Lectionary Commentary

Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary

Readings, Commentary, and Questions for Discussion for November 25, 2018

Last Sunday after Pentecost; Feast of Christ the King

THE READINGS

First Reading: 2 Samuel 23:1-7 Alternate: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
1 Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:
2 The spirit of the LORD speaks through me,
his word is upon my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God,
4 is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

5 Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?
6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
7 to touch them one uses an iron bar
or the shaft of a spear.
And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Worth Noting: Speeches of the dying have a special power, in opera (where sopranos and tenors often go on and on and on), history, and real life. If you were dying today, what would be your last words?

Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] Alternate Psalm 93
1 O LORD, remember in David’s favor
all the hardships he endured;
2 how he swore to the LORD
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

3 “I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

 6 We heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool.”

 8 Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your faithful shout for joy.
10 For your servant David’s sake
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

 11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my decrees that I shall teach them,
their sons also, forevermore,
shall sit on your throne.”

 [13 For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his habitation:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.
16 Its priests I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy.
17 There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.
18 His enemies I will clothe with disgrace,
but on him, his crown will gleam.”]

Second Reading: Revelation 1:4b-8
4b Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Worth Noting: A couple of questions about verse 6. The author says Jesus formed “us” to be a kingdom. Who do you think is “us”? Just baptized Christians? Any who worship the God of Abraham (adding Jews and Muslims)? Everyone who lives a good life?
Whoever “us” is, we are formed to be priests. From your experience, what is a priest? How are you a priest?

Gospel: John 18:33-37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “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. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Worth Noting: In John 14:6, Jesus reveals that he is the truth. Before Pilate he affirms his vocation to be a king who testifies to the truth, to his own identity. Christians are baptized as king, prophet, and priest. How do you, a king, testify to the truth of your identity?

CONNECTING WITH THE SCRIPTURES

Entering into the Scriptures

The Bible provides a range of images of human kingship. Ignoring the neighboring Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greek kings (and Pilate, representative of the Roman emperor), David and Manasseh (king of Judah for 55 years), provide the prototypes of good and bad king. Second Kings 24:3-4 lays the blame for the catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple and transport of the people to Babylon on Manasseh (accused of sacrificing children, idolatry, and witchcraft). At the other end of the spectrum stands King David. Not that David was above abusing his position (see Bathsheba and Uriah). While David certainly is lionized for his political successes, the ages remember him more for his passion: loving Jonathan son of Saul, dancing before the ark, weeping bitterly at the death of his rebel son, and lusting for Bathsheba.
If we think of a range of earthly kings from Manasseh to David, Jesus stands outside the category, providing a new paradigm of kingship. Jesus spoke of his crucifixion as his exaltation, the cross as his throne. Before Pilate, he spoke of his kingdom as “not from this world.” By itself, “not from this world” does not define the world where Jesus is king. The one clue he gives: He is king in order to testify to the truth, and so to the bedrock of the kingdom of God.

How Do We Acknowledge Jesus’ Kingship?

At the beginning and end of the Gospel of John, important characters name Jesus king. At John 1:49, Nathaniel affirms “You are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” On his cross, Pilate posts the reason for his execution: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Many modern Christians acknowledge Jesus as their king principally in a spiritual, otherworldly sphere. A few, on the other hand, refuse to acknowledge any authority in their lives except Jesus. Rulers often try to enhance their power by using the vocabulary and images of the Bible and the Christian tradition. Most of us struggle to acknowledge both the authority of Jesus and of legitimate, very earthly political authority. We see no bright line separating Church and state.

Questions for Discussion

How would you characterize the rulers in this world – the presidents, prime ministers, politicians, and business executives? Can you identify those who like David are gifted, flawed, and passionate?

Jesus speaks of his kingdom as existing in the here and now. What must be the characteristics of his kingdom? When do you see it near you?

Take a pressing problem affecting your region, perhaps sharing water resources, homelessness, or the demise of heavy industries. How will the problem you identify be resolved? If Jesus is not only king but also “the way, the truth, and the life,” how do you see his way, truth, and life suggesting remedies? Put another way, how are the Christian ideals of justice, mercy, and equality brought to bear on a real-life problem?

For a PDF version of this week’s Journeying, click here.

 

 Dennis Haugh has enjoyed working with adult seekers for over 20 years. He aims to promote engagement with and reflection on the Scriptures. To hone his skills and burnish his credentials, he earned his PhD in Biblical Studies in the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology joint program.  He appreciates any correspondence: dennishaugh2011@gmail.com.

 
Unless expressly stated otherwise, all quotations from Scripture are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
The photograph of the Empress Zoe mosaic from Hagia Sophia has been identified as free of known restrictions under copyright law.
Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary © 2018 Dennis Haugh. Recent postings may be accessed at https://www.sttims.net/journeying-through-the-lectionary/.

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