Real Kingdom Business
In John 18, Jesus is standing before Pilate. The Roman governor assumes (thinking in the immediate like everyone else) that he holds in his hands the power of life or death over this rustic Rabbi from the backwater town of Nazareth. How can this man be a threat to Rome? The Jewish authorities want Him killed. Their inability to pronounce a death sentence over Him had them grinding their teeth and tearing out their beards. So they twist the charges a little to make it seem like this Jesus is looking to overthrow the Romans and make Himself king.
Mind you, since the beginning of the Lord’s ministry there were lots of people who embraced Him because they thought that when He spoke of “kingdom,” overthrowing the Romans was exactly what He planned to do. No matter what He said to the contrary even Judas, one of Jesus’ intimate circle, held out the hope that, under arrest, the Lord would be forced to declare Himself king and sound the clarion call for the Jews to rise up and take what was theirs by divine right—the land God had given them by covenant promise to Abraham.
When Judas realized that Jesus had not been dissembling when He said His kingdom was not an earthly one, he returned the price of his betrayal and went out and hung himself.
But Jesus was still under arrest.
As Pilate confronted the Lord, he asked Him outright: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:34)
Jesus didn’t answer the governor directly. Instead He probed Pilate by avoiding the question by asking another. He wanted Pilate to state his position. Politicians have a hard time with that—they like to see which way the political wind is blowing before they commit themselves. Pilate was no exception.
So Jesus answered the question that Pilate didn’t ask: “Are you a threat to Rome?” He 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” (18:36).
The only thing Pilate heard was the word “king.” “‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate” (vs. 37). He saw a threat where there wasn’t one though articulating it would have meant assuming responsibility for his actions. Still unwilling to sit anywhere but on the politician’s favourite chair—the fence—Pilate let the people make the ultimate decision as to the Lord’s end (vs. 40).
But back to the kingdom business.
There seems to be an overwhelming fear in some circles today that Christians are trying to “take over.” We are accused for having an “agenda” that we are trying to impose on the rest of society. Of course, our American cousins are much better at politicizing religion or religi-fying politics than we Canadians. But still, there is a paranoia, even in Canada, among those who don’t want anything to do with Christianity that has resulted in an attempt to squash the rights of people who call themselves Christians and are trying to live by Christian values.
We can’t deny that sometimes we get our kingdoms mixed up. I read a rather abusive letter to the editor in our local paper this morning from an irate citizen lambasting the government, both federal and municipal, along with the Supreme Court, for mandating an end to the saying of the Lord’s Prayer before city council meetings. That issue requires a whole different discussion but he was "barking up the wrong kingdom."
But it took me back to Jesus’ words to Pilate. Jesus’ kingdom will one day be as earthly as it is heavenly—but not today. Today it is a heavenly kingdom for which we fight. We fight for the souls of men. We don’t fight for the trappings of religiosity imposed on people who are perhaps not even religious let alone truly Christian. We fight for a restored relationship between a lost person and a loving Saviour. Our kingdom business is the same as Jesus’ kingdom business. We are not a threat to this world’s governments. We are a threat to Satan, the prince of the kingdom of darkness.
Should we, as believers, take a stand for truth and righteousness and make our voices heard even to the halls of government? Of course. But we must never allow ourselves to fall into the trap of trying to force the unrighteous to fake righteousness through legislation. We need to occupy ourselves with the Lord’s kingdom, with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation of men and women.
And what about our “Rome?” Well, the gospel from Psalm 2 pretty much sums it up:
“Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.’…Therefore, you kings, be wise, be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
That's kingdom business.