St. John 18:33 – 37
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.
The feast of Christ the King was first introduced in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, because of his observation that nationalism and secularism were growing ever stronger. Think of that time, when Communism as a political power, and Fascism also, were taking over in nations that had formerly been thought of as part of an unofficial international state called Christendom. Ever since the Napoleonic wars that had torn apart Europe and wasted countless lives, and especially after the insanity of World War I -- seen by just about everyone as the most destructive, senseless and meaningless war in history -- it became obvious that the Church of Jesus Christ had to take a more aggressive posture in proclaiming the light of the Kingdom of God into the darkness of the fallen world. That other churches besides the Roman Catholic Church, many Lutherans and Anglicans, began to celebrate the Feast of Christ of King, was more than a simple gesture of ecumenism. It became a world of violence and arrogant State power, with a magnification of "the insolence of office" beyond anything hitherto seen. To the Socialists of Communism and Fascism in their time, and to every state under Heaven where ideology overwhelms simple truth and justice through the agenda of worldly politics, the Church must dig in her heels and proclaim the message that Christ is King over all the Earth.
Christians live under the authority of the State, but only to a point. The problem with governments is that they do, by their very nature, tend to become too powerful, which is why the United States Constitution was written. It was written to define the power of the Federal Government within prescribed limits and to subject that government to the Rule of Law. It is, as we see, an ongoing battle to keep it subject to Law. And, throughout all history it is always difficult to be free in the sense of the truth that God has revealed, the true meaning of liberty.
In the theological sense, that is in terms of the Word of God, freedom or liberty is the power to obey God with a good conscience. Answering their persecutors among the Sanhedrin (the ruling Council of Elders), and the High Priest, the Apostles were very clear in the Book of Acts:
"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, 'Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.' Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, 'We ought to obey Godrather than men.'" (Acts 5:27-29)
The State is not God. Like the Hebrew National kosher Hot Dog company, we answer to a Higher Authority. Earthly rulers can and should see themselves as God's servants who administer justice, keep order and protect the people from harm (Romans 13:1f). When they fulfill this role, it is good. But, the essence of tyranny is for the State to try to take the place of God, and when earthly rulers require individuals to make the sacrifice of laying down and offering up conscience on the altar of Caesar, than they become the Beast from the Book of Revelation.
When Germans obediently murdered Jews, when American soldiers obeyed orders and murdered unarmed Dakota of both sexes and all ages at Wounded Knee, and everywhere in all history where soldiers have allowed unnatural and evil men to turn them into brutes, they received in their hands and foreheads the mark of the Beast. In isolated cases where officers presume to order military chaplains not to pray in the Name of Jesus Christ even when leading services for Christian members of the Armed Forces (as has happened), or when politicians try to pass laws that would require all doctors and hospitals to abort helpless and innocent unborn babies, the obedient ones who lay down their consciences as sacrifices and offerings to the State receive in their hands that work, and in their foreheads that think, the mark of the Beast. No one has the authority to order you to disobey God, or to violate your conscience. God's commandments are absolute, eternal and unchanging. Men's commandments are temporary. We really do answer to a Higher Authority. We answer to Christ the King. Is it any wonder that Christians have had to endure persecution to the death?
The world has armies and weapons, but all we have is the truth.
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight...Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Because Christ is the King, and because He rules by the truth of His revelation, we all would do well to learn the attitude of faith that was expressed by the Centurion. He said to the Lord Jesus, "I am a man under authority." (Matt. 8:9) And, that is the case for all of us. In the Church, it has a specific meaning for all the clergy. I have been given the title Rector, which means one who rules (which carries real implication of the word "presbyter"). But, I cannot see myself as a man who possesses authority as much as a man who is under authority. I am under the authority of Archbishop Haverland, a joyful thing for me. Like the Lord Himself, the Archbishop's yoke is easy and his burden is light -- or so it seems to me, because we have the same exact goal and purpose, which is to care for you and to proclaim the Gospel to everyone who will hear us. Ultimately, all authority among human beings is delegated, for ultimately it all goes back to God from Whom it comes, even as it comes through the order He has established in His Church.
It does not come as a privilege, nor as an honor nor as an advantage. It comes as a charge and as a commission with real responsibilities and obligations. We have received a thing called Holy Orders, and that means, as in the military, we have our orders. So, I say to you, I am a man under authority. Some of you may wonder, where does this guy get these things he preaches? The answer is, it has come from the words of our King. What I preach is not my own opinion, my own ideas or simply the expression of erudition. In every service we read the words that have come, ultimately, from God through human instruments called Apostles and Prophets. Because I a man under authority, my duty and my orders are to proclaim the meaning of God's most holy word for the sake of your souls to the end that you walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God and receive the salvation of your souls. I do not stand in the pulpit to fill time in a service (nor even to fill out time in a service).
Because I am a man under authority I am not allowed to compromise on the clear revelation of God. That includes certain essential things.
1. God's commandments.
For example, when I tell you that God's laws have not changed, that Christians must teach their children to "wait until marriage" no matter what the world around them is doing, or that Christians (because we answer to a Higher Authority) have no rights to abortion, no rights to suicide (even physician assisted), no rights to redefine marriage, no rights to treat marriage as a throw away commodity, or to disregard God's Laws in all the ways that are so popular, it is because I have received my orders. God has spoken, and what I must preach is His word, not the amoral fashions of this sinful world. To be men under authority clarifies these things for us.
2. The Gospel.
Perhaps a warm and fuzzy new message would fill up our pews, but no souls would be saved from sin and death. A man under authority has only one Gospel to preach, that defined by St. Paul in I Corinthians chapter fifteen.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
That is, Christ fulfilled the words of the Prophets (the meaning of "according to the scriptures") in that
1. He died for our sins,
2. was buried,
3. rose again the third day and
4. appeared to witnesses after His resurrection.
Do we have any other message, anything else to offer for those who do not like option A? No, we have nothing else that we have been commanded to preach. Other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have no message whatsoever. Take it or leave it, for you will be given nothing else. Some religious entertainers, clerics and faith healers of various kinds, may offer something else, and sometimes they sell better for a while. But as a man under authority I have one message: Come to the Living Christ with "hearty repentance and true faith." We, men under authority, preach to you the message and words of Christ the King. Everyone who is of the truth hears His voice.