John 18: 33-37
I need to prefix today’s sermon with something of a caveat, on this day when we ‘celebrate’ that Christ is King. Much to my mum’s disgust, I am no monarchist, and maybe the echoes of Kingship and ruling and authority grate on you too. But can we try to shelve those strong emotions briefly because Christ’s Kingdom is no dictatorship or oppressive regime – everything we know about ruling and authority is entirely other in Christ’s rule. Thanks be to God. So with that in mind, fasten your seatbelts and let’s dive in.
We had a wonderful time this morning, didn’t we?!
All manner of amazingness happened at South Beach and we loudly and publicly declared – in word and action, that CHRIST IS KING. Josie proclaimed Jesus as her King and made some profound promises to try to follow him and we who are baptised, reaffirmed them too. And today, the church worldwide reminds herself, and her community that Jesus Christ is King – King of the World, King of the Church, our King.
So the gospel passage is kind of peculiar, don’t you think? A bit jarring. Maybe some context might be useful…
This passage comes immediately after the events of the last supper. Jesus has told his closest friends that the time has come for him to be handed over to be killed. Judas has left, collected his blood money, and is lying in wait for the moment of betrayal. Jesus and his disciples have wandered across to the gardens nearby, and as they walk, Judas leads a heavily armed detachment of soldiers and religious leaders to meet him. As they come face-to-face with Jesus, they fall to the ground in his presence, and then gather themselves. They capture him, beat him and hand him over to certain death…and that is where our gospel passage this morning begins. A beaten and bloodied Jesus is before Pilate and asked ‘are you the King of the Jews?’.
And Jesus doesn’t answer the question. He just stands, broken and half-naked, and asks a different question ‘Do you ask me this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’. In this whole exchange he frustratingly never answers the question.
And I don’t know why, because he totally could.
YES! I’m the King of the Jews. Yes, I’m the ruler of all the kings of the earth. I’m the alpha and the omega. He doesn’t tell him that just as he is being presented before the jeering crowd today, soon He will be presented before the Ancient of Days and given his true Kingship.
He doesn’t tell Pilate all the things he’s done… I’ve healed the sick and raised the dead. I’ve eaten with outcasts. I’ve spent time with the hated and kissed the untouchables. I’ve called out lies and falsehood and injustice. I’ve taken the lowest and the least, the uneducated and the hated and empowered them to pass on my message to generations to come.
But he doesn’t say any of that. He just gives this elusive answer… ‘my kingdom is not from this world’, he says, and how right he is. His kingdom was not like the kingdom of Caesar or Pilate or Herod; a kingdom that operated on violence and oppression and the ruling classes trampling on everyone else. It was, and is, entirely other.
It is a kingdom based on truth, not on power. A kingdom based on love, not hatred or fear. This is a whole different currency, and to the world, and to Pilate, and to people seeking to build kingdoms in the 21st century, it doesn’t make any sense, but that is the subversive, counter-cultural rule of Christ the King.
The Kingdom of Christ turns the whole kingly order of things upside down. He didn’t come in the way a king should come and he didn’t live recognisably as a king. His crown was about to be one of thorns and his throne was a brutal cross. What have you done Jesus? This is not kingly. Are you really the king?
And Pilate’s question rings out today too, in this generation, because people are still searching for Truth. Looking for freedom and liberation, and they might glance at the church and wonder if maybe it could be true. Could Jesus be our King? Jesus’ Kingdom is not like Queen Elizabeth’s or Scott Morrison’s or any kingdom of this world. It’s not, but could it be relevant even now? Could it be something – some place – better and trustworthy and true?
For Josie today, and those of us who call ourselves Christian, we believe it is. We believe Jesus is King, and is good, and rules with justice and equity, not just testifying to the truth but actually being Truth; we believe he is the alpha and the omega and his kingship shall never be destroyed. At least, we’ve committed our lives to living as if we believe it, even on days when we don’t or can’t.
But what are we doing, that shows we are citizens of a kingdom that is not from this world? What are we doing, to point to Christ the King, and His Kingdom here, in Beaconsfield? A kingdom of peace and non-violence; a kingdom of life and light and love and freedom; a kingdom of good news, where the hungry are fed and the homeless are housed, where the naked are clothed and the lonely have friends; where prisons and hospitals are empty and the environment is clean and green.
A Kingdom where its citizens gather by the ocean at early o’ clock to publicly die to sin and rise to new life in Christ the King – a sure sign we are either mad, or serious about this…or both.
Today Josie nailed her colours to the mast. She joined the ranks of those who are baptised children of God. That kind of membership will never be repealed. She will be a baptised child of the King forever. And for those of us who are counted in that number, we too have nailed our colours to the mast…or rather, we have handed ourselves over to be nailed to the throne of our Lord – we have died with Christ and been raised to new life in Him.
Will we live every day for our King and for the building of His Kingdom here on earth, as it is in Heaven?
Now to Him who sits on the throne, be all dominion and glory and Kingship, now and forever, Amen.