Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"My Kingdom is Not of this World"

John 18:33-38--It is an interesting conversation between Pilate and Jesus. The dialogue begins with Pilate taking the initiative, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

It's a loaded question. If Jesus says "yes," it is heresy. If he says "no," then he is made out to be a liar.

So, Jesus answers with typical-Jesus-fashion, he answers with a question of his own.
Pilate responds, "What have you done?"

Jesus' answer is astounding, "My Kingdom is not of 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."

What is Jesus saying about the Kingdom? (Brian McClaren has challenged me with this question in his book "Everything Must Change.")

One Suggestion
Maybe Jesus is pointing people to a kingdom that is to be experienced after they die. We die and we enter into a "spiritual" kingdom. Therefore, death ushers us from this evil world into a kingdom stored up for us in heaven. (This has been the basic interpretation of this text and how I have often heard this passage preached and taught.)

Another Suggestion
On the other hand, maybe Jesus is referring to a kingdom that is experienced here and now. In McClaren's words, Jesus is saying, "My kingdom is not of this world,' then, means the very opposite of 'My kingdom is not in this world.' Instead, it means my kingdom is very much in this world, but it doesn't work the way earthly kingdoms or empires do."

Maybe Jesus is referring to "this world" as the world dominated by the Roman Empire. He is standing in Pilate's headquarters, a place adorned with magnificent structures, statutes and paintings.

Either way, Jesus is portraying a kingdom that doesn't abuse its power in order to manipulate, de-humanize, and oppress. He came to create an alternative way of life...a life that we are still struggling to embrace.

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