A Message from John 18:33-37
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “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.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Our Government shut down.
It's amazing how it could happen. Groups on both sides of debate so hostile towards one another that friendly discussion is out of the question! The only thing they agree on is that they should shut down.
It isn't leaving most Americans too happy. Currently, congress has less than a 10% approval rating. Sad. If I ever got a less than 10% on a test growing up, I'm sure I would have been grounded for a month!
Maybe, you are part of the greater than 90% that are frustrated. Maybe, you long for a change. Maybe, as a Christian, you've longed for change for awhile. You hope for a place where Christian morals are restored. A Utopia of Jesus directed Laws. A dichotomy of Christian morals from both of our 'so-called' political parties-- A place where there is no corporate greed, yet everyone works to earn their pay. A place where the poor in society are cared for, yet the rich aren't penalized for hard work. A place where we cherish the lives of malnourished children as much as we cherish the lives of unborn little children. A place where the environment is treated with the love and care that it was in the Garden of Eden just as marriage is treated the same way that God established it in the Garden of Eden. A place where science is furthered to better learn about our world, while people can mention the name of God in a public school without fear of being tossed out of the system!
That sounds nice doesn't it? Unfortunately, in order to make it a reality, we need to find the answer to a very tough question:
What candidate are you going to get to do this?
This candidate must able to unite the "Christian concepts" of the Republican party with the "Christian concepts" of the Democratic party. Party lines are so hardened, could such a candidate ever be elected? Republicans are convinced that there's is the Christian political party. Democrats are convinced that there's is. The truth is that neither of them encompass nor are they influenced by only Christian truth! Greed and racism -- atheism and licentiousness each affecting one, if not both parties--the parties that make or break you. Even if one person were focused on Christian values---how difficult it must be for one to stay true to Jesus without being influenced by a selfish desire for personal glory and to get another large group of people (with very few Christians) to adhere to these values!
I'll tell you the plain truth. If we are supposed to be looking to a human being to restore us to a Christian society, we're in trouble.
Maybe, that's why we pray "Thy Kingdom Come." It's funny that the government shutdown comes the same week that we study that petition in the Lord's Prayer. Because there's no one who could set up such a society, such an ideal kingdom, except for Jesus himself.
So, is that then what we mean when we pray, "Thy Kingdom Come?"
I. What this Kingdom is Not
It's a sensible thought. Certainly, this was the popular idea at the time of Jesus. That he would become king and establish a kingdom on earth. Although, they weren't looking for Jesus to be elected to a political position, they were looking for him to lead a revolution against the godless, pagan government of Rome that was currently controlling their very country.
This is why Jesus' followers tried to make him king. After he had fed around 10,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, they were thrilled! Here was a man who could provide them all with enough to eat--even the impoverished and he could do it without harming their rich. He could provide for all of their needs so that all of them would be fed. He could satisfy all the people without doing it at the expense of others. Everybody's happy!
Jesus, on the other hand, slipped away from them. He hid.
In fact, this became such a repeated theme that many began to realize Jesus didn't want to do this. He wasn't secretly training an army on the Shores of Galilee nor was he making political speeches on the steps of Pilate's palace.
When it became obvious that he wasn't going to do what he desired, Jesus' enemies used this to denounce him as king!They riled up the people: "Crucify him! Crucify him! He isn't our perceived political Savior. He is simply a fraud. He's crazy!" Then, they used that concept to bring him on trial before the Roman Governor: "He's plotting against you. He's says that he's the king!"
It worked. Pilate was nervous that Jesus might be a king. Pilate was nervous that Jesus might be planning a revolution. A revolt that would start in his own city. A revolt that, if Pilate wasn't able to shut it down, Caesar would not only remove Pilate from office, but have his head as well!
Pilate didn't have any time for goofing around. He got straight to the point: It says in verse 15, "Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” In other words, are you in fact planning a revolution against me? Are you another earthly king that I have to worry about gaining influence that I might lose my own power?
