In my school assemblies at Victoria and Thomas Coram schools on Wednesday, a round of questions to the children quickly established what a king should be. He should be born in a palace or castle, to rich parents who were themselves king and queen, and should learn martial skills, such as riding, so that he could eventually lead his armies to glorious victory over enemy nations.
I then asked what kind of king Jesus was. The children got the point. A very different sort of king, born not in a palace, but in a cave behind a pub, and not of noble parents, but to a poor woman. A king who spent his younger years doing the quite ordinary job of a carpenter. A king who rode into Jerusalem not on a warhorse, but on a donkey. A king who, when His disciple Peter took up arms on His behalf in the garden of Gethsemane, told him to sheathe his sword.
Jesus is a king of paradox: the paradox first of the Word made flesh, God beyond all being entering into being, the creator walking among his creation. But surely more paradoxical even than His birth is His death; for by dying He conquered death, and gave us eternal life. His is a victory won not by force of arms, but by loving self-sacrifice, and a victory worth celebrating, as we do this Sunday and every time we offer His body and blood in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.