This Sunday, the last of the current church year, is the feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. All the readings, and the psalm, show the false, limited kingdoms of the world confronting the eternal, true kingdom of God and being defeated.
In our gospel, Jesus, the true king of kings, confronts Pontius Pilate, representative of the most powerful kingdom on earth at the time, the Roman Empire. In Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, four languages are spoken at different times in the dialogue. Aramaic and Hebrew, the two common languages of Jesus and his followers, are the most frequently spoken. There is also Greek, the language of the common person throughout the Roman Empire, employed in conversations of Pilate with his soldiers and other non-Jews. In our gospel’s conversation between Jesus and Pilate, however, regarding Jesus’ kingship, Pilate addresses Jesus in Latin, a language which at the time was spoken only by the elite of the Roman world, the educated and royal class. Jesus’ response in perfect Latin was one way Pilate was given to recognize kingly qualities in Jesus.
Pilate is clearly baffled. Here is a king and a kingdom he has had no experience in dealing with, and he does not know how to respond. His terse remark to Jesus “What is truth?” shows that he lacks the ability to converse with Jesus on the level of his supernatural kingdom. However, he recognizes that Jesus poses no political threat to the Roman Empire and wants to set him free, but the chief priests and elders of the Jews refuse to let that happen and force Pilate into executing Jesus. However, Pilate has the last laugh on them. He has written on the signboard above Jesus’ cross, which sets out the reasons why the crucified is being executed, the words “The King of the Jews”. When the chief priests protest at this designation of Jesus, Pilate tersely responds: “What I have written, I have written”.
What leads you and me to recognize Jesus as King and to place ourselves under the authority of Christ the King?