During my childhood up north, in the winter, when huge mounds of snow would be piled up by snowplows, I remember playing a game called King of the Hill. For those who are not familiar with the game, the first person to reach the top of the hill earned the right to be called “King of the Hill”. The game became more interesting as other kids climbed the hill to push the king off the top and become the new King of the Hill. Sometimes, more aggressive players would also throw snowballs and chunks of ice in their “attack” to defeat the king. I must admit, as a kid, it was quite exhilarating to stand on top of that high mound of snow and look down at my opponents struggling to climb to the top. You had a sense of power as you towered over them knowing that you had conquered the hilltop and earned the exclusive right and honor of kingship.
The desire for power and control, unfortunately, isn’t just limited to kid’s games. When you examine the history of human civilization, it is largely a story of kings seeking power over other kingdoms. The Old Testament alone contains many stories of kings going to war to attack and conquer other nations. If we fast forward thousands of years to today, we still have leaders of nations aggressively fighting to conquer the hilltop.
With this in mind, we can see in today’s Gospel reading why Pilate was concerned about Jesus’ possible claim of kingship. How could one be a king and not be expected to attack and conquer Roman territories? How could this threat be ignored? As we celebrate this last Sunday in ordinary time, we reflect on Jesus’ title as King of the Universe. We know what Jesus’ kingship meant to Pilate and to many of the Jews, but what is more important is what it means to us. How do we see Jesus in this role as king?
Any good Christian would agree that if you were to look for the kingdom of Jesus, if you were to search out the territory under his authority and command, you would find him in places where earthly kings seldom go. You would find him feeding the hungry, healing the sick, befriending the outcast, and pursuing peace with neighboring kingdoms. You would find him fighting for the cause of justice rather than for power and domination. Earthly kings win through force while Jesus conquers through love. Kings and kingdoms come and go while Jesus’ kingdom is eternal and will never be destroyed.
If Jesus is truly our king, then as his loyal subjects, we need to act and respond appropriately. If we wish for God to reign in our hearts, then we need to live blameless lives, obeying his laws while growing in charity so that the kingdom of God is expressed through our servanthood. The battle lines are drawn. Are we willing to accept Jesus as our king or are we still fighting to be King of the Hill?
Deacon Bob Laquerre