Jesus' reply is priceless: 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” Jesus puts the pressure back on Pilate. "Do you think I'm a king?"
But Pilate won't have any of it. 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. "I don't care what you guys talking about theologically. The only thing I am concerned about is whether or not you are going to try and overtake the Roman government! “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Listen carefully to Jesus' response: 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world."
Can it get any plainer than that? But Jesus even offers some extra proof. He says, "If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews." Something that Peter tried to do. But Jesus didn't encourage him to keep swinging his sword, he demanded that Peter put his sword away.
Why? That seems like a bad strategy for revolt. Why put away your weapons? Why put down your attack? There are groups in the Middle East that refuse to put their weapons down for this very reason.
But Jesus had a reason that he wasn't attacking the government: Look at Jesus' answer here: My kingdom is from another place.”
God's kingdom was not, nor is it, nor will it ever be an earthly kingdom. He will not lead a bloody earth revolution for political power. He doesn't care about winning electoral votes. He's not going to return and announce his plans for presidency any time soon.
How does that strike you? Disappointing?
There are some groups of Christians that are so obsessed with the idea of a 'good, Chrisitan earth' that they teach about a 1,000 year reign that Jesus will have on earth. A time when peace and prosperity will reign alongside Christian morals.
How does that hold up against Jesus' own admision here? "My kingdom is not of this world!?!"
That certainly can rub humans who long for earthly power and peace the wrong way. Maybe it does to you.
We think: "Jesus doesn't seem to want what's good for me? Shouldn't he come back and get of moral filth? Shouldn't he return and get rid of every starving person on earth? Maybe, he's lazy! Or he doesn't care. Or, at the very least, He isn't so powerful!"Satan gets into our heads: "If there aren't rulers on earth doing God's will, then, God can't be in control."
It's as if Jesus were asking us the same question he asked Pilate, "Do you think I'm a king?"
We have to admit that our answer--when we look at a struggling economy and pathetic morals is this: "No. I don't think you're king, God!"
II. What this Kingdom is
One thing we have to get straight. Jesus is still in control. Matthew 28:19, Even if Pilate thought differently, Jesus set him straight. He reminds Pilate, “You have no authority except that which God has given you.”
And if we think differently, may those words strike us hard. God is in control! He's God. He is the ultimate ruler. There isn't anyone else who has more power than him. No one can ruler over him. No one can veto him. He is in charge of this kingdom on earth.
The think is that this kingdom on earth is not where God directs all his efforts. His goal is not a Christian Utopia on this world.
God's goal is a kingdom that's outta this world!
Listen to what Jesus tells Pilate; "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Did you hear that? Jesus was a King! He was born to be a King. Jesus came into the world to be a king. He even kept himself busy with all kinds of ruling activity.
The truth is that Jesus is a King! He does have a kingdom. He is actively involved in running.
But where is this kingdom?
Look at Jesus' response a little closer. There are some clues.
1) It is a kingdom centered in Truth.
It's why Jesus came into the world. To testify to the truth! As a king, this is his most important activity.
What kind of truth was King Jesus focused on proclaiming?
John 8:34, " Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. And a slave has no permanent place in the family.".
John 5:29 "Truly those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
John 3:15 "Very truly I tell you...(I) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in (me).
Mark 3:28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins...
John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.
Did you Jesus' truths? They had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with our relationship to God!
Here's a very simple summary. We are sinners. We deserve hell. Jesus died to take away our sins. Through faith in him weare forgiven and we have entered his kingdom!
This is God's kingdom of truth!
It's like getting the keys to the White House. I imagine everyone who works there has a set. Whether they are metal fitted keys, or access codes or retina scans, it is cool to be given what's necessary to enter the capital. This is true for governors or janitors!
Jesus gives us what's necessary to enter his kingdom. It's truth. The truth of our sins. The truth of forgiveness of sins in him! The truth of his kingdom.
