Monday, 27 November 2017

The Shepherd King

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 (page 722 in our pew Bibles) God is the good shepherd and will stop at nothing to find and gather his people.
Ephesians 1: 15-end (page 976 in our pew Bibles) A glorious piece in its entirety but within it Paul prays that we may find Wisdom and revelation
Matthew 25: 31-end (page 831 in our pew Bibles) In the story of the sheep and the goats at the final judgement we may find it surprising that faith is not mentioned once, only the outworking of faith resulting in good works.  

The feast of Christ the King is a modern 20th century festival instituted by Pope Pius 11th in 1925 possibly as a counter blast to the rise of fascism in Europe at that time.

That being the context, we see that the raison d’etre for instituting such a festival was to remind people that the Kings and shepherds of this world are as clumsy, exploitative and corrupt as any of the Shepherds lambasted in Ezekiel’s book and so nothing that is happening is new or unexpected.

Then as now the festival warns us against false hope and false prophets and declares that God himself is our shepherd king.

Drawing a similarity or correlation between kingship and shepherding is a perennial feature of middle eastern culture and is found across ancient cultures including ancient Egypt, but within the fiercely monotheistic culture of the Israelites these attributes of the “Good shepherd” and the “Good and righteous king” are given to God alone.

For thus says the Lord God: Behold I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. And in verse 16…

“ I will seek the lost, and bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice”

That verse includes a warning to those who have abused their strength and power to use their power for wrong ends – something that God expands in the second half of that piece.

The Jewish people need to remember that they have one Lord and God, and that they have one servant that is David or the "Davidic line."
And in the Christian era there is a fusion between the servant King of the Royal line of David and God himself in Jesus Christ and the piece from Ephesians is mesmerising in its rhetorical and actual power.

In the risen Jesus we see Christ the king when God “raised Him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all”

Inspiring, Poetic, and mesmerising words that set Christ the king in his rightful place far above all leaders and political movements here on earth.

Which brings us to Matthew’s story of the sheep and the goats at the final judgement. There are many problems that present themselves in terms of interpreting this passage but there is one thing we can say with confidence.

The first and main thing is that Christ the King identifies himself with those who suffer, and love for them is service to Him.

The only inherent danger in all this is that it could lead to a certain Christian arrogance and triumphalism towards those we judge outside the sheepfold.

The answer to this problem lies within the narrative itself of course, because this king is fully revealed in the hunger and thirst, nakedness, loneliness, imprisonment, and death of the King of the Jews who reigns from a cross.

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