Truly Triumphant King

Tissot Title on the Cross

At Holy Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King, the first reading and the gospel reading give us two pictures of the King of the Jews. Stunningly different.

First we read from II Samuel about the moment when the prophet anointed David king of all Israel. This moment was the culmination of a thoroughgoing military and political triumph. The Lord had chosen David from humble beginnings. Samuel had discovered a little shepherd boy, who then went on to distinguish himself as a valiant warrior, skilled general, and noble statesman. David successfully united all of the tribes of Israel; he defeated the Philistines; and he conquered the pagan city of Jerusalem to be the capital city of the Jews. David transformed the chosen people from a loose affiliation of beleaguered tribes into a powerful nation.

Then we read about the King of the Jews in the gospel. The renowned teacher and miracle-worker from Nazareth had come to Jerusalem in triumph, arriving to the cheers of throngs of followers. Jesus’ Apostles thought that He was poised to lay claim to the throne of David, to galvanize a revolution against the Roman overlords. But, as we read, that is not what happened.

Two images: On the one hand, King David, who started from such humble beginnings, triumphing in Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus, who entered into Jerusalem triumphantly, but was then utterly humiliated.

From the point-of-view of the fallen world, the sign which hung over our Lord on the cross was a consummate mockery. Iesus Nazareth Rex Iudorum, I. N. R. I., Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. By putting this sign on the cross, Pontius Pilate was taunting the Jewish people, as if to say, ‘Here is the great king of your benighted people, and long may he reign over this insignificant cesspool of a country.’

Passion of the Christ Today you will be with meWhat Pilate did not realize is: What he had written was more true than he could ever have imagined. The Jews had been chosen by the God of all nations to give the world its Messiah. Pilate had crucified the King of the human race.

Good Friday was as dark a day as the world has ever known, as dark as the day when Adam and Eve first fell from grace. Good Friday, in fact, is the day that teaches us just how deep the Fall of man really was. How far did we fall, when we disobeyed God? Far enough to wind up crucifying our own divine king.

But a light did shine on Golgatha. From the face of Christ, the light of serenity and kindness shone. Surrounded by His enemies, who had conspired to put Him to an unjust and cruel death, the Lord looked out from the altar of the cross and prayed, ‘Father, forgive them.’ To His companion who confessed his sins, Jesus said, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

This is the power of the true King–the power of mercy. There is no greater height in this world than the depths to which our Lord was willing to go to win us back to Him. There is no greater majesty than when Christ stretched out His hands humbly and meekly to receive the nails. Without a word, the sovereign king brought the age of human sin and death to an end. And He began the age of grace and eternal life.

When King David died in his palace, his soul went to the nether world, and there was nothing he could do to escape, even after all his military successes. The powerful warrior had no power over death.

But when the poor preacher from Galilee died in agony and ignominy on the cross, He went down to hell and whupped Satan in a fair fight. The Lamb Who went peacefully to slaughter, Who never wielded a weapon—He turned out to be the mighty champion Who could break the bonds that had shackled the entire race, the bonds of death.

So let us kneel down with King David and all the angels and saints at the foot of the throne of the King of Universe, the King of peace and mercy and true love. Let and consecrate ourselves anew to serving Him.

One thought on “Truly Triumphant King

  1. Father Mark,

    I was always struck by the fact that Samuel had to go to Jesse’s house pretending to be there to offer sacrifice, hence the heifer, in order to avoid suspicion from Saul. It has always been tenuous. But, “there, it is he, anoint this one;” and “from that day the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.: if that isn’t an adventure story, nothing is.

    Then, there’s the King of the Universe, dying for forgiveness of our sins: if that isn’t a mystery story, nothing is.

    Thank God for truly great stories.

    In Him we trust.



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