Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Luke 23:35–43
My approach to the annual family Christmas card photo has changed. For around twenty-five years, I accomplished the heroic feat of corralling seven children and a reluctant husband into a delightful, color-coordinated pose in front of the camera. Smiles might have been forced at times, but our clothes never clashed. We presented a unified and visually pleasing display, because as the queen of the house, I could insist on it. I held the keys to the castle, the car, and the allowance. But as Bob Dylan observed, times are a-changin’. Telling in-laws and kids in their twenties what to wear seems a rather wrong move. I’ve gone from being the woman in control (who can force everyone into a mold, at least for twenty minutes) to a mom who is just grateful that everyone is willing to come home. La reina de la casa acknowledges that she is no longer in charge.
So I turn to the new season of The Crown and find it soothing. Even as the queen struggles with modern times, she still reigns. Everyone who greets her gives a quick bow first. Honor, respect, deference—I am a bit of a sucker for these British shows. I still grieve the ending of Downton Abbey. My British husband has observed me watching these programs, and one day asked if I ever imagined myself living in one of those period dramas. That would be yes. Then he asked me which character I imagine myself to be: the queen or the scullery maid? Upstairs or downstairs? Well, it’s definitely not the latter.
Is it just me, or do you like to be in charge, too?
This Sunday’s gospel interrupts my Netflix viewing with the Feast of Christ the King. Oh. That’s right. He’s the King. It’s a bit of a course correction. As I read Sunday’s gospel, Luke 23:35–43, I am carried back to Christ on the cross. As He hangs there, I read the same taunt over and over. It’s in Luke 23:35, 37, and 39. Save yourself. Save yourself. Save yourself.
But Jesus, the One through whom the whole world was created, the One whose will is holding everything in existence, the One who could call down legions of angels to defend and rescue Him, the One who could obliterate all who oppose Him just with a word, chooses NOT to save Himself. He chooses, instead, to save us.
It is this picture of Jesus hanging on the cross, suffering and taunted, that the Church focuses on when we honor Christ as King. To reign is to serve. To rule is to suffer. This is the example that He provides. This is not the way that we understand power, leadership, or authority.
Perhaps this is why we find it so hard to surrender ourselves to the Lord. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that if we hold all the cards, if we can control all the circumstances, if we can get people to do what we want them to, then we will be able to save the day. But this is not the way of the kingdom. In God’s kingdom, to serve is to reign. And everything boils down to one decision.
Am I going to grab the scepter or bend the knee?
Grabbing the scepter is making my own plans and asking God to bless them.
Bending the knee is saying, “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Grabbing the scepter is accomplishing what’s on my to-do list, regardless of who gets ignored or hurt in the process.
Bending the knee is acknowledging my own weakness and inability to get it all done and trusting God when I fall short.
Grabbing the scepter is expecting everyone to adapt to me and my wishes.
Bending the knee is being ready to obey the One in charge, serving wherever He points me.
What makes bending the knee so hard is that often, what we are trying to accomplish is for the good of others. And if people could just get on board, if they could just see things as we do, if they could just work a little harder, be a little more cooperative, great things could happen. But all too often, what we are actually pushing through is our own agenda. Jesus hasn’t asked for this particular thing to be accomplished on this timeline; we are the ones that want it.
How do we know if it’s our will or His? This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. We have got to continuously ask Him to convict us and alert us to the times when we’re grabbing the scepter. And sometimes He works through the people around us. We need to listen. We need to cultivate a teachable spirit.
In your heart there is a throne. It’s a control center, and it’s where you find your emotions, your will, and your thoughts. And either you are sitting on that throne and calling the shots, or Jesus is. There isn’t room for two. Keeping Jesus in His proper place (where He is the one ruling) is a moment-by-moment decision. This is really what the Christian life boils down to—just keeping Christ on the throne. Living the Christian life isn’t only difficult, it’s impossible. Impossible, that is, without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. But God isn’t asking you to perform. He’s asking you to let Christ sit on the throne, and to live in and through you. He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). He is the one who empowers us to let Christ be the King.
Food for thought or journaling…
Is there some plan you are clinging to but God is asking you to bend the knee and relinquish it?
As you prepare to celebrate Christ the King, who is sitting on the throne of your heart?
Will you grab the scepter or bend the knee?