Today is the feast of Christ, King of the Universe.
Since ancient times, men have insisted on having “kings”. While kings seem to be a thing of the past, too many countries today are abandoning democracy for dictatorships both secular and professedly religious. Christians too look to kingship…seeking to establish moral realms on earth. Even we Catholics are modelling our evangelization on Pro-life Christendoms based on Christ as King. But if Jesus or his Father have anything to do with being King, what kind of kingship do they claim?
On the everyday level, we the people almost always want someone to keep us safe, to keep order…someone to be in control of the chaos of an ever-changing world around us.
Scripture, however, warns us very specifically as to what happens when we long for kings to protect and save us:
that kings and their cohorts will
…conscript your children into their armies…use your children for their own profit and pleasure…tithe you on the little you make or own…take the best of your property to give to his officials…whereby you and your children will become his slaves. (See 1 Samuel Chapter 8)
“When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you,” says Samuel the prophet.
“The people refused to listen to the words of Samuel. They said, “No! We want a king so that we in our turn can be like the other nations; our king shall rule us and be our leader and fight our battles.”
God was not the king they wanted and so, like us today, the people rejected him. And God told Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you they have rejected; they have rejected me and my rule over them.”
Even now, as back then, we choose kings who offer us security and certainty, one who lifts us up in esteem with his power and prestige. God was NOT this king and so was rejected by the people.
Jesus knew God differently than the people of his time. Like his image of God, Jesus was no such king as the people wanted him to be. (One has to even wonder if Jesus ever wanted to be identified with the title “king”.)
If Jesus were the king the people wanted him to be, he would have acted differently at the Crucifixion, doing as the Roman soldiers mocked him to do. He would have miraculously descended from the cross and exacted retribution on all those who persecuted him. And he would have done this with great force and show of glory. No such God was Jesus. No such God was how Jesus knew God to be.
So we must ask, how is God’s rule different from that of an authoritarian leader/king?
And how is it that Jesus is proclaimed King as Christian tradition holds him? There must be somewhere in that tradition a very different kind of king…or something other than king, no?
Key to these questions is the fact that Jesus saw and knew God differently…perhaps as differently as deconstructionist philosophers and theologians like John D Caputo see God
…repudiating a God of Power and Might who utilizes
rewards and punishments as force to keep order
…disputing the image of a protective parent God
…questioning the image of a God who desires loyal and obedient subjects
…challenging us, as Jesus did in his time on earth,
to look anew at how we see God today.
At a time when Jews expect a miracle and Greeks seek enlightenment, we speak about God’s Anointed crucified! This is an offense to Jews, nonsense to the nations; but to those who have heard God’s call, both Jews and Greeks, the Anointed represents God’s power and God’s wisdom; because the folly of God is wiser than humans are and the weakness of God is stronger than humans are. (1 Cor 1:22–25)
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A few books by John D Caputo which we highly recommend:
The Cross and the Cosmos, A Theology of Difficult Glory (most recent)
The Weakness of God, A Theology of the Event
The Insistence of God, A Theology of Perhaps
The Folly of God, A Theology of the Unconditional
Hoping Against Hope, Confessions of a Post-modern Pilgrim
Also check this John D Caputo Facebook link: