Gospel: John 18:33b-37

King of the World

Have your ever day-dreamed about winning the Lotto? Or being king for a day? What would you do?

When we were young, we had the time to indulge our imagination. We pretended to be famous, wealthy, powerful. Of course we grew up, but sometimes not out of those fantasies. In fact, multi-billion dollar industries are dedicated to making those dreams come true. But only for a while. And always for a price.

Let's take the ultimate indulgence. What does it really mean to be "king of the world?" Take a few moments and step into the shoes of Jesus. How would you answer the charge you were a king of all?

Popular Translation

33b Pilate ordered Jesus to come in. The first thing Pilate said to Jesus was: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

34 "Is this what you think," Jesus responded, "or did others give you this information about me?"

35 "Do you think I am a Jew?" Pilate shot back. "Your people and their leaders gave you to me so I could judge you. What did you do to get arrested?"

36 "My Kingdom is not an earthly one," Jesus stated. "If it were, my followers would have fought hard to keep me from being arrested. So, my Kingdom is not from here."

37 "Aren't you really a king?" Pilate returned to his original question.

"You're the one who says I'm a king," Jesus answered. "I was born into this world, so I could tell others about the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice!"

Jesus was charged with treason against the Emperor. For people said Jesus claimed to be "King of the Jews." So, Pilate put the question to him. Jesus responded, not with words of power, but words of truth.

Literal Translation

33b Pilate called JESUS in and said to him, "Are YOU the King of the Jews?" 34 JESUS answered, "Do you say this from yourself, or did others say (this) about ME?" 35 Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew. YOUR nation and chief priests gave YOU over to me. What did YOU do?" 36 JESUS answered, "MY kingdom is not from this world. If MY kingdom was from this world, MY underlings would be fighting that I might not be given over to the Jews. But now MY kingdom is not from here." 37 Then Pilate then said to HIM, "Are YOU not then a king?" JESUS answered, "You say I am a king. I have been born into this (world) and I have come into this world that I might testify to the truth. All belonging to the truth hear My voice."

18:36 "But now my kingdom is not from here" The word "here" referred to the material world.

18:37 "All belonging to the truth hear MY voice." is literally "All being from the truth hear MY sound."

What does it mean to be a king? Is it the old model of absolute power? Or is it Christ's leadership of service? These questions are the essence of Pilate's and Jesus' dialogue.

As Roman governor of Judea, Pilate was judge and jury in capital cases. His question was direct: "Do you claim to be king of the area I govern in the name of Caesar?" An affirmative answer would have sealed the fate of Jesus, since he would be branded as a political revolutionary. [33]

But the phrase "King of the Jews" had a spiritual meaning that might have escaped Pilate. To probe Pilate's understanding, Jesus answers a question with a question: "Who are your witnesses about me?" Dismissing Jesus' question, Pilate retorts by pressing his point: "What have you done?" In other words, Pilate wants a direct witness from the source Himself, not from his accusers. [34-35]

Jesus responds with a speech about his arena (i.e., "his kingdom"). Jesus' arena is not that of popular culture or politics; if it was there would be a bloody revolution. [36]

Pilate still presses the point: "You are a king, aren't you?" Jesus gives in on a semantic point ("You're the one who says so, Pilate") but finally gives Pilate a direct witness: Jesus speaks the truth.

How does the truth Jesus speaks and the truth the "world" speaks different? The truth of the world is transient in nature; it changes with the season and the political landscape. It speaks to ambition and power, to possessions and pleasure. The truth of the world is, at best, shallow.

But the truth Jesus speaks is one of the heart. The truth of Jesus is more than facts; it is one of fidelity. God is "true" to us; that means, he is faithful. He shows us his fidelity through his Son and the power of his Spirit. When we are true to God in return, we "live in truth" (that is, in relationship). Since God is eternally faithful, God's truth goes beyond the transient nature of politics, fad, and fashion.

How does your relationship with God touch you in ways the world cannot match? How has the truth of world failed you? How has God's faithfulness sustained you?

A theologian once said that all revelation is invitation. In other words, all that God reveals to us invites us to live with him. This is the reality of Jesus' kingship. Jesus is Lord, so we might live near him in love. He is King of the World, not over us but for us and with us.

How can you place one area of your life over to the King of the World this week?