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Christ the King - A cross for a throne

The Israelites were expecting a great, rich, strong and eternal king, who would decimate the enemies of Israel. Our gospel reading for today presents a response to these expectations.

We are on Calvary. Jesus is crucified with a bandit on either side. An inscription nailed above his head reads, “The king of the Jews.” No throne but a cross, no servants but insults, no royal garments, just a naked body. What a strange kingship Jesus has! It is the opposite of what people usually imagine about kings.

Unfortunately, many Christians harbour hopes like the Jews did. They identify the kingdom of Christ with victories and triumphs. A defeated king on the cross destroys all our ambitions.

One of the two thieves does not understand. The only thing he expected from the Messiah was freedom from the torture he was being subjected to. Jesus does not help him; he shows himself unable to meet his request.

The second thief is the only one who recognises kingship in Jesus. “Jesus, remember me when you enter into your kingdom.” He calls him by name.

He considers him a friend, the friend of someone who has had a devastated life. He does not consider him a gentleman, but a traveling companion, someone who agreed to undergo, despite being just, the fate of the wicked.

He does not expect a miraculous deliverance. He asks only to accomplish with him the last steps of a life that has been a succession of mistakes and crime. Jesus promises him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The story of this criminal is that of every person, for who has not acted like him? Who has not sometimes panned the life of a brother with hatred, slander or injustice? Who has not provoked small or big disasters in society, in families or in the Christian community?

At heart, many continue to think that, on the cross, the kingship of Jesus is not well celebrated. That was just an unfortunate moment.

The real manifestation will take place at the end of the world. Then the glory of Christ will shine: he will come with his army of angels and will show to all, especially to those who crucified him, his power.

Before he died, Jesus delivered a judgment of acquittal to his executioners. Will it also be valid at the end or is it a provisional statement, susceptible to revision?

Are there some who believe that Jesus on Calvary was not in the ideal condition to objectively assess the responsibilities of those who were crucifying him, still less, to manifest all his glory.

Well, if we still cultivate such thoughts, we have not captured the face of God that Jesus has revealed to us. The trial against those who killed Jesus—let it be clear—will not be reopened.

He absolved his executioners, saved them in the most glorious moment of his life when, on the cross, he showed the utmost of his love. For us, a king triumphs, defeats, humiliates.

We try in every way to conform Christ to this image of the kings of this world. We do not want to believe that he wins in the moment in which he loses, in the moment he gives his life.

This ruler who reigns from a cross disturbs us, because he requires that we offer an unconditional forgiveness to all those who do us harm.

In this perspective, the final judgment should not be feared, but expected with joy. 


Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications