FROM A READING FOR NOV. 20, CHRIST THE KING
'Through Him, God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on Earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross...' -- Colossians 1:20


As far as I can tell, all of us long for peace and tranquility, though few of us are willing to pay the price it costs to actually obtain it.

I frequently repeat spiritual author Jack Shea's insight that Jesus' ministry revolved around answering just three questions: "What do you want out of life?" "Where do you get it?" "How much does it cost?"

It's clear from Sunday's first reading (II Samuel 5:1-3) that the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel believe David -- king of the two tribes comprising the southern kingdom of Judah -- can bring about such peace and tranquility. The author of II Samuel succinctly states the situation: "When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before Yahweh, and they anointed him king of Israel." This history-changing treaty was ratified in 1,000 BCE -- the easiest date in biblical history to remember - and lasted until David's grandson Rehoboam's reign in the 930s, when the one nation again reverted to being two.

Peace or power
But, at least for 70 years, Jews believed they could eliminate war by having one leader stronger than any other -- especially leaders of the countries surrounding them. Their king's army could either conquer those armies or put enough fear in them that they'd never dare start a war.

A once-popular 1970s poster summarized their belief: "Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, because I'm the meanest S.O.B. in the valley." Peace came through power.

The Pauline disciple who wrote Colossians (1:12-20) was convinced that Jesus of Nazareth could also bring peace and tranquility, not just to Israel and Judah, but to the whole world. Yet how this Galilean carpenter planned on doing it differed radically from David's methodology. It turned everything upside down.

This itinerant peasant preacher believed peace could only definitively be achieved by reconciliation, not warfare. The Colossians author was convinced that Jesus personally accomplished this "by the blood of His cross." Against all logic, Jesus' peace came not from strength, but from the weakness one demonstrates by loving, not conquering others.

Jesus as king
Luke (23:35-43) couldn't state this early Christian belief any better. Using Jesus' actual crucifixion as the background, he shows how Jesus' kingship was diametrically opposed to any other kind of leadership. Following common wisdom, one of the criminals crucified with Jesus joins the crowd in wanting to know why the Christ, the savior of Israel, isn't saving the three of them by demonstrating He's more powerful than the soldiers who nailed them to their crosses.

Luke's Jesus, always more concerned with the needs of others than His own, ignores their demands and instead responds to the plaintive request of the second criminal, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." He tells him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." In other words, "Stop worrying! My suffering and death will bring you peace."

The historical Jesus -- following Jack Shea's insight -- assured His followers they could achieve peace and tranquility simply by imitating Him. That's not very complicated. But the cost of that imitation created difficulties. To eventually reach a tranquil state, we, like Him, would first have to suffer and die by giving ourselves to those around us -- especially our enemies.