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John 18:36, NIV36 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."
February 16, 2010No where in John's account does Jesus claim to be a king. Have there been any references so far in this gospel to the kingdom of God? Any stories about the kingdom of heaven? Is Pilate's concern about "king" Jesus warranted?
I did a little research to answer those questions, and here's what I found. There is only one reference to the kingdom of God and that is in a conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. The only other time Jesus mentioned a kingdom is in the verse printed above. In sharp contrast to the other three gospels, John does not use the phrase, the kingdom of heaven. Most of what we know about the kingdom of heaven is from Matthew.
In John 1:49, Nathaniel is the first to proclaim Jesus to be Son of God and King of Israel. John 6:15 describes how, after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 men with only five small barley loaves and two small fish, the people who were feed that day had their eyes opened and they intended to take Jesus by force and make him their Messiah-King.
These sentiments arose again the last time Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was riding on a donkey and crowds waving palm branches lined the street and hailed him as the king of Israel. They shouted, "Hosanna!", which means, "Save us!" All four gospel writers highlight that event, which occurred just days before Jesus was arrested and now stood before Pilate awaiting his judgment.
We are lead to believe that ordinary people in the crowds who came to see and hear Jesus liked to ponder the possibility that Jesus could be the long awaited Jewish Messiah. It was a desire, it was a possibility, that lay just below the surface. Now throughout his trial and the pronouncement of judgment, the title of king mushrooms into a big concern in the halls of Roman governance.
Jesus--lamb of God, son of man, bread of life, the way, the truth and the life,--is now challenged to defend and explain his kingdom. The Roman governor brought up the subject, not Jesus.
He told Pilate not to worry, his kingdom did not belong to this world. We know from earlier portions of this gospel that if Jesus had a kingdom, it would belong to those who believe Jesus was sent from God and did the works of his Father in heaven.
Whereas in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spoke and taught frequently about the kingdom of heaven, in John's gospel he preached eternal life. Are those two concepts one and the same? Both present and future tense? Within and beyond us? Present reality and future hope?
Did Jesus really mean he would have ordered his believers to fight on his behalf to promote or save his kingdom? Did Jesus imply he would use violence? Or order his followers to attack people? It's a common theme throughout the Bible--the righteous triumph over evil through fierce battles with help from the armies of heaven.
If Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, then he was/is king of what he referred to as "another place." Within the context of this conversation with Pilate, both eternal life and the kingdom of heaven are a great unknown out beyond the boundaries of the Roman palace.
Yes, Jesus was king. But not here, not now. Certainly his mission and goal was not to conquer nor replace the Roman authorities.
John 18:37, NIV37 "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."
February 17, 2010Here is the mission statement that guided everything Jesus did. He was born into this world to testify to the truth of God, the truth about God. So that everyone who believes in him and obeys what he said will be on the side of truth.
The role of a king is to testify to the truth. To testify means to tell the truth about what you have seen and heard. Pilate was about to pass judgment on Jesus. He wanted to get it right. But getting it right for him had more than one standard. For Jesus there was only one standard--truth. For Pilate he had to appease his influential constituents, and truth had nothing to do with that.
It's interesting that Jesus is talking to Pilate about things we have not heard him say up to this point. Jesus is a king. He was born for that reason. He is a king who knows the truth and testifies to it. And everyone would be the wiser if they listened to him. Everyone including Pilate. King is a title bestowed; its authority earned.
Jesus often spoke in symbolic language. Bread was not necessarily physical but more often referred to spiritual nourishment. When we hear Jesus say Pilate was correct in calling him a king, we think of human monarchs and all the many trappings and appearances of power which they bear. But what did Jesus mean? Jesus attached the word, truth, to being king. Truth, which is something we can't quite get our hands around. Truth was the first image that came to his mind when talking about being our king.
John 18:38-39, NIV38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
February 18, 2010Jesus may have known what the truth is, but Pilate reveals his humanity. Like me, he was not so sure he really knew the truth concerning much of anything. It's always just around the next corner, but then moves away again before I can catch ahold of it. Whenever there is a national debate, I can see truth on more than one side of the argument.
What was the truth about Jesus who stood before the Roman governor awaiting his judgment? Pilate saw no fault in Jesus worthy of the wrath of his accusers. However, despite his personal inclinations, there were political considerations. He was governor of the whole region. He had to keep the peace by keeping the most influential citizens happy and satisfied. The mobs could be controlled by the force of his army. Their established leadership would have to be appeased by favors.
Pilate had asked Jesus a question. Unfortunately he did not wait for a reply. Maybe he didn't want to hear it anyway. It was the middle of the night; weariness was probably settling in.
John 18:40, NIV40 They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.
February 19, 2010Pilate had not asked to get involved in the conflict between Jesus and the religious leadership. He was not comfortable judging Jesus. But the politics of the situation demanded that he side with the authorities.
My footnote tells me Bar means son of. Abba is an affectionate word for father. The name Barabbas can be interpreted as son of the father. Jesus often claimed to be the Son of the Father. Therefore the word Barabbas could be seen as a word play, and an attempt to cut Jesus down to size, to make him a man like any other. In their minds, there would be no capital letters for Jesus, king or otherwise.
Luke informs us that Barabbas was linked to murder and insurrection. He was a sharp contrast to Jesus whose only crime was telling the truth.