2. A Kingdom in Hearts.
Not only is God's kingdom located in truth, but it is located in hearts. The heart is what does the believing! Colossians 3:15 says this:"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts!"
It's amazing really. There's the White House. The Taj Mahal. King Solomon's Palace. Even the Vatican. All big impressive and structurally amazing. Fit for a king!
Yet Jesus chooses to set up his palace in our hearts. A palace that's roughly 5 inches long, 3 inches wide and 2 inches high! He doesn't need the fanfare, the royal band, the crown of gold! He doesn't need some big, gigantic palace. Jesus is content to rule inside of you.
And, yes, he does some redecorating. He gets rid of our filthy sins that ordain the walls of this 'heart palace.' He washes the crevices clean with the waters of Baptism. He throws out the drapes that are made from our selfish desires. He destroys our foolish ideas of earthly glory. He fills us with his love and the joys of his kingdom!
This is King Jesus' most important work. He actively works through the truth of his Word to get into our hearts where he rules and where he plans on ruling forever.
3. A Kingdom of Eternity.
Jesus' kingdom is not like the Roman dynasty. They aren't in control anymore. The same can be said for the Greeks, the Turks, the Hmongs, the Persians.. These were all dynasties that were, but are no more.
Christ's kingdom lasts forever. It's what Ezekiel was talking about when he was relaying thee Word of God in our Old Testament lesson. He said, "My servant David will be king over them...forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.. I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
David was already dead by the time Ezekiel wrote this. So, who was Ezekiel talking about?
Think about it: No human can rule forever. We die. Only God is eternal. Jesus is God. Jesus is eternal. His Kingdom is eternal.
And when we enter the glory of his kingdom in the next life, it will be unlike the terrors of the kingdoms on this earth. No terrorist threats. No economic downturn. No homeland security breaches. no angry political protests. No congress members fighting with one another. No poverty. No joblessness.
Only righteousness, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17)
III. How His Kingdom “Comes”
Remember how the petition goes. "Thy Kingdom Come." How does that kingdom come? How does Jesus bring people into his kingdom?
We already heard Jesus' was going about building his kingdom. He "testified to the truth." It was a truth of eternity. It was a truth that he spoke to hearts.
Therefore, we know that God's kingdom comes as the truth of eternity is spoken to hearts.
Now, you might expect God to choose big wig Senators and famous orators who might be the next people to run for president in order to introduce his kingdom to the world. This isn't so. God shares that truth of eternity for hearts by using you and me. Plumbers, teachers assistants, accountants, waitresses, moms, and construction workers!
Our King actively works through us to Make His Kingdom Come!
His kingdom comes as you review this week's Sunday School lesson with your child at home. His kingdom comes as you invite and bring your friend to church. His kingdom comes as you share a Facebook devotion with a relative. His kingdom comes as you sit over a cup of Starbucks and have a heart to heart talk about the eternal truths of Jesus!
Its' not wrong to be engaged in politics. In fact, it's our duty. We are citizens. God calls for citizens to do their duty. He has given us this earthly kingdom to live under. A Christian can certainly be engaged in trying to better this country.
However, maybe we need to keep our priorities straight. As important as it might be to 'change the country', how much more important it is to change hearts!
Can you imagine what might happen if we were as actively engaged in building God's Kingdom as we were in building a "better America?" All the time we spend sharing political articles on Facebook changed to sharing devotional thoughts about our Savior! All the arguments we get in over political points changed into presentations of our King's grace. All of the time, money, and energy we spend trying to get some frail human being elected to a government positions, directed instead at trying to get King Jesus into the heart of another.
Think about what we're praying. Thy Kingdom Come” means “God hold me in faith. Bring others to faith and use me to bring others to faith."
Certainly, we have a powerful God who is always at work bringing his Kingdom. Yet we pray: Thy Kingdom Come, O Lord, Thy kingdom Come. Amen.