Scripture: John 18:33-37
Today, this Sunday we celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of something new. You may wonder what I mean by that but in the Church liturgical calendar this is the last Sunday of the year. Next Sunday we enter a new era, the era where we celebrate the coming birth of Christ and anticipate His return. This Sunday we are in between. We stand between the day we give thanks for the blessings and the celebration of the birth of our lord. We stand in a void of time, neither grateful nor hopeful, a void.
We are found in a void, a time between the advent of the King and the despair of waiting. In this void we find ourselves trying to understand what everything means. What does it mean to live under the reign of a king especially in a nation and culture that takes pride in having no sovereign above the law? If we were to really think about this our void is not all too different than the feelings of those men and women 2000 years ago. How can they even think about a king of their own when they are under the iron fist of the Roman? We fast forward through the life of Jesus and we meet him in an interview with the governor. Why start here? Because this highlights the void, that empty space between reality and our expectations.
Israel wanted their king. They had lived as nomads, slaves, wonderers, conquerors, freemen, subjects, and conquered exiles. They wanted a king. They had a promise that they would be a people of God, to be a light to the nations, but they were not a nation. They were living in a void. The first question asked by Pilate when he entered was, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Are you the king? There is no safe way to answer this question, to say yes would mean certain death by roman executioners and to say no would also lead to death at the hands of a violent religious mob. Two answers, each side wanting the answer to go their way, and each knowing that to answer at all would cause the end. Jesus answers, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Jesus is in the void, the void between kingship and fraud. He sits with His life in the balance before the one man. “Are you the King?” We each know this feeling deep inside our souls we have experienced and may still feel this void, this seemingly unanswerable longing. We question even if there is a king, and there in our questioning, there in our voids Jesus sits with us as He sat with Pilate. He knows our questions, He knows we fear the void because in that void are unanswered questions. The questions welling up inside us cause white noise in our minds, questions to which the answers are laced with fear, the fear of something unknown.
Pilate asks the question because if there really were a king of the Jews, it would bring forth a rebellion and with rebellion war. For a political figure war brings questions about the necessity of the conflict and if it could have been prevented, either way Pilates life was hanging in the balance. He asks this question, sitting there with and in a mystery. Picture this scene in your mind, the tension hanging in the room so thick that it could be cut with a roman short sword, the fear so pungent it seems to tickle the nose and to cause a shiver to go down the spine. The most powerful man in the district is sitting there with his very life in the hands of a man, a carpenter, a homeless traveling teacher, a man whose life is nothing in the eyes of Rome, yet this man held this eager politico’s life in his very fingers. Both men were sitting together in the same place, in a void between life and death, hope and fear. Are you the king? Pilate asks this question two times. The question that still hangs in the air.
Though we live in a culture that has no king, there is a sovereign that rules. In fact we have several competing kings in our nation. Prior to the civil war the south was ruled by king cotton, pretty much every aspect of life revolved around cotton. In Wichita, Kansas everything revolves around the aircraft industry. Our nation as a whole revolves around markets, the housing market, the stock market, and the futures markets. These things dictate what we do and when we do it. A few years ago one of these markets collapsed and as a result every market fell with it. This ignited fears in our culture and left us all questioning who is the true king?
A king rules or influences every decision we make, a king dictates what we can and cannot do. Are you the king? We would like to say that we are self-made people that we control our destiny. Yet who is dictating or influencing your life? Pilate thought he was in control of his destiny yet sitting right there with him was his future, disaster loomed and it hung on a single question, “Are you the King?”
Just a few short days ago we celebrated a day of gratitude. On that day we realized that there is more to our lives. The entire basis of Thanksgiving is recognizing those aspects of life where others helped us along our path. Thanksgiving highlights the truth that we are not self-made individuals but the product of many factors and influences coming together to provide the opportunity for success in many forms. Are you the king?
Pilate from that void of life is questioning, the influence that Jesus has on the future of the world around him. Jesus 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.” My kingdom is not of this world. Have you ever really thought of the implications of this statement and how this statement boggled the mind of the man named Pilate? If the kingdom this king rules is not of this world where is it? Many make the claim that Jesus is speaking of heaven or life after death. That is partly true, but it is not the whole truth. He is saying that the things that he influences or the things that He finds to be important are different than the things of the world. In reality the things of Jesus’ kingdom are the opposite of the world or beyond the influence of the world.
The world seeks self-fulfillment, where the Kingdom of God seeks to provide for the needs of others. Paul says, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility think of others before yourself.” The kingdom of God is Thanksgiving where the kingdom of the world is Black Friday. The kingdom of the world seeks power and will use whatever means necessary to gain that power. They will use science to form greater weapons, they will use money to purchase and bribe favor, they will use charity to silence opposition, and they will use force if the other tools fail to provide the desired return. Where in Christ’s kingdom science is use provide for the needs of the world, they beat the weapons of war into implements of assistance, they use the financial tools to promote peace and alleviate suffering. Jesus’ kingdom does not care about who sits in the white house because the white house is just one kingdom of the world, Jesus is beyond that. Jesus’ kingdom isn’t concerned with the CEO of a corporation, because that is a kingdom of the world. Jesus’ kingdom is concerned with many other things though, things like how well you are serving your employer or customers, how willing you are to help those in need, how you invest and employ the tools you have at hand to bring about justice and mercy to the people around you, and the motivation of your heart.
This leaves just one question, “Who is your king?” Who is influencing your decisions, your choices, and your actions? As we sit in this void between the advent of Jesus and the spirit of thanksgiving I ask again, Is Jesus truly your king?
This week more than any other I have experienced that void between the kingdoms. I have had to face some of my fears, release some of my own selfish wishes, and step off my soapbox occasionally. I watched the clash of various kingdoms, and I felt as if I was floating in that void unsure of where I stood. But in seeking Christ and His kingdom I know that the void is closing and the beginning of a new day is nearing. That void between the kingdoms closes when we step aside, when we let God be God, Let Christ be King, and focus not on the things of this world and instead redirect our lives to Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the Love of Christ with others. Let us now join together in this time of holy expectancy and let the God who loves us enough to send his son to live with us and die for us, and to send his own spirit to assist us search our lives and revive our souls.