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Christ the King (Proper 29), Cycle B (2015)


Christ already reigns! This theme ending the church year entails attention to Christology, Providence, Atonement, Eschatology, Justification by Grace.

Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18)
We consider here a Song of Ascents (a Pilgrim Psalm), which as we have noted is so named because the pilgrims to Jerusalem had to ascend a mountain to get to the Jerusalem Temple. This one is a liturgy commemorating God’s choice of Zion (a hill probably outside the Old City of Jerusalem, but in this context referring to the mountain on which the temple was built) and the Davidic dynasty. After reminding God of all David’s hardships to fulfill his vow, attention is devoted to how David provided the Lord with a sanctuary and set up a tent to house the Ark of the Covenant (vv. 1-5; cf. 2 Samuel 6:17). What follows (vv. 6-10) is a recollection of finding the Ark (1 Samuel 7:1-2) and bringing it to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). Reference is made to the line of David continuing forever (vv. 11-12; cf. 2 Samuel 7:14-15), but this is conditional on his heir’s obedience. The final verses represent the role of Jerusalem in the Davidic dynasty, how it will be the place where the Lord resides and so will be blessed with provisions and its priests with salvation. Reference is made to an anointed one [mashiach] of David’s line (v. 17).

Application: Read as a prophetic witness to Christ, this text can give rise to sermons on Christ as heir to the Davidic heritage and God’s eternal purpose realized through him (Christology and Providence).


Psalm 93
This is a hymn extolling God as king. It is the first of a collection of seven Psalms on this theme, composed for a festival like the Festival of Booths. The Lord the king is said to be robed in majesty/excellency [geuth] and strength, ruling for eternity. It is declared that he is established the world (vv. 1-2). This is certainly a most appropriate emphasis for Christ the King Sunday. The Psalm proceeds to declare that God’s rule is based on his control over the powers of chaos, symbolized by waters of the sea (vv. 3-4). Mesopotamian and Canaanite conceptions of divine kingship established by victory over the sea may be in the background at this point. God is praised because his law/testimonies [edah] offers dependable guidance [the testimonies are very sure] and because his temple is holy [qudesh] (v. 5).

Application: If preachers remind worshipers of Christ’s divinity, then all the praise of God in this Psalm can be attributed to the Savior. God and Christ’s conquest over the chaos of the waters, the certainty of the testimonies of God could also be sermon emphases (Providence, Atonement, Justification by Grace).

2 Samuel 23:1-7
The origin of this book as a distinct text derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew

Scriptures (the Septuagint), which divided the story of Israel’s monarchy into four sections (1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings). This book is probably the result of two or three sources: 1)

Early traditions about Samuel and Saul; 2) Editor-molded materials brought together into a

connected history, implying a critique of the events, deeming kingship as problematic, and so must be set under the rule of God and Samuel his prophet; 3) Incorporating the previous strand into the more Deuteronomistic (D) history (the result of sweeping religious reforms under King Josiah in 621 BC). The role of this last source not surprisingly entails that a central theme is the struggle to remain obedient to Torah, to be God’s covenant people, and to inherit divine blessings. This book especially relates to the reign of David as King of Israel. Thus it is fitting that in this lesson we consider the last words of David, a song of thanksgiving following the preceding hymn of praise (chapter 22). This is a later composition, perhaps written after the composition of Psalms.

David’s last words in this lesson are a song of thanksgiving following the preceding hymn of praise (chapter 22). It is a later composition, perhaps written after the writing of Psalms. The lesson begins with noting David’s high credentials, as the anointed one [mashiach] of God whom he exalted (v. 1). Verse 2 indicates that the Spirit [ruach] rests on David and his words. This could indicate that what follows is inspired, a word not just for David but for all Israel. (This point is suggested in v. 3a.) But the Spirit being on David is a reminder of his status as a leader of Israel, since the Spirit was only poured out on certain leaders in the era of the Hebrew Bible (Judges 6:34; 1 Samuel 11:6).

The psalm seems next to move beyond David to an exposition of the just ruler. He/She is compared to the light [or] of the morning of the sun that causes vegetation to sprout (vv. 3b-4). The everlasting covenant [ad berith] of God with David making all things secure (7:15-16; 2 Chronicles 13:5; the assigned Psalm [132], above) is noted (v. 5). The text of the last two verses is corrupt and so the exact meaning is obscure. The reference to the godless being like thorns consumed by fire suggests that they are just the opposite from the sun nurturing good vegetables (images associated with the good ruler of the Davidic line).

Application: This lesson affords excellent opportunities to proclaim God’s faithfulness to his promises (Providence and Justification by Grace). This could afford an opportunity to attest to how Christ fulfills God’s promises, and all history is moving toward fulfillment in Christ’s reign (Christology, Eschatology). Another possibility might to be focus on David as a model for the good ruler, to reflect on the role of government in making things secure and allowing good things in a nation to sprout (Social Ethics).


Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
We note again that this apocalyptic book was likely written by a faithful Jew living under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes in the mid-second century BC. To encourage his fellow-sufferers he tells six stories set in the days just before and after the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in the sixth century BC. These were tales that had been circulating earlier, to which are added four dream visions. It is good to be reminded that the main character Daniel is intended to refer to a worthy/righteous one [tsedaqah] to whom Ezekiel refers (14:14; 28:3). This is a book to give hope for deliverance for those facing persecution.

