I didn’t realize that the CBS show Undercover Boss was just about 3 years old now. While I haven’t watched too many episodes lately, I used watch it occasionally. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a reality tv show which follows an company exec, a CEO or some such as they leave the comfort of their corner office, disguising themselves and go Undercover. Working alongside their employees, they see the effects their decisions have on others, (and as it described on the Undercover Boss’ website) where the problems lie within their organizations and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their companies run.
What I always enjoyed about this show was at the end, at the reveal when the CEO revealed himself or herself to the workers, both the good and the bad. As part of the revelation, the CEO would make changes, tweak company policy and procedures here or there, or reward a hardworking struggling employee or re-train, re-purpose, or fire a bad one. All because the boss had disguised himself or herself as one of the “little guys”.
Today, Christ the King Sunday almost seems like another one of these episodes of Undercover Boss. Take our Gospel story for this morning. These verses that I read just a few minutes ago are part of the bigger scene toward the end of Jesus’ life. He has been betrayed and abandoned by his own followers and arrested. His own religious leaders have handed him over to the occupying Roman powers and are accusing Jesus of rebellion, insurrection, and treason. Facing these charges, Jesus now stands before Pilate (the Roman governor of their region of Palestine).
Like an episode of Undercover Boss, we know who Jesus is. We know because the Gospel writer John has told us, this isn’t just an ordinary insurrectionist trouble-maker. This isn’t just another innocent man caught up in the system, this isn’t even the just the King of the Jews. Standing before Pilate (this Roman official), under arrest and in chains is the one who we will sing at the end of our time together this morning is the Lord of all nations, king of creation.
Watching Pilate, hearing his questions, we know the Truth. Pilate while he knows something is up won’t get the “reveal” that he’s expecting.
There will be no last-minute pulling off the mask, the disguise to reveal Jesus in all his glory. No Jesus our King will suffer the humiliation, the pain, torture, wrongfull execution. That’s where the truth of who he is will shine forth, just as it has in all that he has been doing and saying. Jesus hasn’t been hiding who he is just to see what life is like for the little guy. It’s more than that.
It’s got to be more than that. People of faith, followers of Jesus, people who know Jesus haven’t done, and don’t do, and aren’t who they are for a sight-seeing savior. Remember that evil called apartheid. It was the political system used by a white minority to control and dominate the black Africans in the nation of South Africa. An Anglican priest—a pastor tells about how his small congregation only about the size of us, of St. Paul’s refused to obey their government because they obeyed Jesus, and they were arrested, not just the pastor who spent over a year in jail, but the entire congregation from a 90 year old elder to mothers’ with babies locked up in jail for following Jesus.
The truth that Jesus is talking about—the truth that Pilate is fumbling around and groping for, what Jesus is revealing is that we won’t see Jesus’ kingship in visions of heavenly splendor if we don’t see Jesus as he is on the cross—innocently suffering at the hands of political expediency. His reign and kingdom are revealed not with armies of soldiers, not in super sales and door-buster bargains, but with the poor, the sick, the widow, the orphan, not in princes of power, industry, business, not in acts of violence, but in the hands the hungry, in acts of mercy and forgiveness. That is our king. Amen.