Text: John 18:33-37
Christ the King Sunday, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, is 95 years old. That means, within no longer than a decade, we will have a king. We all know the type of queen we have, but we are unsure what kind of king Charles will be. Where kings and queens still exist today, they mostly live and work within a carefully constructed framework. They can let it be known that they would prefer one course to be followed, rather than another. But let them try anything more than subtle pressure, and people will get restless. Monarchs must now stay within careful limits.
But in the ancient world, monarchs had no such limits. People knew what kings did: kings ruled people according to their wishes and whims. They were all-powerful. Today the church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. When we say that Christ is king, what do we mean? This morning, we will look at the final trial of Jesus from our Gospel reading and reflect upon who Jesus is in our lives.
Jesus is not a king by the world’s standards
The court of Religion found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God’s Son. So, they sent him off to the court of Politics. The religious leaders say Jesus is worthy of death, but only the state could perform the killing. The Kings of kings stands before Pontius Pilate–an appointed governor of the Roman Empire.
Pilate asked Jesus, not if he was the Messiah but rather if he was the “King of the Jews.” This is a political rather than religious charge. The religious leaders asked, “Are you the Christ, the Messiah?” The court of Caesar asked, “Are you a king?” ‘The Kingdom of God’ was a revolutionary slogan around the time of Jesus. When Pilate faces Jesus and someone hints that the religious leaders have handed him over because he thinks he’s a king, Pilate assumes that’s going on: another revolution. Pilate does not care about all the intricacies of Jewish messianic expectations. But Pilate does care about someone who might challenge the Roman rule. He knows what kings are, what kingdoms are, where they come from, and how they behave. And he knows that it’s his job to allow no such thing in this Roman province. So out he comes with it. ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
Here stands the Son of David, the promised successor to David’s throne. Royal blood flows through His veins. And Jesus does claim to be a king, but not the sort of king that Caesar was. He is a king but not the type of king Pilate is thinking of. Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world!” Many have understood this to mean that Jesus’ kingdom is somewhere in heaven and has nothing to do with the present world at all. Jesus is not speaking about the kingdom’s location, but about its source. The point is that Jesus’ kingdom does not come from ‘this world’. Of course, it doesn’t. Jesus authority as king comes not from this world but God. His kingdom doesn’t come from this world, but it is for this world. Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven. That’s why Jesus came into the world.
That’s why he sent and continues to send his followers into the world. Kings send armies to fight for supremacy. Jesus and his followers do not do this. This shows that God’s kingdom is of a different order. It did not come from this world, and Jesus is not a rival to Caesar. But just as Jesus and his kingdom are not of this world, neither are his servants. Jesus, the King and his servants, don’t even use the same type of weapons as earthly kingdoms. There is, in fact, only one weapon: the word of truth. It is the gospel truth that Jesus came to the world to die for your forgiveness.
Jesus says that the behaviour of his servants is different, and it’s different because everyone who is of the truth listens to his voice. Are you on the side of truth? Is your behaviour different? Are you willing to accept Jesus as your king? Or do you bow to Caesar? We are tempted by the allure of secularism and deceived by the values of our culture. If you want to hear his voice, you must listen to his word as it is preached and read. Are you listening to his voice? If you are listening to his voice, then your values should reflect Christ’s values. Or, are you listening to what others are saying? Are your values the same ones we find in the culture, in Huffington Post and Facebook? The values and thinking of Jesus’ kingdom are so vastly different from those in the world. Everyone interested in pursuing the truth will embrace the values of God’s kingdom. Those who follow the world’s values will reject the true kingdom represented by Jesus.
As the church, which represents Jesus’ kingdom, we are here to speak the truth and proclaim Christ’s kingdom. Since we claim to be Christians, we should also seek to humbly serve others, rather than seek earthly power. So, do you reach out to the least and the lost? Do you desire to serve others rather than be served? Dear friends, are you citizens of God’s kingdom?
Jesus is a king like no other
Let us take this opportunity to remind ourselves that we serve a king like no other. Jesus is not a king that the world would ever recognise. Kings have power; kings have wealth; kings lord it over others. Kings use force and killing to get their way. With Jesus, none of these is true. This is a king who speaks to the lowly and the rejected. This is a king who came to serve rather than be served. This is a king who enters the holy city, not triumphantly on a horse but seated on a donkey. He is a king unlike any other king, and his kingdom is unlike any other because it is not of this world. Jesus is a king who is killed by those with political power, not a king who is victorious over his enemies by defeating them in war.
Consider the difference between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate uses power and authority for selfish ends with no concern for the building of community. Pilate hoards power and lords it over people even to the point of destroying them, on a cross or otherwise. Jesus empowers others and uses his authority to wash the feet of those he leads. He spends his life on them, every last ounce of it; he gives his life to bring life. Pilate condemns. Jesus Forgives. Pilate’s rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm; Jesus’ rule brings peace, even amid terror. Pilate’s followers imitate him by using violence to conquer and divide people by race, ethnicity, and nation. Jesus’ followers put away the sword to invite and unify people. Pilate’s authority comes from Caesar and is temporary. Jesus’ authority comes from God and is eternal. Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. The King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Behold your King. He’s not much to look at by the world’s measure of kings. But, the truth is that mankind is doomed without him. The truth is that only through faith in him can a person become a member of his heavenly and eternal kingdom. It is only Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life” ( Jn 14:6 ). This is the only King who can save you, the only one who has saved you by His death. This is the king who chose the way of suffering and death. He was willing to suffer rather than inflict suffering; willing to be killed rather than kill. He showed love even to those who crucified him. This is the King who will fight to the death for you, who will lead you through your death to eternal life. This is the King who drew you to Himself in His death and who will draw Himself to you in your death. “Put not your trust princes.” Trust not in Pontius Pilates and King Herods by whatever name or title they come. Don’t trust them for a moment. Trust Christ the King, who alone can save you.
We live in a day when established Religious and Political institutions are crumbling. The idea of a king seems too outdated to our modern ears, so oppressive in a world where it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. Who needs a king when you can be king? But think again of this humble, silent, broken man on the cross. The King is crowned on the cross, not with diamonds or a laurel wreath but with thorns. And over the cross, Pilate places the announcement for all to see, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Jesus is the king whom God sent to redeem us by his blood and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation. We pray that God’s Kingdom may come to those who are not yet in it and, by daily growth, that it may come to us who have received it, both now and hereafter in eternal life. Jesus is the King the world didn’t ask for. Or want. But he is the king this world so desperately needs. Long live Christ, the king!
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.