Summary: the spiritual Kingdom Jesus is describing has to do with each of us – each of our spirits - and that is what Jesus wants to be King of.
The King of The Kingdom
Last week we began a new series, exploring the whole idea of the Kingdom of God. It is something Jesus talked a lot about, but a message that sometimes gets lost on us today. We don’t live in a “kingdom”, we live in a democracy. We have a queen, sort of, (with apologies to the English among us), but she really has absolutely no authority over our lives. We have a distrust of the ideas of kings and kingdoms, because we have witnessed too much damage in history by the way that power corrupts.
Author and influential Christian leader Brian McLaren thinks we should get rid of the language: “for many today, kingdom language evokes patriarchy, chauvinism, imperialism, domination, and a regime without freedom—the opposite of the liberating, barrier-breaking, domination-shattering, reconciling movement the kingdom of God was intended to be! If Jesus were here today, I’m quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all, which leaves us wondering how he would articulate his message.”
I don’t disagree (begging your pardon for the double negative…). But the fact is, Jesus is not here physically today, and so although it takes greater effort for us to understand His message in His cultural context, those of us who read Scripture are faced with that task. We can wonder, we can explore other language, but when we go back to Scripture we are still going to find Jesus, talking about the Kingdom of God. So I think it is worth the effort, especially if we keep in mind McLaren’s earlier comments: “When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, his language was charged with urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity. But if we speak of the kingdom of God today, the original electricity is largely gone, and in its place we often find a kind of tired familiarity that inspires not hope and excitement, but anxiety or boredom.”
(from “Found in Translation: ’Kingdom of God’ is so last-century. Are there new ways to talk about Jesus’ good news?” by Brian McLaren (http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0603&article=060310)
Jesus and Pilate:
Perhaps we can discover some of that “original electricity” if we use our imaginations to put ourselves in the middle of the scene I want to read today.
Imagine you lived in Iraq. The politics are unstable, and one of the influential minority groups drags one of their own before the most powerful person in the government and accuses him of being a revolutionary who rejects the authority of the government and speaks like people should follow him. They demand the death penalty. The leader is in a difficult place – the crowd might revolt if he doesn’t do as they ask, yet he does not wish to put an innocent man to death. And is he dangerous? Or isn’t he?
John 18:33-37 (NLT)
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king.
How The Story Ends:
We know how the story ends – Pilate decides that appeasing the crowd is more important than the life of one man, and though he says Jesus is innocent, he still hands Jesus over to be crucified.
This exchange between Jesus and Pilate points out one of the things I believe is central to our idea of the Kingdom of God, and it is this: Jesus is King. He says, “My kingdom”, and though the words come out of Pilate’s mouth, Jesus agrees: Jesus is King.
Now again, we have to work a little harder to really comprehend this idea, because we don’t live under an earthly king. But 2000 years ago, what was a king? He was the absolute authority. He had power over every one and everything. He decided everything he wanted to decide – who lives, who pays taxes, who gets to enjoy luxuries, who should fight and whom they should fight, who is innocent and who is guilty. 2000 years ago, a king was the head of the government, head of the courts, head of the bank, head of the religion, head of the army, and the head of anything else he wanted to be head of. It was absolute power.