“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to assume regal authority, after which he planned to return home. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver. He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back’” (Lk 19:12-13).
From this parable and from the incorrect translation of some words of the Lord, as, for example, “I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you” (Jn 14:18), the idea surged up that, on the day of the Ascension, Jesus would leave of his disciples to return, in the splendor of His glory, at the end of time. The expression “return of the Lord,” although commonly used, could be misunderstood. The liturgical texts avoid it because Jesus has not left us; he did not go away, our life is not lived in his absence.
The Greeks imagined Zeus imperturbable on the Olympus, blessed beyond human misery. He was, according to the oracle of Pausanias, “the one who was, is and will be.” The Christian God is different, “the one who is, who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:8); not “the Lord who returns,” but “one who never ceases to come.” Entering in, he commits himself in the history of the world and renews, together with humans, the whole of creation: he cures the sick, heals the wounds caused by sin, turns off the hatred, preaches love and guides the world “into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79).
The early Christians implored: “Maranàtha: Come, O Lord!” (1 Cor 16:22). “Come, Lord Jesus” is the invocation which concludes the book of Revelation (Rev 22:20).
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Come, Lord Jesus! Come and with us renew the world. ”
One day the disciples of a rabbi broke in the classroom and, beaming, told the good news: “The Messiah has come.” Unperturbed, the teacher walked to the window, turned around his eyes and looked at the people who, like every morning, moved hurriedly along the street. The poor at the crossroads were begging for alms, the owners shouting at the servants, the children were crying, the blind were led by the hand, the lame struggled to walk. He sat down, invited the students to continue studying, then added, “How could the Messiah come into the world if everything continues as before?”
When will the oracles of the prophets come true? Until when must we wait for “a new heaven and a new earth in which justice reigns” (2 Pt 3:13)?
The story seems to speak against the Lord’s promises; it seems a denial of the Christian faith in Jesus as the Messiah. After thousands of years, “the sound of distress and the voice of weeping” (Is 65:19) have not gone away. The swords are not changed into plowshares or their spears into pruning hooks (Is 2:4).
Doubts about God’s faithfulness to the commitment made to bring forth a new world appear when one forgets that the lovers’ time are not scanned by the clock but by love: an hour passes in an instant and a moment seems to be a lifetime. Those who love are patient and know how to wait. To have Rachel, Jacob served the father-in-law for seven years “which seemed to him only a few days because he loved her so much” (Gn 29:20).
The Lord also expects us to the open wide our heart and, for him, “a thousand years” waiting “is like one day” (2 Pt 3:8).
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Lord, make us abandon the old paths, teach us to prepare for you a new way.”
“Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on his head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around his shoulders; and they began coming up to him and saluting him, ‘Hail king of the Jews’ and they struck him on the face” (Jn 19:1-3).
How come Jesus does not react as he did when he was struck by the servant of the high priest (Jn 18:23)?
The enthronement of a mock-king was a well known game in antiquity. A prisoner who was to be executed after a few days was clothed in the regalia and treated as an emperor. A cruel mockery put into action against Jesus.
In the scene described by John there are all the elements that characterize the enthronization of an emperor: the crown, the purple cloak and the acclamation.
It is a parody of kingship and Jesus accepts it because it shows in a more explicit way what his judgment is on the display of power and the pursuit of glory of this world. To aspire to sit on a throne in order to receive honors and bows is for him a farce even though, unfortunately, is the most common and grotesque comedy played by people.
In the final stage of the process (Jn 19:12-16), Pilate takes Jesus outside, and made him sit down on a high platform. It is midday and the sun is at its zenith when in front of all the people Pilate, pointing to Jesus crowned with thorns and covered with a purple robe, proclaims: “Behold your King.” It’s the time of enthronement; it is the presentation of the ruler of the new kingdom, the kingdom of God.
For the Jews, the proposal is so absurd as to be provocative. They furiously react with an indignant rejection: “Take him away, crucify him!” (Jn 19:15). A king like him they don’t even want to see; he disappoints all expectations; it is an insult to common sense.
Jesus is there, at the top, for all to contemplate, lit by the sun shining in all its glory; he is silent, does not add a word because he has already explained everything. He waits for everyone to rule and make their choice.
One can bet on the greatness, the majesty of this world, or follow him, giving up all goods and preferring defeat for love. The success or failure of a life depends on this choice.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Who becomes servant of the brothers and sisters reigns with Christ.”