Jesus answered, "My kingdom does
not belong to this world.
If my kingdom belonged to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over. 
But as it is, my kingdom is not here." 
So Pilate said, "Then you are a king?" 
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. 
For this I was born and for this I came
into the world, to testify to the truth. 
Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice."

JN 18: 33B-37

What kind of a king would deliberately head for his enemies' stronghold -- Jerusalem-- without first gathering and arming a militia to accompany him? And what kind of king would allow his adversaries to capture him without putting up a fight? Then again, what kind of king would respond to interrogation with enigmatic replies that further enrage his oppressors? Not a "worldly" king, for sure. We might also ask, "What kind of a king would allow himself to be to abused and humiliated by both the religious and secular powers, and then by the angry mob?" All four of the Passion Narratives record how Jesus is made an object of ridicule -- hence the spitting and hitting, the blindfolding and verbal abuse, the crowning with thorns, the vesting in purple... Decked in the emblems of kingship, he is subjected to buffoonery, hailed as "King of the Jews" in much the same way that Caesar would be hailed, only in jest. Made into a parody of a king, the Holy Lamb of God is treated to mock idolatry before being led to the slaughter.

What kind of a king?

Jesus himself provides the answer. In his discourse with Pilate, he clearly states that his kingdom is not of this world and that his mission is to testify to the truth. "What is truth?" asks Pilate (Jn 18:38) who then proceeds to speak truth to the mob, telling them, "I find no guilt in him" (Jn 18:38), a statement he is to utter a total of three times before he hands Jesus over to be crucified. Though Pilate sees truth and speaks truth, ultimately the fear of being considered disloyal to Caesar makes him participate in the web of false accusations upon which the "Guilty" verdict depends.

Pilate's question -- "What is truth?" -- is the question we need to ask ourselves. This, of course, is no light task, with no easy answers, but it is, perhaps, the most important question with which we will ever have to wrestle. In the first place, do we "belong to the truth" because we listen to Jesus' voice, or do we listen to his voice because we belong to the truth? This is a kind of "which came first -- the chicken or the egg?" dilemma. During Jesus' ministry, many crowds heard him speak, but not everyone followed him -- in fact, there were those who were offended by his words, enraged by his teachings and incensed by his actions. They listened but did not hear, perhaps because they were "of the world" and were looking for political leadership, economic advantage, a confirmation of their beliefs and even the maintaining of the status quo. They neither wanted to be challenged nor to have to change; they did not want to be disturbed.

On the other hand, there were those whom he called by name who left everything to follow him -- family, means of livelihood, comfort and security. What did they hear that others did not? Were they already more reflective, more in touch with who they were and what they wanted out of life? Could Jesus reach them because they were already seeking something "more" -- or did his words open up their hearts to new spiritual horizons?

And what about us? Do we see clearly or do we deceive ourselves with what is familiar, predictable, comfortable, profitable and convenient? Do we try to see ourselves as God sees us, or are we blinded by self-righteousness, self-pity, self-aggrandizement and by the thousands of excuses that keep us in "the world" rather than in God's kingdom?

Do we know who we are or do we lie to ourselves because we are afraid of the truth? Are we nothing more than the carefully cultivated personas we present to others, or are we trying to imitate Christ as best as we can in all the circumstances in our lives?

And, finally, though perhaps this should be the starting point, do we acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior or have we deified ourselves or some celebrity, politician or guru instead?On this Feast of Christ the King, the basic question we need to ask ourselves is who, ultimately, holds our allegiance?

  1. To what extent are you committed to seeking truth, especially about yourself and your relationship with God?
  2. What holds you back from being entirely honest with yourself or with others?
  3. "Transparency" is a popular word these days -- what does "the world" mean by this and what would Jesus mean?