Jesus is king. He is “first-born”, which can be understood as meaning that he is divine. Christ the king, by his death on the cross, reconciled the world to God.
In the Bible, priests, prophets and kings were anointed with oil. We learn in the first reading that David was anointed, and in the Gospel reading, Jesus is declared “Messiah”, the “anointed one”. Two times and Jesus is described as King of the Jews.
David was anointed the first king of all the tribes, “anointed king of Israel”. God promised David a secure kingdom forever. The Lord told him he “shall be shepherd of my people Israel”. With this promise the Jews expected an anointed one from this lineage and one to come and save them from the Romans. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to the house of David but a different kind of king with a kingdom which we can envision as truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace, a spiritual and not a physical reality.
Jesus is declared “first-born of all creation”, meaning he existed before anything else was created. Mary gave birth to her “first-born” son. Christ is the image of the invisible God. He is first-born of the dead.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is identified as King of the Jews, Christ of God, the Christ. We, as readers, already know that the words being spoken are true, but these groups of people unknowingly proclaim the truth about who Jesus is. The focus is not on Christ in glory, but the reading takes us to see Jesus as he is crucified and how he is taunted by groups of people. The leaders, the soldiers, the one criminal all ridiculed, scoffed, mocked, derided, and rebuked him. The other criminal rebukes the first one, realizing who Jesus is, calling him by name, indicating he knows or has heard about him. When he turns to Jesus, he asks him to “remember” him, asks for mercy. “Remember” means that only a king can give mercy or pardon. One group only stood by watching. Jesus did not come to save himself but to save sinners. Jesus had begun his ministry by bringing good news to the poor, and here he is at the end of his ministry bringing good news to the one criminal by telling him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise”.
Today, the feast of Christ the King, we “give thanks to the Father who rescued us from the power of darkness, transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.
Rosella Kinoshameg, DOS