The liturgical year concludes today, with the Feast of Christ the King. This is one of my favorite liturgical commemorations. Its spirit deeply infused the five Realm of Essences novels and continues to provide inspiration and ideas to everything I write.
Kings aren’t born in rude stables far from home; their entry to the world is usually surrounded by luxury and announced to the world by trumpets. But Jesus of Nazareth was. There aren’t any similar cases known to me.
Kings don’t subject themselves to protracted fasts or physical hardship. Yet Jesus did. Again, I can’t name any others whom history records as having done so.
Kings aren’t condemned to death by torture. There have been kings whose subjects rose against them and put them to death – Charles I of England; Louis XVI of France, Nicholas II of Russia — but those were recognized as kings beforehand. But note that all those kings stayed dead. Jesus didn’t.
Kings normally take what they wish. It’s an enduring fiction of monarchy that the king is the lord and master of all he surveys. He can lay hands on any part of it he pleases. The subject from whom it is snatched dare not protest, for the king can do no wrong. Jesus had no possessions, lived by the charity of those He visited, and died all but naked bound to a rough wooden cross.
Quite the king, wasn’t He?
How do you tempt a king? How do you seduce him away from the proper governance of his realm? What kingly lusts are fodder for the tempter who would suborn a king away from his duties?
As noted above, a king can usually take what he pleases without adverse consequences, as long as it isn’t claimed by another king. Of course, many times in history, kings have tried to seize the “property” of other kings. But that’s a consequence of the multiplicity of temporal kings. A king will contest another king’s assertion that he sees as clashing with his region of sovereignty, usually with warfare. There has never been a temporal monarch who claimed all the world as subject to him and went uncontested in that claim.
In the ages when monarchy was the dominant form of rulership, many kings warred with one another over bits of land or claims to the succession. The larger the claim, the larger the war. Those episodes are among the reasons monarchy became a dispreferred form of sovereignty.
Historically, the most effective temptation one could dangle before a king has been more power. Anyone familiar with contemporary struggles over power would find that easy to understand.
Jesus, who had nothing, “should” have been easy to tempt, especially in the years before He revealed Himself to the world. Yet Satan couldn’t do it. The details are in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 4, if you need a refresher.
The lure of power did nothing for Jesus:
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
What sort of king cares nothing for power, dominion, and rule? It must be the kind in whom those things are innate properties, intrinsic to his very being. He cannot be tempted by those things because no power in all of existence could take them from him. No other king could wrest them from him. Death itself would not end his dominion.
That’s the sort of king I’d want to rule over me. He wouldn’t demand constant obeisance and praise from his subjects, though he’d be likely to receive it. He wouldn’t tax us under threat of punishment, though all that is ours we would freely give him should he ask. He wouldn’t need an army to enforce his will against the ambitions of rival kings, for no rival could stand comparison with him. He would be recognized for what he is, because it would be impossible to deny him.
Yet many do deny Him. Nevertheless, He is King. Not all the powers of the world, even in alliance with those of Hell, can deprive Him of the sovereignty that belongs to the Son of God. And when all things temporal are brought to an end, He will still be King…and those who acknowledged Him in life will sing with joy at His return.