When I went away to college, my freshman year, I was at an Evangelical liberal arts college called “The King’s College“. Two guys named David shared the room with me. A huge bunch of stuff had been given to me to go to college with, but one thing I asked for was a wall crucifix. We got it at the more-expensive “gift shop” at Sullivan’s in the mall, it was maybe $20. It looked a little like this:
The cross was wood, the corpus was from Italy, but was certainly plastic. It was very white. I hung it over the door because that’s what they did in the movies. I was a good Anglo-Catholic and I wanted some part of my world to look like things did in The Bishop’s Wife. (Note to self: need copy of said movie.) Anyway, after we were all moved in, the floor manager… or whatever they called him, showed up and inspected the room. And walking out he saw the Crucifix. He looked at it for a moment and then said, “Shouldn’t you show Jesus more triumphant?”
“That is Jesus,” I replied. “at his most triumphant.”
I had just got to college, you understand: I clearly knew everything.
The Easter Sermon of St John Chrysostom is a glory. The Paschal Canon makes me weep. The first singing “Shine, Shine, O New Jerusalem” is one of the high points of the Byzantine liturgical year. When the whole church lights up with the Easter Vigil Gloria, bells ringing and people shouting, I get shivers. When the organ blasts its way through a solemn Te Deum I am prostrate with the incense and the joy. Yet St Paul says nothing about the Resurrection that is so strong as this line: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or this one: I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…. we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
But for us, Our King.
Imagine meeting an Apostle, imagine meeting anyone from the Jerusalem Church at the time, really. They have seen the most horrid execution the gov’t of that period could divise. To know someone who was so treated, to have witnessed it, to have lived through the torture, the ignominy, the horror.
And then to hear her or him say, “That is God.”
That’s why he was so scary to the Romans: these Christians saying “this guy you hung up is Lord, God, and King,” not Caesar. No Caesar’s Palace or Trump Tower contains the real power. Christ is King. Power is not in the palace, not in the tower: but hung on the Cross. And Risen.
There are a few people who insist the Resurrection of Jesus is a myth. One Episcopal priest even shared from the pulpit that he sided with those who knew – knew, mind you – that after Jesus had died his body was tossed onto a garbage heap and dogs ate it. And all this stuff about a Resurrection was just backfill because the apostles felt guilty about abandoning Jesus in the hour of his need. He had told them to take swords, right? We make up for that abandonment by claiming he was God and assuaging our guilt.
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
When you look at the Crucifix, and hear people deny him even now while feigning love for the “real” Jesus that they just made up, you get it: that God became so weak, so powerless, that even those he came to save could deny him at the moment of his triumph.
And yet he loves them.
I hear all the time that we can’t forgive sinners who don’t repent… but Jesus does: “Father forgive them…” from the cross. And you know no one was repenting.
So our King is merciful.
So our King is love.
So our King is truth itself.
That Dead Guy on the Cross, victim of capital punishment, hated by his own and subjected to torture by his oppressors, really is God: crucified, dead, buried. Risen. It’s your choice. Make him your King, know his Resurrection, and you will become the object of scorn and derision, reviled even by people who claim to follow him. To them that derision is hate. But to us their derision is a sign of life.
That derision is probably about to get worse as those from the left and right who confuse real, faithful Christians, the Confessing Church, with those apostates who sold their souls for worldly gain: sexual, or political. The Faithful will be oppressed by the Progressive and the Fascist, both. And the faithful shall pray, love and die, for those who hate us as our King did. Even then we have only done our duty: we are unworthy servants.
The Prophet Malachi says that when the Day of the King shall come it “shall come kindled as a furnace: and all the proud, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave them root, nor branch. But for the righteous, it’ll be totally different, unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd. And you shall tread down the wicked when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet in the day that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts.
The fire is both Furnace and Sun of Justice. (Malachias 4:1-3) It’s really up to you which one it is. The Day of the King is coming. It is here already: at Liturgy we can see it.