The truth stands before us

John 18:33-37 (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1:4b-8)

Everyone, at one time or another, has a desire and a need to belong. This belonging can relate to a small group, an organization, a sub-culture, or a nation. “Once a US Marine, always a Marine!” “You can take the boy out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the boy!” “Proud to be an American…” Even in a society as supposedly individualistic as the USA, the yearning to belong is strong. In the Mediterranean world of antiquity, community was the way of life. As one scholar puts it, in the biblical world of Jesus the communal life was that in which one’s role was defined, one’s lineage established, and one’s future determined. It is through a life in community that one truly knew who one was.

When Jesus tells Pilate “My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36) the language used can literally be translated as “does not belong here.” On the one hand Jesus does not deny he is a king, but it seems that it is not a title he wishes to use if he does not have to. Jesus’ kingdom is not geographical or political – it is theological and spiritual.

Pilate asks political questions; assessing Jesus’ potential treat to the reign of the real king, Caesar. (Pilate uses the word “king” in a political sense, fearing insurrection.) Jesus appears to put Pilate’s mind at rest – he is no insurrectionist. However, the truth to which Jesus points, the truth to which he testifies, the truth which he embodies, is a threat – it is a threat to all the kings, emperors and powers of this world!

Isn’t the Kingdom of God at hand? Doesn’t Jesus proclaim the reign of God? Indeed, Jesus’ kingdom is here, yet it is not earthly bound. As Augustine describes it, Jesus’ kingdom is here in the world until the end of time – yet it is here only as a pilgrim – it is not “from this world.”

Jesus’ kingship is upon his followers (v. 36) – literally be translated as “subjects.” However, these subjects are not forced into that relationship through happenstance of birth, or geographical location; but through acceptance of the truth to which Jesus testifies – his deeds, words, ministry, and his death (his supreme testimony). It is in this King-Subject relationship that we discover the truth about ourselves, our relationships and our world. Pilate asks, rather dismissively, “What is truth?” (v. 38). His is unaware that the truth stands before him in chains – Jesus is the true Judge, and true King, to whom we belong!
Pastor Ken+