Reading for November 25th:
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘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 to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=410188848)
“So you are a king?” That question from Pilate shows us that he, and many others, never understood the words that Jesus was giving them. Which really shouldn’t surprise us since those closest to Jesus, the disciples, were always twisting and screwing up the messages he gave them. How could one expect a nonbeliever to grasp the concept of Jesus as King in a new and different way.
This Sunday is when churches celebrate what is called “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday. It’s easy to get caught up in the king imagery and only think about classic European monarchs and all the regalia that came with those eras. Images of castles, crowns, banquet feasts, wars, and armor come to our mind. We imagine a political ruler and way of living under the “rule” of this new leader, Jesus.
These images might be a good start for us to connect with Jesus taking over control of our life, but it isn’t really the heart of the message he left us, nor is it what he meant when he responded to Pilate’s question of, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus gave us a glimpse throughout his ministry of a different kind of kingdom and different kind of king. We must tackle that idea to really understand what it means to have Christ reign in our lives.
The Kingdom is upon us in the Word become flesh and in our response to God’s grace. When we respond faithfully and with goodness, we are within the Kingdom and can begin to experience it. Jesus taught us to pray that “thy Kingdom come” and demonstrated that what happens here and now matters. If it were all about paying a price and adhering to a code there would be no need for the healing of a withered hand on the Sabbath. That is, there wouldn’t have been need for Jesus to buck the system and show that God’s Kingdom is a way of life, not merely a set of rules.
The Scriptures are full of stories in both testaments that show people trying to faithfully live in a way that pleases God by adhering to strict rules and harsh punishments, but they have always fallen short. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed all of that for us, and should cause us to pause and think about what the Kingdom really is. Our communities and churches are full of people who feel separated and alone, and it is through an understanding of the Kingdom of God that the separation can go away.
So many signs of this new rule of Christ and God’s Kingdom here on earth aren’t large acts or miracles, but are done by small groups of people without formal structure or support. It is done out of an understanding that the church is the mirror of the Light of Christ, and that the world can change through enough small acts of kindness. So often it feels that people are willing to sit and wait for good to happen and at least live in hope that life eternal will grant them some relief if this world is not ideal for them, however, that is not how I understand the Kingdom of God, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus alludes to in his response to Pilate in his final moments. Through the constant offering of ourselves to God daily, we can realize that small acts can be a light to others, so imagine what could happen on a larger scale if all of the church universal lived into that mentality. God’s Kingdom is something to be discovered here and now, and we are to be the co-creators in that new possibility through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.