Representing the Kingdom of Heaven

Nikolai Ge,

Nikolai Ge, “What is Truth?”, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia, 1890.

John 18:33-38
For Sunday, November 22, 2015
Reign of Christ (Proper 29)

fr-lgflagToday’s post is dedicated to the citizens of Paris.  Thank you for all you are and give to the world.  We grieve tearfully for the terror inflicted on you yet we insist to you that hope remains.  Life is meant to be so much more than just tending your own garden in an act of despair.  Let God enter the garden and the beauty that is already yours will be transformed and used for his glory.

“Are you the King of the Jews?” the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate asks Jesus.  This is what as known as a close-ended question in which the idea is to elicit a simple “Yes” or “No” response.  Prosecutors like to use these because it let’s them control a line of questioning.

Yet Jesus won’t play along.  He responds, “Did you come up with that on your own or have people been talking to you?”  When being questioned it’s a good idea to get behind the immediate question to the motive driving the question.

Pilate responds, “Am I a Jew?”  He is saying: “Look, I don’t get into the vagaries of Jewish politics.”  Then he asks Jesus, “What did you do?”  The implication is that whatever it was, it must have been bad, because the Jews didn’t like the Romans, yet here they are handing over one of their own to these very Romans.  It reminds me of the time some Russian pastors tried to hand me over to Russia’s federal security service (but that’s a story for another time).

Jesus responds in a way that answers Pilate’s first question (Are you King of the Jews?) as well as his second one (What did you do?): “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.

“Aha!” says Pilate, “So you are a king.”  Jesus answers, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

Jesus point was that whether or not he was a king was actually secondary.  What was primary was his mission which was to testify to the truth.  “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  This is the key phrase in the entire passage.  Here’s a way to preach this:

“Representing the Kingdom of Heaven”
3 aspects of our identity as Christians of the kingdom

  • we are a kingdom not from here, but for here (v. 36)
  • we belong to the truth (v. 37a)
  • we listen to Jesus voice (v. 37b)

For the sake of brevity, please unpack these for yourselves.  But regarding the first point, oh to be a church that can speak to this culture rather than just mimicking it in some sad parody.  Regarding the second, what power there is in having our feet firmly grounded in the bedrock of truth when the culture around us so evidently has both feet planted firmly in mid-air.  Regarding the last point, doesn’t this sum up what authentic Christians do?  We hear Jesus voice and then actually listen to it!  Remarkable.  Radical.  Profound.

Jesus is speaking to us.  He’s speaking to us about our identity.  He’s speaking to us about our calling.  We are representatives of the kingdom of heaven called to redeem the world to its Creator.  There is no person or place that I would rather be.  How about you?

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