Christians have always had problems expressing what it means for the risen Jesus to be in their lives. Their experience is so unique that every metaphor or myth they employ automatically "limps." One aspect fits, another doesn't.

That's why we struggle with Sunday's three Scripture passages. Though they explore this phenomenon from different directions, no one image is perfect.

The first (Dan 7: 13-14) has traditionally been applied to Jesus; the other two attempt to explain something which reaches beyond our human horizons and limits in a way that fits into those horizons and limits.

Coming on cloud

The apocalyptic author of Daniel isn't referring to Jesus when he describes "one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven." Actually, the writer isn't concerned with just one person. His strange, ethereal figure symbolizes all who follow Yahweh. Those who give themselves to God will receive "an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away." They eventually will dominate the kinds who dominate them.

Because Christians believe Jesus gave Himself to Yahweh more deeply than anyone before or after, they logically see Jesus in this scene. Because of His dedication, He personally, individually, received the power of a disciple of God.

Yet ironically, Jesus' earliest followers seem to reject the title around which the feast of Christ the King revolves. Whenever the title "king" is brought up in Jesus' trial, He refuses to accept it. Even in the Gospel (Jn 18: 33-37), John's Jesus makes several significant distinctions about "His kingship."

"My kingdom is not of this world....My kingdom is not here." And when Pilate asks Him point blank, "then you are a king?" Jesus responds, "You say I am a king." In other words, "I never use that title. You're the one who calls me a king."

Jesus immediately switches the subject to what really matters: "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

Truth matters; kingship is nothing. Those who zero in on kingship have veered off the Jesus path.

Perhaps we find the best metaphors for Jesus' risen presence in the second reading (Rev. 1: 5-8). There the author calls Him "the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead"; and instead of directly referring to Him as king, he mentions He's the "ruler of the kings of the earth." Whatever kings have, Jesus has more of, without being a king.

King and giver

Jesus' uniqueness springs from what He does for those who follow Him. Kings focus on themselves; Jesus focuses on us. Kings build their power; Jesus empowers us. In the words of the author of Revelation, He "loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, (and) has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father."

One must be careful what titles one gives to Jesus. He continually turns them back on the giver.

If Jesus witnesses to God, He witnesses for us; and if He is death's first born, it's because He's given us life. The author is more interested in what Jesus does than in what Jesus is.

That's why the last verse of the passage is so significant: "I (Jesus) am the Alpha and the Omega." Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; Omega, the last. Were the Book of Revelation written in English instead of Greek, Jesus would have proclaimed, "I am the A and the Z." In other words, "I'm in everything."

Jesus is present in every part of our existence. He lives for us and in us. He's constantly working through us.

There's just one problem: Try explaining that insight to someone who has yet to experience it.

(11-23-00)