Christ the King – Sunday, November 25, 2018

November 25, 2018  

John 18:33-37

Nations neighbor nations. And where nations neighbor, there is often conflict.
Scripture is full of stories that speak of such conflicts: one kingdom begins to grow, overlapping the boundaries between itself and its neighbors. One kingdom gains power and moves into the territories of another nation, attempting to conquer them. One nation dominates another, enslaving their people. Over and over the stories are told in the Old Testament. Over and over the stories are told in our history books.

This morning’s gospel reading is no different. Pilate is no different than rulers who proceeded him in history, he is no different than those who followed him in history when he asked Jesus a most political question: Are you the king of the Jews? (John 18:33).

The first time a king felt threatened by Jesus was at the event of his birth. A decree had gone out from Caesar Augustus which brought a young Jewish couple from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register in a census. While in Bethlehem the woman gave birth to a child. The child’s birth was foretold by the stars, according to tradition, drawing kings from the East to worship the newborn King of the Jews (Matthew 2). When those traveling kings explained their journey to Herod the Great, Herod felt threatened, ordering the death of the firstborn sons of Jews living on his lands. Herod did not want to deal with a new king, even a baby king.

In today’s gospel story that baby king is all grown up. Pilate has heard Jesus was being called “king of the Jews.” Pilate wanted to know if it was true, if that was who Jesus claimed to be. Pilate needed to know if Jesus was a threat to him. Pilate needed to know if Jesus was a threat to the Roman Empire.
If Jesus was a threat, the Empire would destroy him. They had the power. They had the personnel. They were well practiced in killing. Thousands of others had been killed on crosses before Jesus.

Pilate asked: Are you the King of the Jews?”

Pilate’s concern was not religious it was political. He was questioning the power Jesus had.

Jesus replied to Pilate’s question with what seems like a riddle: “My kingdom is not from this world…” “…my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

Pilate wasn’t sure what Jesus meant. Pilate needed to know if Jesus was a threat to the Empire. “You are a king then” Pilate replied. Jesus replied “You say that I’m a king” (John 18:37).
What does this mean?

Pilate struggled to understand the kingdom of God known in Jesus Christ… Herod struggled to understand the kingdom of God known in Jesus Christ… people throughout Old Testament history struggled to understand God’s sovereignty long before Jesus walked the earth.

Jonah ran away from God’s rule, Job argued with God’s rule, Moses tried to resist God’s rule. The people of Israel, God’s Chosen, turned away from God again and again and again. They turned toward other gods more easily seen, more easily understood.

Today we honor Jesus as Christ, our King. The kingdom of God isn’t a kingdom established by boundaries and structures—the kingdom of God lives in the midst of things. At the centers and at the edges of the world we find God’s kingdom.

In God’s kingdom, we work for justice for all people.
In God’s kingdom we speak God’s truth of love to the world, we speak God’s truth of love for the world.
In God’s kingdom we don’t just look for goodness we work to make God’s goodness a reality.
In God’s kingdom with don’t wait around for peace to happen we demand God’s peace and we work as peace makers!

God’s kingdom is not “of this world” it is at work IN THIS WORLD. God’s kingdom is sharply focused on the life and the ministry and the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:36-37).

The truth of Jesus Christ our King is not a theory it is an event. The truth of Jesus Christ our King is not a principle it is a revelation. The truth of Jesus Christ our King is a revelatory event which gives meaning to all the other events of the world. The truth of Jesus Christ our King shines love and grace on every moment that has been, that is, that will be.

This is what is at stake in today’s gospel reading: a kingdom of God confronts the kingdom of God. The rule of God’s grace is confronted by the rules of humankind.
The rules of humankind are most often based on intimidation, on power, on size, on wealth. To live in the light of God’s kingdom is to live in the light of God’s grace, to live in the light of God’s love. To live in God’s kingdom means having a more open and thankful heart. To live in God’s kingdom means to be more open to God. To live in God’s kingdom means to be more open to others. To live in God’s kingdom, ruled by Christ our King means to be more open to the presence of God’s love as that love lives in us and through us.
Jesus Christ is our Sovereign One…
May Jesus reign in our hearts and lives, forever. Amen.