The Jewish leaders jeered at Jesus: ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah [or King] whom God has chosen.’ The Roman soldiers mocked him: ‘Save yourself if you are the King of the Jews.’ One of the criminals hanging there alongside him hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah [or King]? Save yourself and us!’ All of them were asking ‘What kind of King are you then? If you are a King then behave as we expect a King to behave.’ Their mockery came because Jesus did not look or behave as they expected a King to do.
This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King when we celebrate Christ as a King who turns the notion of Kingship on its head; who is seen as King at the point when he is least powerful and most vulnerable – at his own death. In Philippians 2 we read of Jesus letting go – stripping himself – of everything which made him equal with God in order to become a human being like us in order to serve us and die for us. On Maundy Thursday we celebrate Jesus’ decision to become a servant to those he had created when we re-enact his washing of the disciples’ feet and his words that ‘You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher have just washed your feet.’ Jesus makes service of others the true vocation and measure of Kingship.
Jesus turns the meaning of Kingside upside down. No longer is Kingship to be understood in terms of garnering wealth and power for oneself in other to defend others. Now it is understood to be about service; giving your life that others might live. Jesus, as the servant King, says to us, ‘I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.’
Revd Jonathan Evens