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Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom


Sunday next before Advent - Christ the King

Text:
Luke 23.33-43: "This is the King of the Jews "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

What kind of people in authority do you respect? Have you any experience of misuse or abuse of authority (eg at work, or even in the church)? How did you feel, and what did you do about it?

A Window on the Text

The title ‘king of the Jews’ was reluctantly accepted by Jesus at his trial (Luke 23:3) – although this is qualified in another gospel, where he says his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). Ideas of kings and kingdoms seem so alien to the message and methods of Jesus, as told by Luke, that they may not be particularly helpful to modern ears. Christ the King is perhaps an unfortunate title for this last Sunday of the church’s year.

Luke’s story has now reached the showdown between two opposed and irreconcilable ways, the ‘way of Jesus’ and the ‘way of the world’. The ‘domination-free order’ (or ‘Kingdom’) of Jesus was a new way for people to live in harmony with one another and with God, where the motivation for the exercise of power was love and service rather than domination and exploitation. Kings were absolute rulers, with power and life and death over their people. Too often they exemplified excess, cruelty and greed. The Romans were no exception. Jesus’ new order was the absolute antitheses of all this.

Pilate having satisfied himself that Jesus was not the threat to the current regime that his accusers were suggesting, had declared him ‘not guilty’ and handed him over to his accusers. At least he will have kept the peace and avoided a riot, at the cost of just one man’s life - a small price to pay. Rome will be pleased! Being on the receiving end of force and the abuse of power is still the experience of many today.

Jesus now suffers the fate of a common rebel. As he prays for forgiveness for his accusers from the cross, the bystanders laugh at him, paying him mock homage as the ‘King of the Jews’. “If you are the Christ of God, the Chosen One, then save yourself,” they taunt him. Only when one of the two men crucified alongside him pleads, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom’ does he break his silence, assuring him, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’.

Here is the suffering servant, the Davidic Messiah – the King of Isaiah’s prophesies, who brings in God’s new order: where the nobody is somebody, the first is last and the last first, where the poor are rich. It is an upside-down realm where power is not force and oppression, but love and liberation.
Responding as a community
  1. Do you know of any individuals who have no power but great authority in your community?

  2. What it is about these people that give them this authority?

  3. What does Jesus show us about our reaction to the abuse of power?

  4. How should the abuse of power be resisted by Christians?
Praying Together

Light a candle. The Lord is here: His Spirit is with us

Read: Philippians 2.1-11

5 minutes - silent reflection

Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

Bring before God those who experience abuse/ridicule for their faith

Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

Pray for the abusers that they might be changed

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us

Read: Philippians 2.4-5

Silence

Read: Philippians 2.6-8

Silence

Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for all the insults and pain you have born for us on the cross. May we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be channels of your love and compassion to others, whoever they are and whatever they do to us, and your servants throughout the world.

Your Kingdom come: your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Read: Philippians 2.9-11

All: Amen
Going Deeper
  1. This reflection attempts to give the sense intended by the use of words ‘king’ and ‘kingdom’ by suggesting that in today’s terms ‘domination-free order’ may be helpful but it is far too cumbersome a mouthful to use. However unhelpful reference to kings and kingdoms may be, the fact is that Jesus spoke in these terms and such institutions were normal in New Testament times. The earliest Christian confession of faith ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ means that Jesus Christ is ... number 1, supreme over all. It was the Christians’ counterpart to the normal declaration of political loyalty to the Roman Emperor, ‘kaisar kurios - Caesar is Lord!’. It meant that there was no authority higher or greater than Caesar, and for Christians Jesus alone had the right to the title ‘Lord - Kurios’. It is not surprising then that expressions used to describe Jesus since New Testament times are in terms such as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ etc. Such an exalted status is reflected in the identification of Jesus as the agent of all creation in the letter to the Colossians (Col 1.15-19) and as the divine ‘Word’ of John 1.1-14.

 

 


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