entered this space.
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The olive trees, mighty and strong, bringing forth new growth out of a deadness within.
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An aged tree, surviving because of it’s ability to keep finding new life.
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A meaningful prayer
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The Prince of Peace.
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The alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end — and everything in between.
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One of the many expressions of the cross of Christ in Jerusalem.
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The beauty of the frescos depicting the agony of Christ.
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People in prayer, especially the Franciscans who claimed these sites as holy.
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The amazing ceiling of the church . Made me think that “the heavens adore thee!”
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The truth of the Olive branch – the branch of righteousness.

 

Christ is King. Alleluia. Alleluia!

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