Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 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." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Christ Jesus –King of Love
Jesus is the Way, Truth, Life… through Love
Pilate is a pretty easy guy not to like. His rule was brutal. The Gospel of Luke notes that he had some Galileans slaughtered – their crime? Going to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. Appointed by Caesar as Governor of the region, Pilate was a political man who had made it to the top of his little hill. He was “king of the mountain”- and like the winter game by the same name that I played as a kid, the goal, once you got to the top of the snow “mountain” was to keep everyone else off. As “king of his mountain” Pilate was always on the lookout for others who would seek to take his place.
Pilate asks Jesus directly: Are you the king of the Jews? In other words, are you a threat to me and my power?
When Jesus told him that his followers were not going to fight, Pilate’s knee-jerk reaction to protect his own position seemed to be satisfied and he was curious, “What have you done to be handed over to me?” Pilate doesn’t understand Jesus’ response. He doesn’t understand any other kind of king or kingdom than the type that he rules – with force and might, by hook or crook. When Jesus speaks of truth, Pilate, who doesn’t realize that he is speaking to the one who IS Truth responds, “What is truth?”
Pilate represents the worst of our world. He is the “king of the hill” based on power, might, and brute force. “Truth” is what he says it will be.
Jesus turns the world’s concept of power upside down. But that does not mean that Jesus is merely referring to a “spiritual” kingdom, that will come in the sweet by and by, a kingdom that has nothing to do with our world. Quite the opposite. Jesus shows us a different way – God’s way.
The Jesuits tell a story about Napoleon Bonaparte, who, though he was an incredible General and leader, understood that Jesus offered something that he could never offer. According to the story, Napoleon expressed it this way:
“I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ is not a man... I have so inspired multitudes that they would die for me... the lightning of my eye, my voice, a word from me, then the sacred fire was kindled in their hearts.
I do, indeed, possess the secret of his magical power that lifts the soul, but I could never impart it to anyone. None of my generals learned it from me; nor have I the means of perpetuating... love for me in the hearts of men.” 1
Napoleon was right. Jesus kingship is different. It is not the kingship of this world, based on power and might or even on strength of personality and persuasion.
The way of Jesus exposes the hard and honest truth about us – we are not unlike the people who gathered to watch Pilate’s pronouncement upon Jesus. We are not any different than the ones who cried, “Crucify him.” Historically, the powers of the day that sentenced Jesus to death were the Roman government, the religious leaders of the time and popular opinion that was easily swayed by the leaders of the day. But when you get beyond the historical timeline, it’s not so different today.
As Bishop Curry writes, the motivations for killing Jesus then are alive and well in our world today: “self-interest, self-centeredness, greed, jealousy, political and economic corruption, religious narrow-mindedness and intolerance, individual cowardice, bigotry, violence, hatred, and indifference--what our biblical tradition actually calls sin.”
“Sin.” It’s a word that has too often been used by leaders in the church to condemn others. Religious leaders pointed their fingers at Jesus, accusing him of sinning by healing on the Sabbath. But Sin is not about doing good. As Bishop Curry says, ““Sin is selfishness. Sin is self-centered existence, and that self-centered existence left untethered makes no room for anyone else. And in the end, this selfish existence has the capacity to actually destroy life itself. Every war that has ever been fought, every bigotry and hatred that has ever been wrought, the fruit of every humanly devised evil has its root in this sinful selfishness.”
Confronted by the truth of our own failings – both for the things that we have done and said and the things that we have left undone and unsaid, we gather to confess our selfishness, our willingness to ignore the pain of others, our desire to be “comfortable,” our willingness to point the finger rather than confess our own shortcomings.
And then… we receive forgiveness and the gift of love.
Jesus is the king of love, the king who shows us the way, tells us the truth, and gives us an abundant life – not for the life to come but so that we can live an abundant life today. For Jesus is not only the King of love but teaches us to love.
The gift of love is not a one-time gift that we receive and then are suddenly transformed into being just like Jesus. The gift of love takes practice. It takes practice to receive it – and practice to give it. But that is what Jesus calls us to do and who God calls us to be.
Jesus teaches us to walk in his way, the way of love. Like Jesus, we are to love and forgive our neighbor – as they are. Like Jesus, we are to look at the places in our neighborhood and in our world to see the places and people that need to be lifted up. Like Jesus, we are to feed the hungry, care for the stranger and help the poor.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the King of Love who points to the truth, and teaches us God’s way, the way of love that gives us life.
Our response? Let us praise Jesus as the King and Lord of our lives. Let us sing with joy that Jesus came, humbly entering into our world and our lives to give us truth and love and life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church November 25, 2018
1. Ignatian Spirituality by Fr. Mark Link, SJ quotes from J.S.C.Abbott’s two-volume work, The History of Napoleon Bonaparte http://www.jesuits-chgdet.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Partners_SP04_page22-23_IgSpiritlty.pdf
2 The Most Reverend Michael Curry: http://day1.org/8299michael_curry_the_king_of_love