26 November 2006

NOT ABOUT JESUS, BUT ABOUT US


Solemnity of Christ, The King of the Universe
Jn 18:33-37

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely.
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.


Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy.
When I am with you, getting to know what to say.
Haven't you noticed
Suddenly I'm bright and breezy
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you
Day by day.


When I was a young boy, this song was very popular. We used to sing it in school presentations, in family reunions, and in almost any “getting-to-know-you” occasion. That is precisely the title of the song: “Getting To Know You”.

The song “Getting To Know You” comes from the musicale entitled, “The King and I”. The classic was created by Rodgers and Hammerstein for Broadway. Later on, it was filmed, featuring the acting prowess of Julie Andrews and Yul Brynner. Julie Andrews played the role of Teacher Ana while Yul Brynner gave life to the character of a bald autocratic King of Siam (the former name of the present-day Thailand). Yul Brynner won an Academy Award 1956 for his role in this classic.

In “The King and I”, the King of Siam hires, Ana, a governess from Great Britain to educate his dozens of children. Because they come from two different cultures, the King of Siam and Teacher Ana often argue over almost anything. However, the king’s heart eventually softens and he develops a beautiful friendship with the English governess. As the story makes a wonderful twist, the King of Siam and Teacher Ana, together with the dozens of royal children, sing “Getting To Know You”.

Today, we remember and celebrate another King. He is, however, a different kind of king, rarely, if ever, associated with the typical manifestations of grandeur and royalty. Nonetheless, His kingship is more far-reaching than any kind of sovereignty. He is King of kings and Lord of lords: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

But our King seems to be on trial today. Or is He?

The Gospel of John has the most dramatic narration of the Lord’s passion. It seems that John the Evangelist used theater techniques in telling us his story. Our Gospel today is like an act in an entire stage play. The stage is Pilate’s praetorium. The characters are two: Jesus and Pilate. But the main theme of the entire drama is only one: the kingship of Jesus. The interrogations of Pilate, the Lord’s mock coronation by the soldiers, and the meaning of the inscription ordered by Pilate to be affixed on top of the crucified Jesus – in three languages: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek – has the kingship issue as their focal point.

If the Gospel today were a dramatic stage play indeed, many have already given it a subtitle. It is often referred to as “The Trial of Jesus”. But is it really Jesus who is on trial here?

For John the Evangelist, Jesus was not a victim of a death He wanted to run away from. On the contrary, Jesus met and courageously faced His death. Even already in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked at death straight in the eye. He endured the suffering and death brought about by His total obedience to the Father with a truly majestic heart because He believed that God cares for His children. Even as He suffered, Jesus was always in control during His passion.

A deeper reading of the 18th and 19th chapters of the Gospel of John reveals to us something very remarkable about our suffering King. Perhaps, many have yet to discover this. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were not able to arrest Him until He Himself allowed them to do so. Twice, Jesus asked them, “Whom do you seek?” Twice, He also identified Himself to them, “I am Jesus whom you seek.” However, even then, only after Jesus ordered them to spare His disciples who were then with Him in the Garden, were they able to arrest Jesus. And when Jesus had to meet Pilate, it was Pilate, on the first of their two meetings, who had to go out of his palace to face Jesus. Later on, when Jesus was already hanging on the cross, who ordered that the inscription “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” be nailed above the head of Jesus for all the world to see? Was it not Pilate, too?

Was it really Jesus who was tried? Or was it Pilate?

In the Gospel today on the Solemnity of Christ the King, many think that it is Jesus who stands on trial by Pilate. But this is the truth: It is Pilate who is in trial in the Gospel today.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked Jesus.

Jesus threw back to Pilate’s face the question, ““Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate threw another question. But this time, the way the question was posed sounded rather funny. Was Pilate still interrogating Jesus or was Pilate already asking himself?

After Jesus described, in rather very calculated words, His kingdom to Pilate, it was Pilate himself who said, “Then you are a king.” And Jesus had nothing better to say but “It is you who say it.”

Pilate did not realize – never did he – that he already switched places with Jesus. Unwittingly, Pilate put himself on the spot. He was the one on trial already.

Pilate could have made a stand for Jesus, but he missed his chance. He got to know Christ the King, but he did not have the faith to believe in Him. Pilate came to know Jesus but he refused to recognize Him. Though Pilate washed his hands after sentencing Christ the King to death, up until today all humanity see in Pilate’s hands the precious blood of Jesus.

In the Gospel today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, it is Pilate, not Jesus, who is on trial. And Pilate, in our world today, may be you and me. Yes, we know Christ the King but do our lives really give Him the recognition He deserves? Our Christian faith puts us on trial too often than we realize. Do we make a stand for Jesus? Is He really our King?

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