Nine Days to Christ the King: Day 7

Meditation Day 7: Christ, Our Humiliated King

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him” (John 19:1-6).

REFLECTION

Ecce Homo. Behold the man. 

Pilate presents our torn and humiliated King to the bloodthirsty crowd as if to say: “Look at the man. How can one in such a state be any threat to you?”

We take a moment to gaze on our humiliated King. Pilate presents him to us as weak, impotent. His hands are tied, the strength completely drained from him by the cruel lashes. His body has become one giant wound. His raw flesh is chaffed by the rough garments crudely thrown back over his chastised body. His head has been crowned in jest with a cap of thorny bramble: not carefully set upon his royal head, but harshly pressed into the sensitive skin covering his scalp and forehead.

And we hear the invitation again. Behold the man. Behold your King. Behold your God.

Why do you find him to be a threat? Why are you afraid to allow him to truly become your King?

Although we may not be among those who clamor for Jesus’s Crucifixion, we most certainly may be among those who are still hesitant to allow Jesus to fully be the King of our hearts. 

And because God often speaks to us through the most unlikely of instruments, it is Pilate who again calls through the fog of our indecision and speaks to our dulled consciences saying: “Behold the man.” 

Let us take up his invitation. Let the gaze we turn to our humiliated King be deeper and more prolonged than the accustomed glances we may often cast toward the crucifixes on our walls. Let us gaze with the heart, not only with our eyes. What do we see? Let us allow Jesus himself to ask us: “What do you see?”

His eyes contemplate us from beneath the cruel cap of penetrating thorns. His face is bruised. His body is torn. His appearance startles us. It moves us. It repels us. It pains us to our inner core. Very likely, everything in us strains to turn our eyes away, to wipe this image of unimaginable suffering from our minds. Still, we are invited to sustain our gaze, this time looking beyond the outward appearance of horror to lock eyes with our Lord and King.

What do we see in those eyes, sorrowful yet untouched by hate? They are the eyes of a king: one who, in the midst of unspeakable suffering, continues to love. 

Here before us is a king like no other. He does not come to impose his rule. He neither threatens nor demands. He is God. He possesses all the strength and power in the universe. And he has allowed his human strength to be completely taken from him, freely and willingly giving it up if that will persuade us to allow him to love us.

What might he wish to say to us? What might his eyes be trying to communicate? “I am bound. I have been tortured. All my strength is gone. Are you still afraid to let me love you?”

This is Our King. This is our God. Not the image that our broken psychologies have fashioned. The King who requests entry into my heart is the one willing to go to the most extreme measures just to save me, just to heal me, just to break through my walls and reach me with his love. 

In the silence of our hearts, let us answer him. Let us not be afraid to tell him of our struggles and confusion. Let us not hold back our response with the excuse that it is not a perfect one. Let us give him our fears. Let us give him our longings. Let us give him our broken, wounded hearts.

Jesus is not turned away by our indecision. He understands if we still do not know how to give him an unequivocal “yes.” All he asks is that we allow him to accompany us through our faltering baby steps in trust and love. He asks that we allow him to love us as we are, with our confusions, with our stumbling, with our slowness to have everything figured out. 

As the feast of Christ the King draws closer, let us not forget that the King we celebrate is the humiliated King of the Ecce Homo. His kingdom is not for the perfect and those who have everything under control. Perhaps, if we think we do, we still haven’t allowed his gaze to penetrate our hearts and invite us to give that control over to him and let him love us.

  • What does the contemplation of the Ecce Homo provoke in me? What movements of the heart? What desires? What fears? What responses?
  • Is there an area of my life over which I am still hesitant to allow Jesus to be King? What might be holding me back? If I am still unable to surrender it to him, am I at least willing to share this with him, rather than hiding it or pretending it is not there?
  • Am I willing to offer my King the response I am capable of giving today, even if I consider it to be imperfect? Am I willing to allow him to accompany me along my journey to trust him more fully?
  • We all experience humiliation at some time in our lives. How can I learn to unite myself to Christ in my experiences of humiliation and turn them into opportunities to love?
  • What can I learn from Jesus’s approach to winning over my heart that might lead me to reflect on my own approach to trying to draw others to him?

PRAYER

Jesus, my humiliated King: as I look upon you, stripped of all your strength, my barriers fall to the ground. I want to reject the lies that make me afraid to let you love me as I am. I want to give you free reign in my heart, even in the deepest corners where I would rather not be disturbed. You know the hesitations that keep me back. Help me to continue to contemplate your loving face, so that I might gain the strength to allow you to accompany me along my journey to greater trust and surrender.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.

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The Kingdom without End:
A Retreat Guide on Christ the King

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