Although his time on earth was short, Jesus created quite a stir during his even briefer ministry( Luke 23:33-43). As a revolutionary he upset Jewish law, tradition and the Roman hierarchy. He consorted with the most unlikely disenfranchised members of society and violated conventional decorum. He upset the “purity code” by proclaiming it wasn’t what went into your mouth that mattered but what came out. He wasn’t a king, a priest, or a prophet. He performed many miracles that included healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life. Yet he was unable to save himself; he was executed with 2 petty criminals. Not very kingly is it? And to compound the indignity, the soldiers kneel at his feet, not to worship, but to gamble for his clothes, while deriding his reign as “king of the Jews.” It amused them because they were Romans and they knew what a real king looked like, and this definitely was not it. A real king had power and arrogance and this Jesus had none of that. So they mocked him.
Yet, for some reason, one of the two thieves also being executed reprimands the other who derides Jesus’ weakness and speaks with compassion and takes pity on another condemned man. Then he does an astounding thing and asks “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Now, where did that come from? How can he hang there on the cross and look over at a man dying beside him, and see in him as a savior, a messiah, a king with a kingdom? Somehow, the second thief got it; he saw what Jesus was doing; he saw that Jesus refused to swat his oppressors and he died so that they could be forgiven, died so that by his suffering their suffering would be healed.
We celebrate Christ the King, not because of his regal bearing, but because of his humility; not because of his power, but because of his compassion; not because of his triumph, but because of his travail; not because he fixes our lives, but because he shows us the way to live.
And what about this kingdom of God? Where is it? Richard Rohr writes that “if we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, ‘real’ and with a timeless quality to it. We will move from the starter kit of ‘belief’ to an actual inner knowing. This is most especially true if we have ever loved deeply; accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, or stood in genuine life changing awe before mystery time or beauty. This ‘something real’ is what all the worlds religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven or the kingdom of God. They were not wrong at all; their only mistake was that they pushed it off into the next world. If God’s Kingdom is later, it is because it is first of all now…In other words, heaven/ /union/ love now emerge from within us much more than from a mere belief system and as Jesus promises the Samaritan woman, “the spring within her will well up into eternal life. (John 4:14)”