There was a Jesus, son of Mary and her husband Joseph. They were a Jewish family probably somewhere between downright poor and lower middle class, who lived in Nazareth, a small, undistinguished town which was a minor subject of the mighty Roman Empire. More & more these days it is being suggested that he was not the only child of that family, that instead he had brothers and sisters, as the Sacred Scripture says quite unambiguously.
The life of this Jesus was a mixture of the mundane and the spectacular: he grew out of an ordinary boyhood to become a heroic young man. He was a mystery, an enigma, to his family and friends and neighbors. What he was saying about life and God was new and different — revolutionary – and both comforting to some and disturbing to others. His parents were advised to put him away, I suppose into the equivalent of an asylum of some sort, where he could be prevented from doing harm to himself and others.
It was his idea of God, the one whose name could never be spoken or written by faithful Jews, the one he called Father so easily and intimately, that was particularly upsetting to the people and their religious leaders. It was this strange concept that got him into most trouble. They accused him of blasphemy and thought of him as possessed by an evil spirit. He told them that they needed to reform their image of God, who, he insisted, was pure love, infinitely compassionate and merciful. But, he made clear, that would be an almost impossible task for them because their minds were so perverted and wrongly set. So ultraconservative were they regarding their beloved tradition that they could no more accept and contain what he was telling them than a new sack could hold fresh wine without bursting at its seams.
His crucifixion appeared at first to be the end of a misguided life – this man who had said and done such marvelous and memorable things that more than 2,000 years later they are still repeated and honored and lived by countless persons like you and me today. But the accolades multiplied over the centuries until Jesus of Nazareth, the man who died on a cross of criminals, became the Christ, the Anointed One, the Exalted one – a title and a description that, I feel, he himself would neither recognize nor appropriate to himself.
And so today we have this title – Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. What can it possibly mean to us? Especially to us who have no experience of a kingdom? Especially to us to whom Jesus has been revealed as a humble servant of God and of the people? Especially to us who have come to believe – because of him — that the primary force of life and good in this vast universe is nothing less or other than love?
I think that that is what we are celebrating today – the confession, the proclamation, that we accept him totally and without compromise as the perfect model of human life. The bracelet that reads “What would Jesus do?” says it well. He is our model, our guide. He is the lens through which we see God as he himself did – with no fear, no shame, no uncertainty. With only peace and gratitude and happy expectation of what lies ahead. It’s the different way of living that he asked us to embrace.
There’ve been many good kings and queens in the history of human civilization, but none quite like Jesus, whose extraordinary knowledge of the Mystery of Mysteries that we call God shows us infallibly what living a truly human life entails.