Colossians 1:11-20 and Luke 23:33-43
“The children will not leave unless I do, I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever.” Those were the words of Queen Elizabeth when it was suggested that she and her two daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, should flee from London during the 1940s Blitz to safety in North America.
The King, George V1, wanted to remain with his people to share with them the hardships and danger of war. Queen Elizabeth too felt it was her duty to visit parts of London that had been bombed. Once Buckingham Palace had taken several direct hits the Queen said she felt closer to her people and could now identify with them more and “look the East End in the face”.
Reports from that time and the memories of people who were there suggest that by her actions she earned the respect and love of men and women who had perhaps only seen the King and Queen as distant royal figures, enclosed in great houses and surrounded by the privileges of wealth and status.
Leaders of nations, whatever their constitutional status, have choices to make about the way they relate to those they govern. Those who are governed also have choices to make about the way they respond to those who have power over them. Today we see the choices made by men with power over Jesus and by men who, like Jesus, are now helpless victims of the powerful.
We see Jesus, Son of Man, in the most humiliating, painful and hopeless of situations. He is nailed to the cross with criminals on either side. He is naked, horribly injured and close to death. The religious leaders, the Roman soldiers and even one of the criminals taunt him with the truth. He is the Messiah of God, the chosen one; he is the King of the Jews and, had he chosen to do so, he could have saved himself from death. He is in a nightmare of horror with words of truth being thrown at him in mockery and cruelty.
The other criminal though catches some glimpse of the majesty and authority of Jesus. Perhaps he heard and took notice of what Jesus said earlier: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. He can’t now go back in time to put right the things he has done or the harm he has caused. It’s too late to change what’s past but somehow he grasps the hope that forgiveness is still possible and utters the prayer which perhaps echoes in our hearts: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
The suffering Son of Man is also the Son of God, loving and forgiving right to the end, and Christ the King, Lord of all creation whose kingdom is not of this world but is open to all who call on Jesus in faith.
Paul tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and so in him we can see what God is like and the sort of relationship with him he offers us.
Jesus is the Son of Man. He has lived among us and knows what it’s like to be human in an uncertain world. He has experienced the many shades of emotions that colour our days, sometimes all at once. As our friend and brother he may not be able to save us from suffering but he can and does walk alongside us with compassionate understanding so that we are never entirely alone.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Son of a living and loving creator who wants only to be reconciled with his children whatever the cost to himself. He has the power to forgive sins and to remain true to himself in the face of hatred and cruelty.
Jesus is Christ the King. He has the first place in everything and his reign is absolute and eternal. Perhaps that is the greatest certainty we can have and it will hold all things together until the kingdom of Christ is fully realised.
Today is a day to step back and look at Christ the King, to see in him our human selves living in this world and our spiritual selves, living in this world but centred on the kingdom of God where we are always remembered and loved.
1. A King or Queen may be distant and unapproachable or stay alongside their people in suffering to comfort and encourage.
2. As Son of Man, Jesus is alongside us in our suffering and also in our joys sharing our experiences with us.
3. As Son of God, Jesus offers forgiveness and a new life in his kingdom.
4. As Christ the King, Jesus is Lord of all and the assurance of his absolute reign gives us ground for faith and hope especially in times of fear and doubt.