Our Servant King

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 21st - 2021 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - John 18:33b-37

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Today’s gospel is about leadership. Using the political arrangements in the time of Jesus, the teaching is about kingship. Although the number of kings these days may be decreasing, in days of old, they were quite common.

The “King of the Jews” is a reference to King David, someone many hoped would be the role played by the messiah – someone many Jews were expecting. When the feast of Christ the King was created by the Church, many kings were known to rule countries in Europe. So, the Church was saying that it had its king. But it was not the pope, but Jesus.

Having established Jesus as king, the next matter of consequence was how did Jesus exercise his role as king? Did he use it to demand tribute from its citizens? Did he assemble an army to conquer its enemies? Did he establish elaborate ceremonies to symbolize his authority? Did he use his position for personal gain? I think the answer to all these questions is obvious. He used his position of power to help others. As is sometimes said, he was a servant king. He ruled through service to others.

We are all called to imitate Christ. Especially in his role as a servant of all. This is a point constantly on the mind of Pope Francis and other recent popes. Often when in public, they went out of their way to connect with those who were elderly, disabled or who needed special attention at that moment. Pope Francis seems especially drawn to children and babies at public events. In fact, a little-known description of the pope is that he is “the servant of the servants of God.”

Some refer to this aspect of leadership as “a reversal.” The king, who oftentimes sits above everyone, now sits below them as a servant of all. Anyone in church leadership should have this approach to their authority. Included too in this approach is the role of parents and grandparents. As having both roles, I actually enjoy it when our grown children (and/or their children) take over the workload associated with family and home maintenance. Of course, my suggestion that they are in charge is not always met with joyful acceptance.

Connecting leadership with exercising power-under, rather than power-over, may not be easy. There are too many examples of poor leadership these days – a condition many observers have observed.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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