Christ the King

POST BY PGallagher

Photo by Thuong Do on Unsplash

Remember me when you come into your kingdom [1].  In response to this request, Jesus promises a place in his kingdom. This day you will be with me in paradise [2].   Like one of the criminals [3] put to death with the Lord on Calvary we can find ourselves under Christ’s kingship this very day.  Jesus is beside us, in complete solidarity, whatever is happening to us. He is our king but not from a palace. He undergoes terrible suffering.  Yet he is far from being powerless. The king who suffers with us also strengthens us and promises us that his rule over us will extend into happiness forever with God.   Jesus’ mention of paradise encourages us to believe that his kingdom is a joy not only discovered but also recovered.  He was the first to be born from the dead [4].  Christ’s authority over us is a sovereignty once rejected or ignored but now accepted again. The condemned criminal on his own cross beside the cross of Christ hears the good news that he is about to recover the happiness that has long eluded him. Between the one who accepts God’s mercy and the king who confers it there is a solidarity in pain.  Paradise is regained by all who acknowledge the kingship of Christ. In the restored kingdom of God there is a renewal of that happy relationship with our creator for which we were all made.

This day you will be with me in paradise [5] addressed by Jesus to another dying human being signifies ‘your sins are forgiven’.  ‘You are restored to the goodness in which you were created.’  We all of us hope to hear this welcome into the kingdom.  Perhaps when we are dying someone will hold a crucifix before us and we will know that the Christ, our king, is summoning us into paradise.   On this day, however, with much still to do, we are already subjects and friends of the king, who is in solidarity with all suffering. The kingdom is a paradise where perfection is restored and also a field-hospital where wounds are bound up and injuries healed.  The repentant crucified criminal joined to his contrite in our case we deserved it [6] an expression of sympathy with Christ: this man has done nothing wrong [7]. Our own repentance is not only an acknowledgement of our wrong-doing but also a recognition that our king is pained, that God has been offended.  From his throne, the cross, king Jesus looks into hearts and minds.  In the sufferer beside him on Calvary he found sympathy. Contained in this fellow-feeling for the king who suffers was all the other goodness and knowledge of God which are needed for happiness in paradise.  Have you no fear of God? [8]  The question about God to one who abused [9] Jesus goes in tandem with the request to the king: remember… your kingdom. Full of reverence for God we place our hope in Christ.  The king welcomes those who love God and endures the consequences of the decision of those who do not, as they must also.

Above him there was an inscription: This is the king…[10]  A kingship proclaimed from a gibbet can seem to invite mockery and scorn.  The leaders jeered at him [11].  The soldiers mocked him also [12].  The humiliations of the passion could seem to undermine the claim that Jesus really is a king.  Those who despise Christ’s kingship-in-suffering might also be scornful of our hope to enter the kingdom. Save yourself [13].  The Lord suffered in obedience to the will of his Father.  Our submitting to his kingship is our recognition that we cannot save ourselves.  We do our best on every front.  We seek God in all reverence and love.  What we most desire eludes us however until Christ’s kingship over us is accepted. We are with the king in his suffering and failure. With him, we move from darkness into light. The Father has taken us out of the power of darkness, and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son, that he loves [14]. The notice on the cross about a king looked like a mistake, heavy irony or a lie [15].   In declaring our intention to enter Christ’s kingdom are we deluded, or joking or simply lying?  The inconsistency of the repentant criminal who asked the Lord to remember him could seem to strike the same note of absurdity or falsehood. His sympathy for the king was certainly not of a piece with his earlier sins.  Entering the kingdom this day, we too will be allowing ourselves be inconsistent with our former selves and to endure whatever commentary that provokes. Our sincere conversion today to living as we are called to do by the king is impeded by all sorts of reluctance.  Tied to our own cross, even with our loving saviour suffering right beside us, we might remain stuck in scepticism and doubt.

Conversion to life in the kingdom is a recovery of something previously lost. We have long desired the kingdom and we were created to be happy in it.  The repentant criminal was not so much putting things right at the last moment as behaving as he had always intended to do. If our Blessed Lady was not the only grieving mother on Calvary, perhaps another horrified parent watching the execution of her son understood that his conversion was the recovery of a lost goodness.  He was being consistent with his true self. I promise you [16].  Jesus leads us back to God. He holds all things in unity [17].  He enables us to start living under his kingship from today. Pinned as we are to various responsibilities we cannot immediately change everything. The king is also nailed down.  The kingdom can only be entered freely, yet access to it is along a path of obligation and responsibility.  In him we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins [18]. If paradise regained is a garden, it is an Eden now planted not with a forbidden tree but with the tree of the cross, and many other crosses around it. We do not choose our cross but the king enables us to embrace the one with which we are landed and to cleave to it.  The kingdom is a paradise regained on Calvary.

We are at ease in the kingdom because of all that the king has done for us.  David was made king in recognition of his achievements: it was you who led Israel in all their exploits [19].  Israel also saw in King David one of their own: we are your own flesh and blood [20]. Christ the king draws us to himself.  The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus [21].  They saw not achievements but innocent suffering. This man has done nothing wrong.  The perfect king bears the burden of our sinfulness. God wanted all perfection to be found in him [22].  Out of love for us Jesus made peace by his death on the cross [23]. Quick to hear our remember me when you come into your kingdom, he responds with forgiveness and strength for what has to be done or endured. In his kingdom Jesus reveals God to us. He is the image of the unseen God [24].  His remembering us when he comes into his kingdom is his drawing together in truth and love all that has been separated from God and now longs for perfection and unity.  All things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth [25].

This reflection was written by Peter Gallagher SJ


[1] Luke 23.42

[2] Luke 23.43

[3] Luke 23.39

[4] Colossians 1.18

[5] Luke 23.43

[6] Luke 23.41

[7] Luke 23.41

[8] Luke 23.40

[9] Luke 23.39

[10] Luke 23.38

[11] Luke 23.35

[12] Luke 23.36

[13] Luke 23.37

[14] Colossians 1.13

[15] John 19.21

[16] Luke 23.43

[17] Colossians 1.17

[18] Colossians 1.14

[19] 2 Samuel 5.2

[20] 2 Samuel 5.1

[21] Luke 23.35

[22] Colossians 1.19

[23] Colossians 1.20

[24] Colossians 1.15

[25] Colossians 1.20