There was a boy named Charlie who was 18 years old. He was very devout, prayed often, attended church often, and he was seeking God’s will for his life. Charlie felt something tremendous within himself – that God was calling him to become a minister.
Although his friends and family were socially religious, they were a bit worried about Charlie and his conversation with God. They asked Charlie to at least apply to university. So a meeting was arranged with the head of a prestigious college.
Charlie got up early in the morning and said a special prayer for the day, and set out for the house. He rang the bell of the large mansion, and a servant asked him to wait on a bench in the hallway.
Charlie waited, and waited, and waited for two hours. Finally he called out for someone and the horrified servant realized what had happened.
What Charlie did not know is that the president of the college whom he was to meet was sitting in a chair in the room behind the wall behind his back. The college president had perhaps less patience than Charlie, and he left exasperated and angry for London.
Charlie was horrified, frightened, afraid that he had lost his chance; should he chase the man, should he chase the man all the way to London and find him in order to explain?
Instead he took a long walk, and while he walked, a verse of scripture came to him – “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not . . .” Jeremiah 45.5 On that walk Charlie felt that God was talking to him . . . that the good shepherd was leading him from over-reacting, from over-reaching, in order to explain himself to those invested in his university career. Charlie, through prayer and patience and that special kind of courage that only comes from God, felt that it was the Lord’s will for that meeting to have not occurred through innocent misunderstandings.
Charlie never made it to university, but ultimately he did not need to; because the universities came to him. As he became known in Victorian England as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the great messengers of the Gospel. He said, “a thousand times I have thanked the Lord heartily for this strange providence which set my feet on another path . . .”
And though his messages don’t suit the taste of everyone – when he died some 60,000 people came to London to pay him homage.
Christus Rex – Christ the King – that is the feast that we celebrate today in the life of the Church within the world. It is a feast that is marked with this interview between Pilate and Jesus – two of the most unlikely individuals to encounter one another in human history. Pilate is very much the “man in full” of the ancient Roman Empire. Although Jerusalem and the Occident are not the most glamorous destinations in the ancient world, they are certainly not inconsequential responsibilities and locations.
Pilate is a powerful man. So powerful in fact that he does not have to resort to half-truths and trickery when rendering judgement; perhaps he is naïve about what is happening in his courtyard, as the religious leaders of Israel create a trap whereby Pilate will become their ax man.
These six verses are more chock full of irony, double-entendre, and historical transformation than I can shove into this very brief homily. The crux and the crucible of this encounter is that ultimately Jesus is not the one being “put on trial.”
While Jesus stands stripped bare and accused as a criminal in their kangaroo court – Pilate and the leaders of Israel are the ones being spiritually and psychologically disrobed by Jesus.
It is the great reversal of who and what is powerful in this life.
Jesus stands before each of us in our lives. Jesus would be Christus Rex, the King, of each of our lives. Our motives and desires are disrobed before him – there is nowhere to hide.
I believe that each of us faces many, many moments like that young Charlie Spurgeon, being pushed along by two streams of force – one of God, one of those who love us and mean well for us. And that sometimes those two steams cannot coexist, that we find ourselves caught waiting in the hallway of life, that we find ourselves feeling that perhaps we have missed our chances.
When Jesus is the king of our lives – we are able to take that walk of faith and discernment – and let the complications move away from us, as God’s will becomes clearer to us. And very often God’s purposes for our lives looking nothing like what we would choose for ourselves; in fact they may look like disaster in the eyes of the world, they may look like a crucifixion, when in reality we are on the steps of a new and resurrected life; when Christ is the King – all of the ground ahead of us, is holy, blessed, and everlasting.
If we find ourselves wondering, wrestling, with who will be King of our lives, we can think of young Spurgeon. We can also remember the words of Simone Weil,
“Isn’t the greatest possible disaster of all – when you are wrestling with God – not to be beaten . . .”