At the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, you will see an immense mosaic entitled Christ in Majesty above the main altar. The mosaic portrays Jesus in towering strength, flexing a muscular right arm. Everything about this image says “kingly.” Even the inscription reads, “Christ Reigns, Christ Rules. Eternal Victor, Eternal King.”
This is the kind of image that probably comes to mind when we think of Jesus as a king—and rightly so! Jesus does indeed reign at the right hand of God the Father. Every knee is meant to bow before him, and “every tongue confess” his Lordship.
All this is well and good, but look at the Gospel passage chosen for today’s celebration. Jesus is crucified like a common criminal. He is hanging between two thieves, while many of Israel’s religious leaders jeer at him. What a humiliating image! Why would the Church select such a surprising reading?
This is the great paradox of the Christian life. Jesus shows himself worthy of our obedience, not because he is proud and powerful, but because he is a servant. He shows himself to be lordly, not through powerful armies and a gleaming throne, but through the beautiful dignity of self-giving love. He is merciful, forgiving even his torturers. He is generous, promising paradise to a repentant thief. He is Jesus, the Son of God, who did only what and behold your King. Gaze upon him as he offers up his life for you. Look at him, and let your heart rejoice.