Not of this world.

One of Jesus’ most telling moments has to be in John 18, verse 36.  He’s standing before Pilate who literally holds Jesus’ life in his hands, and Jesus has the audacity to say, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

This statement is profound for endless reasons, one of them being the circumstance it’s uttered within.  Jesus is of course capable of calling upon legions of angels to come have an epic throwdown with Pilate’s guards and the chief priests.  But he doesn’t.  And this verse indicates that the reason for not doing so is more than simply a superior amount of self control on Jesus’ part (as though he really wanted to go Neo/Matrix style on them but just restrained himself for the good of the cause).  Rather, to do so would be contrary to the very nature of Jesus’ kingdom.  His kingdom is not like Caesar’s kingdom or any kingdom of our world, for that matter.  In Jesus’ kingdom, the King goes to the cross despite every opportunity for retaliation.  It is of a completely different essence than our rules of engagement.  And it should cause we who claim citizenship in Jesus’ kingdom to do a gut check.

Jesus is not saying that his kingdom is in some other country or planet.  He’s saying that his kingdom is of a completely different source.  Throughout the crucifixion narrative, John depicts Jesus as calm and composed while Pilate and the crowds are confused, anxious, and angry.  The flustered chief priests even say that which you would have never saw coming  – “we have no king but Caesar” (19:15).   It’s all one more way that John subtly points to Jesus’ supremacy.  And in this face off between two kings – one from this world, one from another – we find which kingdom truly has more power.

If there is ever a day on our calendar that sends off warning flares for Christians in a superpower like ours, it’s Good Friday.  Let us continue to ask ourselves: which kingdom do I reflect?  This one or Christ’s’?

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