By naming his top-of-the-chart album Jesus is King, patron saint of the present moment, Kanye West, was making a personal statement about authority.
In Kanye’s life, there is one ruler, Jesus.
Kingship isn’t all that popular these days.
Often associated with the worst slur of all, medieval, citizens tend to distrust monarchs (or, at least, the idea of them) and prefer republic-style democracies (or, at least, the idea of them), perhaps in submission to the modern king of strident self-autonomy.
Kanye, on the other hand, betrays no sign that he saw it as a gamble in his professional or personal life.
So, what kind of a king is Jesus?
Kingship may evoke romantic thoughts of glorious military victories, jewel-encrusted crowns and imperial thrones. But kingship was the crime for which Jesus was sentenced to death, his crown was made of thorns and his throne was the Cross.
“My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn 18:36-37).
Not exactly what the apostles had in mind and a kingship that evidently strained Pilate’s credulity when he concludes the dialogue, scoffing, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38).
Nor does Jesus’ kingship correspond with Pilate’s power to either release or crucify him. In fact, Jesus submits to Pilate’s authority, which has been given to him “from above” (Jn 19:11).
Jesus came to give his life “as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).
Sacrificial love is the model of authoritative leadership in the Kingdom of God, rather than the “lording over” exercised the worldly rulers (cf. Mk 10:42).
It’s not all that surprising that the apostles and Pilate, not to mention the Jewish leaders and people baying for blood, didn’t understand Jesus’ kingship. After all, Our Lord flat out says, “My kingship is not of this world.”
Jesus’ death is a glorious victory, his crown was jewel-encrusted, and his throne won salvation for mankind and is perpetuated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered each day on the altars of Catholic churches throughout the world.
The Cross confounds the world, as St Paul affirms,
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24).
Christ the King
I am reminded of that poignant moment in the movie The Passion of the Christ when Jesus meets his mother on the via dolorosa, saying, “See Mother, I make all things new”.
The world, though, only sees defeat, failure and death, whereas Jesus’ servants see his glorious exaltation (cf Jn 3:14). For he who utters these words sits on the throne of heaven (Rev 21:5).
This is the truth to which Jesus’ kingship bears witness: there is a victory to be had over this world, the victory of the Cross.
The last great feast of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King, which is upon us, commemorates the same truth.
If you are feeling exhausted from a year of trial, “like butter spread on too much bread”, as Bilbo Baggins says, then this feast is the perfect time to lay your life down before the king.
A king who has been tested like us in all things, but is the only king who leads us to victory.
A blessed feast of Christ the King to you!
How will you spend it? How has He become your King?