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Wrestling with the Word, episode 100: Christ the King Sunday, Year C (November 21, 2010) November 16, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Christ the King Sunday

As the season of Pentecost comes to an end, the entire church year concludes as well. How fitting that every church year ends with Christ the King Sunday. While the title for Jesus is not well attested in the New Testament, the announcement that the Reign of God has dawned in Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection jumps out at us paragraph after paragraph. Further, while Christ is seldom called “King,” he has what kings possess: a kingdom. Our challenge as the church in every generation is to ask what it means that by God’s grace we belong to the kingdom that belongs to the Crucified Christ. Perhaps we will identify ourselves with one of the men crucified beside him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 100: Christ the King Sunday, Year C.


Psalm 46
The song of trust expresses confidence that God will defend the city of Jerusalem in the midst of an attack—real or mythical. The tradition that the Lord will protect Jerusalem from chaos seems to have been rooted firmly for many centuries, perhaps even prior to David himself (see 2 Sam. 5:6). The tradition appears again in Psalm 48 and became a key element in the preaching of Isaiah when the Assyrians were besieging the city. Since the enemy is portrayed as watery chaos, the primordial enemy, God’s victory will not only make the city secure but also end future wars. In true mythic tradition, the victory exalts YHWH among the nations of the earth. The grateful recognition of YHWH in the midst of the people concludes the psalm.


Jeremiah 23:1-6
In contrast to the chaos brought upon the people of Israel by their leaders, God promises to provide faithful shepherds and to restore the people to pasture and posterity, all within the coming Reign of God and under the just and righteous rule of a Davidic king.

In 597 B.C. the Babylonians carried off to exile King Jehoiachin (Coniah in 22:24-30) and placed on the throne his uncle Mattaniah whom the Babylonians renamed Zedekiah (Hebrew tsidqiyyāhû = “Yahweh is my righteousness”).  At the conclusion of the exile, under Persian rule, the prophets Zechariah and Haggai pinned the hopes of Judah on Zerubbabel, the governor, who was a grandson of Jehoiachin (see Zech. 4:1-9a; note that the entire Book of Haggai is said to be the word of the Lord through Haggai to Zerubbabel).  If this historical period is the setting for our pericope, then we are studying a witness not from the beginning of the exile, the time of Jeremiah, but after the exile, about 520 B.C.

Key Words
V. 3.  ûpārû werābû = “and the people shall be fruitful and multiply”:  This promise was an emphasis in priestly writings during the exilic period:  Gen. 1:28; Exod. 1:7; Jer. 29:6; Ezek. 36:11.  The “creation” blessing appears to provide a sermon to exiles who need to be encouraged to procreate, even in a foreign land, so that there will survive a people to be delivered in due course.

V. 5.  ledāwid tsemach tsaddîq = “for David a righteous Branch”:  The same words occur at Jer. 33:15; see also Zech. 3:8 (used for Zerubbabel, Jehoiachin’s grandson);  a different Hebrew word (nētser) appears at Isa. 11:1 for the future ruler of Davidic descent.

V. 5.  mišpāt ûtsedāqâ bā’’ārets = “justice and righteousness in the land”:  This pair is the foundation of the reign of God (Ps. 97:2; 99:4), extended to the Davidic ruler in Jerusalem (Isa. 9:7; Ps. 72:1-2) and here to the Davidic ruler to come. Similarly, see Isa. 11:3b-5.

V. 5.  ûmālak melek wehaskîl = “and he will reign as king and act wisely”:  For wisdom as a required royal attribute, see the acclaim of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 3:9-28; 4:29-34), as well as the qualities of the one to come:  “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2).

V. 6.  YHWH tsidqēnû = “Yahweh is our righteousness”:  The title might be playing on the name given to Uncle Mattaniah: “Yahweh is my righteousness.” In any case, the connection of “righteousness” with the kingdom of God is expected, because “righteousness,” along with “justice,” are the foundations of God’s throne (Psalm 97:2).


Colossians 1:11-20
On the basis of the identity of Christ as God’s image and his role in creation and redemption, God delivers us from darkness to the reign of his beloved Son and reconciles to himself all things.

The congregation at Colossae, a city in Asia Minor, was founded by Epaphras (1:7) who was a native of the city (4:12). The purpose of the letter is to address the influence of heresies and to encourage the church to remain faithful to the traditions that they had learned from the beginning. Prior to our pericope is the author’s salutation (vv. 1-2), the thanksgiving for the community’s faith (vv. 3-8), and the first part of the prayer for the community’s steadfastness (vv. 9-10).  While some scholars defend Pauline authorship, the style and content might point to someone else as the author of the epistle.

Structure of verses 15-20: a hymn of two stanzas

Stanza one: vss. 15-17 Stanza two: vss. 18-20

the image of the invisible God                  the head of the body, the church

the first-born of all creation                     the first-born from the dead

for in him all things                                  for in him all the fullness of God

through him all things were                       and through him to reconcile to

created through him and for him               himself all things

Key Words
V. 19.  eudokēsan pan to plērōma katoikēsai = “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”:  God is pleased with his Son (Matt.3:17 and parallels; 17:5).  God is pleased to “give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  God is pleased to “save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).  God “was pleased to reveal his Son to” Paul (Gal. 1:15).

V. 20. kai di’ autou apokatallaxai ta panta eis auton = “and through him to reconcile all things to himself”: The universality of the word “all” provides a breadth and Hebrew words as “peace” (šālōm = wholeness) and “justice” (mišpāt = harmony) convey. Recall the result of the servant’s suffering at Isaiah 53:11 (“many” probably means “all”). Recall also Jesus’ words of institution at Matthew 26:28: “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” But the “all things” in our passage removes any doubt about inclusivity by its following words: “whether on earth or in heaven.”


Luke 23:33-43
In response to the criminal’s plea and acknowledgement of Jesus’ kingship, Jesus promises him a share in the saving event of the kingdom.

Jesus had been led with two criminals to the place called the Skull where the three were crucified.  From the cross Jesus called on his Father to forgive his executioners while they played a game to win his clothes.

Key Words and Expressions

The taunters
V. 35.  the leaders
V. 37.  the soldiers
V. 39.  the one criminal

The taunt terms
V. 35.  exemyktērizon = “scoffed”
V. 36.  enepaixan = “mocked”
V. 39.  eblasphēmei = “blasphemed”

The taunts
V. 35.  “if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One”
V. 37.  “If you are the King of the Jews”
V. 39.  “Are you not the Christ?”

The challenge
V. 35.  “He saved others; let him save himself”
V. 37.  “save yourself”
V. 39.  “Save yourself and us”

V. 42.  mnēsthēti mou = “remember me”:  The expression resembles the plea in a lament; cf. Gen. 40:14; Ps. 74:2, 18, 22; 89:47, 50; 106:4.

V. 43.  sēmeron = “today”:  The word has a profound eschatological thrust in Luke:  see 2:10; 4:20; 5:26; 19:9.

V. 43.  en tō paradeisō = “in Paradise”:  See 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7. In OT the word describes Eden at Gen. 2:8; cf. 3:10; Ezek. 31:8-9. Later the word takes on eschatological meaning in intertestamental literature (see, e.g., Ps. Sol. 14:3).