True Power

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 25th November 2018, 8.00am
Christ the King: Revelation 1.4b-8 & John 18.33-37

christIn these last few weeks, we have been hearing readings from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Readings, prophecies and visions, that encourage us to think about ‘the last things’. And today, on this last Sunday before Advent, this theme culminates in the Feast of Christ the King, putting before us the question what or who it is that ultimately rules our lives.

We speak about ‘leading a life’, and so we indeed use on a day-to-day basis the language of ‘leadership’ to describe the way we go about living. That is why these readings about the last things, the kingship of Jesus, and the kingdom of God are not just abstract theories that apply to the future, but they apply to our lives now as well: those moments in which we truly let Christ rule in our hearts,  are the moments we see God and for a moment can be in His kingdom.

When Pilate asks Jesus for the second time if he is a king, Jesus answers: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.

I wonder, could one say that Jesus here shows his true humanity? Because, isn’t it what we are all born for: to be truthful? As Christians we believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human. We also believe that each of us human beings, in some way, is made in the image of God, and so we all have come into the world to testify to the truth. In that sense we are all kings, in that sense, we all have power.

And just as it was for Jesus, that power is in many ways ‘not of this world’. Many, if not all of us, can think of plenty of examples in which power was abused, knowingly, or unknowingly, as if power is something that corrupts people. I remember a Pub Theology session a couple of years ago, when we precisely asked that question: does power corrupt? But, today we are reminded that true power has nothing to do with that worldly power we see around us, which we associate with bad leadership, whether political, religious or otherwise. True power lies in the ability and, maybe even more so, willingness to be truthful.

Being truthful is not always glamorous, indeed more often than not it isn’t. It is also something that makes us feel incredibly vulnerable: when Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, Jesus gives away his life by refusing to give the answer that seemingly will set him free.

This conversation between Pilate and Jesus symbolises the dynamic of power we each experience: in the face of worldly power, the only way out may seem to give the answer that is expected, that will keep us safe – or so we think. However, true freedom and true power lie in remaining truthful, and that is precisely what Jesus does. He refuses to deny who he is, in His case, at the cost of His life. But he knows that by doing this, he will fulfil his potential, he will live out the reason why he is here: “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”.

Not many of us will sacrifice our lives by being truthful, but there may be or have been times when telling the truth, when being faithful to who we were was costly, and painful. But we know that the story does not end on Good Friday, but continues on Easter Day. And that is the hope in which we live, and which ultimately will bring us to that eternal home, for which we are created.

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