“He Made Us To Be a Kingdom”: A Sermon for Christ the King Sunday by Pastor Bob

“This morning I would like to suggest to you that our gospel reading is one of the hardest texts for us to understand. Not just because of the subtleties of the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, or even because Jesus raises that universal issue of truth to which Pilate will right after our reading ask Jesus, ‘What is truth?’ No, this reading is hard because as 21st century Americans, we have no experience of someone being our king.”

“He Made Us To Be a Kingdom”: A Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

by Pastor Bob

November 20, 2011

Text: John 18:33-37

John 18:33-37

Jesus before Pilate

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,”Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

–This morning I would like to suggest to you that our gospel reading is one of the hardest texts for us to understand.

–Not just because of the subtleties of the conversation between Jesus and Pilate.

–Or even because Jesus raises that universal issue of truth to which Pilate will right after our reading ask Jesus, “What is truth?”

–No, this reading is hard because as 21st century Americans, we have no experience of someone being our king.

–It is hard to relate to this. It is unintuitive to us.

–In our world—particularly in our  world of California, where even the Terminator can be governor—there is no place for a king.

–Kings are figureheads of some other country.

–A by-product of an earlier time.

–A main character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

–They wear elaborate clothes; fight huge battles; preside over stately functions; sit on thrones.

–They wave their hands in certain ways.

–And, above all, they inherit their kingdoms.

–So how do we make sense of Jesus as King when Pilate declares him King of the Jews?

–First of all, by the world’s standards, Jesus does not make a very convincing king.

–He is born in a barn and sleeps in a cattle trough.

–His family has no wealth and no prestige.

–His hometown of Nazareth is considered so unimportant it prompts one Biblical writer to proclaim, “What good can come out of Nazareth?”

–So when someone calls Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, you can imagine them not just saying “Jesus of Nazareth” but (in a negative tone) “Jesus of Nazareth.”

–This is why Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of the region, is taunting Jesus with his language of kingship.

–Jesus does not act, dress, or resemble any kind of king that Pilate has experienced before.

–Kings are not poor.

–Kings do not associate with beggars and sick people.

–Kings do not run around the country with a tax collector and a bunch of fishermen.

–Jesus, by any stretch of the imagination does not act like any king the world has known.

–And for good reason.

–The gospel story of Jesus Christ is not the making of a King, but it is the in-breaking of a Kingdom.

–Jesus did not come into the world to be king, but rather to bring in God’s kingdom.

–We hear this in the first words of Jesus’ public ministry:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

–They echo the same words of John the Baptist.

–“Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.”

–Jesus is very careful throughout his ministry to declare that it is God’s Kingdom that is being brought in.

–He does not say, “My kingdom is here, let’s celebrate me as king.”

–Everything the Jesus says and does reflects his desire for the Kingdom of God to be fulfilled.

–And he does this in a most peculiar way.

–Instead of storming in with angel troops and declaring martial law.

–Jesus arrives alone to become one of us.

–To grow up with the same temptations and struggles.

–And to ultimately die a shameful and tortuous death.

–No, he is not seeking to be king.

–He is seeking a kingdom.

–Now, for all the ridicule and scorn that we heap upon the religious leaders of this time, I think we minimize just how astute the religious leaders and the Roman rulers were.

–It wasn’t that they knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but they knew that Jesus was a powerful person.

–They knew that Jesus was trying to bring in a kingdom that would change their world.

–They didn’t know it was God’s kingdom.

–But they did know that this kingdom was gaining support among the masses.

–That this kingdom challenged the religious authority of not only the local religious leaders, but of the Temple worship itself: the sacred worship established by Moses and Aaron and passed on from generation to generation.

–Though the particular gospel text for today does not mention it, there is another Jesus in Pilate’s custody.

–Ironically, Pilate held not only Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus Barabbas.

–A convicted criminal who was most likely part of the Jewish underground trying to overthrow Roman rule.

–In other words, Jesus Barabbas or as we simply call him, Barabbas, was an insurrectionist, or, from a Roman perspective, a terrorist.

–If we put this together, we recognize an astonishing thing.

–The religious leaders and the masses were more afraid of Jesus of Nazareth than Jesus Barabbas.

–Though Barabbas was a criminal who had perhaps killed people, Jesus Christ was something far more dangerous.

–He was bringing in a kingdom.

–The irony of those who shouted “Crucify, crucify him!” was that by killing Jesus Christ, the in-breaking kingdom was fulfilled …

–Three days later, Christ rose from the dead.

–And now our lives have been forever changed.

–Because we are a part of that in-breaking kingdom of God.

–And if there is something I want you to take away with you this morning it is this: You are part of this kingdom.

–2000 years ago, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

–Today, we know the better question is “Who is truth?”

–To which we answer, in faith, that Jesus is truth.

–The truth, the life, and the way.

–The one whose kingdom shall have no end.

–The one who gave everything so that we could be a part of this truth, a part of this kingdom.

–It is true that these days we do not call anyone our king.

–But our hearts do proclaim a kingdom.

–A kingdom where love is the reigning power

–A kingdom where life, and not death, is lifted up

–A kingdom where God’s son is proclaimed

–And a kingdom in which we are all God’s priests—the priesthood of all believers.

–We hear these words of hope and truth proclaimed in the book of Revelation:

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;

every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;

and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Cohea/100000024967834 Ashley Cohea via Facebook

    As always, a great sermon. Yay for Pastor Bob!

  • Allie

    Thank you for your sermon. My own poor little church is busy pretending to be “Anglican” instead of Episcopalian because some people hate change, and I’m too tired and too sick to seek another right now. But I do miss it, and this helps.

    Americans may not have lived under a king, but it seems to me that the popularity of fantasy novels, plus the rush to follow leaders over cliffs, indicates a strong internal need to believe that there is a King somewhere, someone wiser and better to follow. I believe that this impulse is correctly directed to God and not to men, which means Americans have a benefit in not following a king on earth – no earthly king to get in the way of seeking a heavenly king.

  • Christy

    Reminds me of the sermons by a well-loved retired Presbyterian minister friend. He’d walk us down a mental path we thought was familiar, pointing out things we’d never noticed along this way before, and then send us on our way to finish the walk on our own. It was very gracious of him, so much like this.

  • Jack Heron

    Concerning Jesus not seeming to be a very convincing king, it’s notable that plenty of those actions (wandering with beggars, being poor, not dressing like a king) are often attributed to good kings in fairy tales or folk histories – the wise king who takes off his crown, dresses as a beggar and wanders amongst his people. Alfred the Great, for instance. Jesus’ actions might not be those we expect of a king, but they are those we like to see in kings.

  • Donald Rappe via Facebook

    I’ve got to read that. But right now I’m getting ready to celebrate an honorary son in laws 50′th birthday with carne asada. Ummm!

    • Donald Rappe

      Always wondered how these sort of out of context comments get here and now I know. Thanks for the good words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/douglas.sewell Doug Sewell via Facebook

    Good article! We celebrated Christ the King, but with the reading from Matthew 25:31-46. For an evangelical-trained pastor as myself, that passage posed me a number of challenges… but we can’t really separate the “social gospel” from the “evangelism gospel” as seems to be the divide among churches.

  • Christelle

    Beautiful. I love this KING.

  • Anon

    Just wanted to say thank you for putting Pastor Bob on your page. I really love him. He is often exactly what I need.

    I have found a local church but have had to make some compromises due to some specific family needs. The church we are attending is a little more conservative then I would like.

    My world is often pulled between atheist family members and the very conservative/fundy friends I have from the past.

    Pastor Bob is truly a breath of fresh air for me. THANKS

    ..