What is the nature of Jesus’ kingship and kingdom and what are the implications for us? What does the death of Jesus tells us about John’s understanding of what is going on?
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Imagine you are on trial, even though you are completely innocent. Now imagine that you have the power and authority to end the trial and to walk away free. What would you do?
This is the position Jesus was in. He is a king – not just king of the Jews but of the whole world. He is the Son of God, who was there when the heavens and earth were formed. He can raise the dead, calm storms, know the heart of a person and forgive them. But he doesn’t use his power to save himself. This tells us some important things about the nature of his kingship and kingdom.
Jesus’ says to Pilate that his kingship and kingdom are not of this world – and that as a result, his servants would not fight for his freedom or even to prevent his arrest, as most kings would expect his servants to do. Jesus is a very different kind of king with a very different kind of kingdom. Though he is innocent, he will not save himself.
This passage makes us ask – what truth is Jesus testifying to? What is Jesus a witness of? Jesus came to speak the truth about God and humanity. He is here to put things right. The truth is, humanity cannot save itself. Humanity cannot function and exist apart from God.
But it is also true that God is one of overflowing grace and mercy. Jesus is here as a witness to God’s love. But he is also the one who will go on trial in humanity’s place.
John understands that Jesus must die to fulfil what the prophets had predicted. He must die to save humanity. Jesus’ kingship is not about protecting himself or others fighting and dying for him, but about dying for others, in their place.
Head: list some ways we have seen in John that Jesus’ kingdom is not like the kingdoms of earth.
Heart: how do you feel, knowing that Jesus gave up his power and authority to die for you? That though he was king of the world he became the lowest of the lows for your sake?
Hands: we follow a King who did not use his authority for his own good but for the good of others. How can you be like Jesus today by using any power or authority you have for the sake of others?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that you saw that humanity could not save itself and stepped in, did not save yourself, but gave up your rights for me. Help this good news change my heart and affect all I do and say.
Help me see today how I can use any power and authority I might have to put first the good of others, instead of my own good. Help me be like Jesus in this.
By the power of your Spirit,
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A song to listen to: This is Amazing Grace https://open.spotify.com/track/3GyxrDr1uGOErfOAnaAPhG