Church of the Nativity
Christ the King Sunday (Last Sunday of Pentecost)
November 24, 2013
I think a helpful way to unpack Christ the King Sunday is to talk about a scene from the movie Schindler’s List. Have you all seen it? Well, whether you have or not, there is a scene in the film where Oskar Schindler--the German Gentile who was so instrumental in saving countless German Jews during Hitler’s awful reign--is talking about power with an an SS officer. You see the SS officer had been brutally murdering countless Jews--showing no mercy at all--in order to demonstrate to them and his fellow soldiers that he was powerful. Schindler--a reputable and powerful businessman--tells the barbaric and power-hungry--yet ultimately insecure--official that real power “is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t… A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor… pardons him. This worthless man, [the Emperor] lets him go… That’s power. That is power.”
The similarities between Schindler’s advice to the SS officer and what happens in this morning’s Gospel lesson are very interesting. For in Luke 23 we have something of a parallel story. We have that famous scene where Jesus cries out on behalf of his murderers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.” We have a king, albeit not in a traditional position of power, granting pardon to the worthless--those who reject, mock, and murder an innocent. Like the insecure, power-seeking SS officer who later does indeed take Schindler’s advice, Jesus essentially says to the truly worthless, “I pardon you.”
Don’t forget that he does this after he has been tried and scourged. His own people have borne false witness against him, and the religious leaders have identified him as a seditious blasphemer. It is also important to note that only the worst criminals were crucified on the place called Skull. And here he is, the religious leaders and government authorities conspiring together to have him killed in the most inhumane of ways--naked on a cross of wood.