Christ the King. What’s the basis in scripture? And what does it mean for us? How does it affect the way we live
In the past I’ve talked about the Gospel being the New Covenant. In the Old Testament, we find God making a number of Covenants with mankind. The first was the one made at the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden. Part of it was the judgment on our first parents for eating the fruit, but it also included the promise that the seed of Eve would crush the head of the Serpent, the promise of Christ being the deliverer of Mankind.
Next, when Noah and his family emerged from the Ark, God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
Another Covenant was made with Abraham, promising him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and giving the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River. This Covenant was repeated to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and then, in the next generation, with his son, Jacob (who was later renamed Israel). Even after being driven out by the Romans, even under Greek and later Ottoman occupation, Jews remained in the western portion, the area of the present day state of Israel, the land Jesus walked.
Then, we come to the Mosaic Covenant, made with the Jews in Sinai. The capstone of this covenant is the Ten Commandments, which was further elaborated in the rules for living and ritual. This is the Old Covenant, the Law, which Christ fulfilled and which was changed in the Church. As we read in the Book of Hebrews, “when the priesthood is changed, the Law must be changed”.
The final Covenant in the Old Testament is the one made with King David. “Thus says the Lord: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more…. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’
This pointed, at first, to the immediate successors of David, like his son, King Solomon. But, as God reminds him, his throne shall be established forever. When we read the Gospel of Matthew, we can see that the Evangelist begins by laying out the case that Jesus, as the legal son of Joseph, is the rightful claimant to the throne of David. And our Lord’s words to Peter, “I will give you the Keys of the Kingdom”, are an affirmation. They remind the reader of a parallel in Isaiah 22, where God makes Eliakim the King’s Chief Steward, something like a prime minister. “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”.
Jesus doesn’t rule from a throne in Jerusalem, though. At least not yet - that’s in the future. At the end of the Book of Revelation, we read of the New Jerusalem, in the New Heaven and Earth, that the Throne of God is there. Indeed, we say in the Creed that His Kingdom will be without end.
In creating this feast, Pope Pius XI wrote, “This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the Scripture amply proves, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross”.
The first thing the priest says in the Divine LIturgy is “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Every single Liturgy is that Kingdom breaking into our world.
Let us go forth today, imitating Christ by proclaiming the Kingdom. St. Francis said, “preach always. When necessary use words”.
Proclaim the Kingdom by living it. Live it by practicing works of mercy. Live it by having the attitude of the Beatitudes. Live it by cultivating virtue. Live it by studying. Live it by prayer.