Lesson: John 18:33-38
Who, besides me, is a little bit hesitant to turn on the news these days? A lot hesitant? It almost makes you wish we were part of one of those religions that turns its back on the world, that gives up the whole world as a lost cause. It’d be a lot easier, right?
But we aren’t. In this morning’s passage Jesus faces Pontius Pilate. The local religious authorities have hauled Jesus before the Roman prefect because the Romans can impose the death penalty for sedition, which is something like treason. This crime with this punishment isn’t available to them under their own laws. So Pilate questions Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Now, some bibles translate this as, “My kingdom is not of this world…” as though somehow we could withdraw, as though we could turn our backs on our world. Or even to imply that Jesus isn’t concerned with this world. But the Greek says that Jesus’ kingdom is not derived from this world – and a better translation of the phrase “this world” here might be “this system,” or “the version of reality that most people accept.” Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t come from this world. In this world, the chief tools for establishing and keeping power are violence and inhumanity. What Jesus is saying is that were he and his followers from this world, then naturally they, too, would use violence to keep him out of Pilate’s clutches. They’d storm the Praetorium; they’d have fought off the guards back when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. But at Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus will not defend himself through violence. Jesus will not establish his claims by violence. Jesus will not usher in God’s kingdom by violence. To bring the kingdom about by violence would be to violate the central truth of this kingdom, and cause its destruction. Read more →