Gospel John 18:33-37
“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
The reading today, much like the Solemnity it is chosen to mark, is a strong one. It is yet another of the remarkably bold truth claims of the Christian faith – namely that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe.
In the scene before us Jesus stands before Pilate, a beaten, bruised and broken man and yet he is as engaging and provocative as ever.
Here he blows open the notion of worldly power which dominates the mind of Pilate, and speaks of a Kingdom which is not of this world. A Kingdom where Truth reigns, and which grows in power and authority wherever Truth is found.
Pontius Pilate is a man of earthly power. His power is exercised through the sheer and inescapable might of the Roman army which he was responsible for in that region at that time. Through this power he is able to command wide respect and to manipulate all manner of circumstances to meet his will.
The power that stands before him in the person of Jesus is of an altogether different sort. Jesus’ power is paradoxically weak, humble and suffering. And yet it is this power through which he defeats sin and death. In his complete self-emptying love, the tremendous power of God the Father is manifest for the world.
The wisdom of this world teaches that we need to reach out, and through an act of sheer will, assert our own power and determine reality for ourselves. This is exemplified here in the person of Pilate – and yet this power is ultimately weak, impotent and flaccid. It will meet its end in death.
Contrary to our intuition we see that the power which is universal across time and space, is that kenotic or self-empting gift of self that Jesus exemplifies for us. It is through this that God works most effectively in and through us.
May nations’ rulers you profess
And in a public worship bless;
May teachers, judges, you revere,
In Arts and Laws may this appear.
Let every royal standard shine
In homage to your power divine;
Beneath you gentle rule subdue
The home of all, their countries, too.
All glory be, O Lord, to you,
All earthly powers you subdue;
With Father and the Spirit be
All glory yours eternally
Te saeculorum principem
First Vespes on the Feast of Christ the King (from the Old Rite)