Christ the King – King For All the People
November 20, 2016
King Christian X of Denmark has been back in the news..
He died in 1947, but
In the wake of calls to ‘register’ Muslims coming to the US,
Social media has erupted with the legend of Christian X
Who though not Jewish himself was said to have worn a yellow star,
In support of Jews who were required to wear them.
It’s a powerful story…
But as we’re learning, the stories we hear on social media aren’t always true.
And the fact of the matter is,
This one isn’t true either.[i]
Jews in Denmark never wore identification marks
such as a yellow star.
So King Christian X didn’t either.
But nevertheless the legend does convey an important truth:
When the Nazis occupied Denmark and threatened deportation of the Jews,
the king stood by his Jewish citizens,
and prevented mass persecution and death.
German authorities had a plan to deport the Jews in days.
King Christian launched and financed a rescue effort.
Danish resistance groups and thousands of Danish citizens
Hid 7500 Danish Jews for several days,
before smuggling them onto boats,
and taking them to safety to the neutral country of Sweden.
The king had been a vocal critic of the German deportation plans,
And when he spoke he rallied the Danish people.
Universities shut down so students could help with the rescue.
Pastors urged their congregations to help the Jews.
The Danish police for the most part refused to help with the German plans of deportation.
And it was successful.
7500 Danish Jews escaped to Sweden.
500 Jews were deported to the Theresensteidt Concentration Camp,
But the Danish government frequently sent them food
And their Danish neighbors protected their property at home.
By the end of the war 50 Danish Jews were lost.
50 too many, but it could have been far worse…
And largely it was because of King Christian X and Danish resistance.
This is Christ the King Sunday
And in our first reading, Jeremiah calls for a certain kind of king.
Jeremiah says the Lord says,
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture,”
“I will raise up shepherds who will shepherd them (really shepherd them),
And they shall not fear any longer,
Or be dismayed,
Nor shall any be missing,”
God’s shepherd will be a king who gathers not separates;
Who calms fears and doesn’t create them;
God’s shepherd is a leader who cares enough for the people
That not a single sheep will be lost.
King Christian X of Denmark was such a king.
He was king of all Danes (not just some Danes)
And when a group of Danes was being oppressed,
King Christian spoke out…and in so doing, inspired his people to save thousands of lives.
The prophet Jeremiah apparently didn’t meet a king like King Christian X…
Most of the kings he knew didn’t care about their people,
Which is why he’s often called the ‘weeping prophet….’
One after another,
kings in Jeremiah’s day were greedy, idolatrous, looking after themselves
more than the people.
Jeremiah wept at what they were doing to the people of Judah.
And yet he shares a word from God not to lose hope –
that there will be a new king.
A king will come from the line of great King David –
He will be a branch of David
who will reign with wisdom and justice.
We Christians hear this passage in Jeremiah as pointing to Jesus.
In another month we’ll hear the story of how a census will take Mary and Joseph
to the city of David – to Bethlehem,
because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David.
Jeremiah speaks of a future king who will reign with wisdom and justice…
But the people are expecting someone different.
The criminal on the cross next to him says what pretty much what the crowd is hoping for…
“If you are a king…save yourself and us!”
If you are a king, show us your power!
Take over this situation!
Get us out from Roman occupation.
In Nikos Kazantzakis’ book “The Last Temptation of Christ,”
Jesus does what the crowd asks.
He steps down from the cross…
And the figure who encourages him to do so is Satan –
It’s the last temptation.
Kazantazkis claims that if Jesus came down from the cross
his life would have had no more significance
than any other philosopher.
It is Jesus’ vulnerability on the cross which paradoxically
reveals God’s love.
When Jesus is confronted with death,
he offers forgiveness.
When faced with violence,
He gives peace.
When he is mocked and spit upon,
He acts with love and mercy.
“Father, forgive them,” he says.
By staying on the cross,
Jesus “stands with the innocent of the world;
He stands with all who are frightened and vulnerable today;
He suffers with all who experience injustice and oppression today”[ii]
Jesus says to the thief on the cross,
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
In a blog post on this passage written this week,
David Lose, the president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia writes:
“Jesus reminds us that far from promising us a better future, he redeems us today,
not only forgiving us for what we have done or not done,
but setting us free to stand with those in need around us,
advocating for their welfare,
demanding their just treatment,
and seeing in them the very presence of the God who always takes the side of the vulnerable.”[iii]
You know, King Christian X wasn’t always the hero of the Danes.
He wasn’t always like the shepherd king Jeremiah called for.
He wasn’t always the champion of the vulnerable.
In the early years of his reign he was authoritarian, pompous and arrogant,….
But King Christian X changed.
He became a king for all the people.
Kings can change.
Leaders can change.
May it be so for us.