The lesson is part of Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts, a vision of the passing of the kingdoms to make way for the kingdom of God. As Daniel watches, an Ancient of Days [yamin zagen] took his throne with white clothing and his throne was fiery flames. A stream of fire flowed from his presence, and thousands served him (vv. 9-10). After an interruption, Daniel claims to see one like a son of man [enash bar] coming with the clouds of heaven, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him (v. 13). To him, it is said, was given dominion and kingship that all peoples should serve him. His dominion [sholtan] is everlasting [alam] and will never be destroyed (v. 14). Scholars debate whether the enash bar is referring to faithful Jews or should be identified with the archangel Michael (see 10:13, 21; 12:1), but the references have traditionally been identified with the Messiah.

Application: This Complementary Version of the First Lesson offers the opportunity to proclaim a vision of the end times (Eschatology) particularly for those facing apparently hopeless circumstances. But if read prophetically as a vision of Christ’s rule in the end, this lesson offers hope, that the ways of Christ and his love already permeate the structures of creation, that ultimately this world is a friendly place, filled with God (Providence).

Revelation 1:4b-8
The lesson is taken for an apochryphal book, this one written in last part of the first century expressing hope for salvation after a world-ending new creation. Although parts of the book may predate the fall of Jerusalem, it is likely that it achieved its present form during the reign of Emperor Domitian between 81 and 96 AD. Christians were being persecuted for refusing to address him as lord and god. Though the tradition ascribes the authorship to John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8) it is by no means clear that the author is one of the disciples. However, the book’s Semitic Greek style does suggest its author was Jewish. It relies heavily on eschatological images of the book of Daniel and other Old Testament texts (see 1:7, 12, 16; cf. Daniel 7:3; 10:5-9). This lesson is an introductory salutation to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which would receive the seven letters exposited in the book (1:9–3:22).

The typical Greek formula of salutation at the outset of the lesson refers to God in a trifold way (him who is, was, and will be to come). Reference to seven spirits may allude to angelic beings or to energies of the Spirit (v. 4b; cf. Isaiah 11:2). The greeting refers to Jesus Christ in a trifold way; he is identified as ruler of kings, is said to love [agapao], and to free/loose [lousanti] us by his love. Making us a kingdom of priests implies affirmation of the priesthood of all believers (made kings and priests) (vv. 5-6). Poetic testimony follows (vv. 7-8). Reference to the coming with the clouds and as one who will make all the tribes wail is an allusion to Daniel 7:13 applied to Jesus’ eschatological coming. God is said to be the beginning and the end (Alpha and Omega).

Application: A sermon on this lesson might focus on God’s trifold way to understand his present rule (how he is) as a foreshadowing the end — how he will be (Realized Eschatology and Providence). This provides comfort in knowing that what is and what is to come is a rule of love. It will also involve shared power (the Priesthood of All Believers is affirmed). And in so doing earthly power is gradually relativized (Social Ethics).

John 18:33-37
As previously noted John is the last gospel to be written, probably not until late in the first century in a sophisticated literary style (and so not likely the work of the apostle John), perhaps written for a Jewish Christian community actually expelled from the synagogue and consequently particularly concerned to assert Jesus’ divinity, that he was Son of God (20:31). In the first post-biblical Church History text, Eusebius of Caesarea claimed that John had perceived the external facts made plain in the gospel and been inspired by friends and the Spirit to compose a spiritual gospel (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2/1, p. 261). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John. Recently some scholars have suggested an alternative account of the origins of John’s gospel. Appealing to the writings of a late-first/early-second century Bishop Papias, who may have implied that John’s gospel was the result of eyewitness origins, such scholars have argued that the book is in fact an authentic historical testimony to Jesus (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155).

The lesson is an account of Plate’s interaction with Jesus prior to delivering his verdict, an account appearing in all four gospels. Pilate is reported to have summoned Jesus and asks him if he is king [basileus] of the Jews (v. 33). This question had great political significance for a number of other first-century prophets in Israel who were claiming messianic kingship had contended that they were sent to liberate Israel form Roman rule (11:47-48).

The dialogue that follows is unique to John’s version. Jesus responds asking if Pilate asks this on his own account. Pilate answers that he is not a Jew but that the Jewish leaders have handed Jesus over to him. So he asks Jesus what he has done (vv. 34-35). Jesus answers by claiming his kingdom is not from this world [kosmos], for if it were his followers would have prevented to arrest (v. 36). (This response by Jesus is unique to John’s gospel.) Pilate responds with the conclusion that Jesus is a king and in this Johannine version Jesus more expressly asserts that he is, claiming he was born to testify to the truth [aletheia] (v. 37).

Application: With this lesson preachers may proclaim Christ as King in the sense of still contending with the forces of evil (the forces which confronted Jesus in the lesson still confront us today), though in an eschatological/ultimate sense they are conquered (Atonement, Eschatology). One might also reflect on how Christ rules a kingdom which is not identical with realm of daily life, that as Christians are in but not of the world, so Christ reigns in a hidden way (17:14-16).

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen