Christ the Covenant King

The last Sunday of the Christian liturgical year is traditionally known as the Feast of Christ the King. In one sense, this is redundant. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, it is his title. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “messiah,” a word that means “anointed one” and is most commonly used in the Old Testament as a description of the king of Israel. When a new king came to power, a priest literally anointed the king with oil in the name of God during the enthronement ceremony.

To speak of Jesus as the Christ – the anointed king – is to place him within the framework of Israel’s covenants with the God of the universe. When we think of Jesus as king, then, we should not ask ourselves, “What is a king?” and then apply our understanding of that word to the prophet from Nazareth. Rather, it is only in the context of the history of Israel that culminates in Jesus’ death, resurrection and parousia that we know what it means to acclaim that Jesus is king.