At his trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, ‘My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over…’ His words still apply. Christ’s kingship can only be properly established if we will use his tactics, his weapons – tactics and weapons which, precisely because they are his and not ours, look to us like stupidity and weakness. His way of advance was by way of the cross. There alone could he fight effectively and secure total victory. He conquered the evil arrayed against God and God’s world by himself soaking up its venom.
Chief among his weapons is that love which shows itself stronger than death by undergoing death. By this means, he storms one of evil’s very strongest bastions, the human heart. It is precisely because he hangs dying that one of the malefactors crucified with him can glimpse something of the holiness and mercy of God. Calvary was the only place where Jesus could extend his reign into the life of the dying robber, comforting him, promising him the joy of paradise and winning for all eternity his stubborn, sinful heart.
The only crown that Christ the King has yet worn on this earth was plaited out of thorns by tough Roman soldiers – a sick joke if ever there was one. But, even on that bleak and dreadful Friday, their officer ended up confessing that this man was indeed the Son of God. And one day the basilicas of Rome’s proud empire itself would echo and re-echo with the triumphant shout: ‘Christus vincit! Christ is victorious! Christus regnat! Christ is king! Christus imperat! Christ is emperor!’
It follows that we shall often find our King and be able to do him service in the sort of surroundings where you’d hardly expect to find a king. The great Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar said everything necessary in this respect a long time ago. ‘Go out into the highways and hedges,’ he told them at the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress. ‘Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good… Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.’
The spiritual struggle we are engaged in means that we must seek and serve our King in those who suffer and are marginalized. Has not he himself said ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’? The call, once more, is to use his tactics, his weapons – humble service, genuine vulnerability and self-denying, self-emptying, self-giving love.
Let the final word therefore come from a great evangelical Christian who toiled bravely in India right through the first half of the twentieth century. Her name was Amy Carmichael. She was something of a poet – by no stretch of the imagination a great poet, perhaps not even a very good one. Never mind. She speaks deep and essential truth for all her fellow soldiers and servants of Christ the King.
Captain beloved, battle scars were thine:
Let me not wonder if some hurt be mine.
Rather, O Lord, let this my wonder be,
That I may share a battle-wound with thee.
Bishop David Thomas