We are in the second week of Advent and Christmas is looming large. At Christmas we celebrate the Birth of the Messiah Jesus Christ but we must not forget that he was born to die. Jesus died for the sins of the world- your sins and mine. Jesus was born a King and died a King and rose from the dead so we can be raised also. Our Gospel lesson has Jesus appearing before Pilate, the Roman governor, after having been accused by his enemies of trying to set himself up as king. In the dialog that follows, Jesus admits to being a King, but says that his kingdom is not of this world.
We can really understand verses 33-37 only if we look at them in the context of chapters 18-19 which include the following:
- THE BETRAYAL AND ARREST OF JESUS (18:1-11)
- JESUS BEFORE THE HIGH PRIEST (18:12-14, 19-24)
- PETER DENIES JESUS (18:15-18, 25-27)
- JESUS BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71)
- JESUS BEFORE PILATE (18:28-32)
- JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS (19:15, 19)
The emphasis on Christ the King continues in chapter 19. Pilate has tried to get the crowd to let him release Jesus (18:38b-40) and has had Jesus flogged in the hope that the flogging will satisfy the crowd (19:1-7). The crowd, however, frustrates Pilate at every turn, demanding Jesus’ crucifixion (19:6, 15) and disputing Pilate’s loyalty to the emperor (19:12).
Pilate strikes back verbally, saying to the crowd, “Behold, your King!” (19:14) and asking, “Shall I crucify your king?” (19:15). Then the crowd, which demanded Jesus’ death because “he made himself the Son of God” (19:7),
The crowd responds in the most astonishing fashion. “We have no King but Caesar,” they say (19:15). In other words, they criticized Jesus for putting himself in God’s place but themselves now put the emperor in God’s place. Pilate, by necessity loyal to the emperor, finally gives up and turns Jesus over to be crucified (19:16). But Pilate has the last word. He has an inscription posted on the cross in three languages that says “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (19:19-20). The chief priests protest, asking Pilate to change the inscription to read, “He said, I am King of the Jews.” Pilate responds, “What I have written, I have written” (vv. 21-22). Earlier, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (18:38). Now, with irony, Pilate posts the truth for all to see.
Queen Elizabeth became queen in 1952. Sometimes it seems as if she will go on forever. Poor Prince Charles can’t have the top job until his mother dies––an unpleasant sort of dilemma. Although I’m sure her job has many stresses, she has lived a life of luxury and privilege. In 1989 I had the opportunity to visit Graceland, the home of Elvis––the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Elvis had two private jets, and they were parked near Graceland for the sake of the tourists. Each was decorated Elvis style––forever locked in 1970. He too, although he seemed unhappy, Elvis lived a life of luxury and privilege. But the Kings and Queens of history enjoyed even greater power. A King typically had the power of life and death over people within his realm. Kings lived in grand palaces and commanded imposing armies.
That doesn’t sound much like Jesus, does it! As he told one would-be follower:
“The foxes have holes,
and the birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Jesus didn’t live in a palace. He didn’t live luxury or privilege. His “army” consisted of ordinary people who brought the family to see HIM. It would be pretty hard to imagine those mums and dads and kids as any kind of threat to Rome.
But Pilate couldn’t take a chance. People had reported Jesus as an enemy of Rome––as a man who would be king––as a potential challenger to the emperor. Pilate had no choice but to get to the bottom of such a charge. If he ignored it and trouble broke out, it would be Pilate’s head on the chopping block.
So Pilate took time to interview Jesus. Pilate has a bad reputation for his handling of Jesus’ trial, but we need to acknowledge that he handled this questioning well. He took Jesus aside, so the crowd couldn’t interfere, and he asked three questions:
First, he asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v. 33). Seeing at this ordinary-looking man, he asked, “Are YOU the King of the Jews? You gotta be kidding me!” Then Pilate noted that important people had said Jesus was a trouble maker. Pilate asked, “What have you done?” (v. 35).
That was exactly the right question.
And then Pilate asked, “Are you a KING then Jesus had said that his kingdom was not from this world, so apparently he saw himself as a KING. So Pilate asked, “Are you a KING then?”
We know the rest of the story, of course. In frustration, Pilate eventually washed his hands of the matter and allowed Jesus to be condemned. He didn’t make it happen, but he allowed it to happen.
But Pilate wasn’t a fool. He knew that he was being used, and he didn’t like it. He had his soldiers nail a plaque to the cross that said, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (19:19). Jesus’ enemies said, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but ‘he said, I am King of the Jews'” (19:21). But Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written” (19:22).
WAS Jesus a king? That was the question that Pilate needed to answer.
IS Jesus a King? That is the question that we need to answer.
WHAT would it mean if Jesus were king? How would it affect our lives?
The New Testament certainly sees Jesus as king. It calls him “King of Kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).
The apostle Paul talks about Jesus as coming down from heaven to be born as a baby and to die on a cross. Then Paul says:
“Therefore God also highly exalted (Jesus),
and gave to him the name which is above every name;
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11)
That certainly sounds King-like, doesn’t it!
The question for us today is whether Jesus is king in your life. You don’t have to hold up your hand and give the answer in front of everyone, but I would like for you to think about the question––Is Jesus King in your life? pause
Then let me ask another question––If Jesus were King in your life, what difference would that make, for you? Your family? For your friends? For your employer? Think about that for a moment. What difference would it make if Jesus were king in your life?….
Then let me make this observation. ONE way to tell whether Jesus is King in your life is to ask whether you are trying to do what he wants you to do. None of us is doing that perfectly. None of us is perfectly obedient to Christ. The question isn’t whether we are obeying Jesus perfectly. It is whether we are trying––whether we are giving Jesus our best.
Some years ago, it was popular for people to wear bracelets that said WWJD?––What Would Jesus Do? The idea behind the bracelets was to remind us, when faced with a decision––any decision––to ask “What would Jesus do?”––and to let the answer help us to make the right decision––to help us do what Jesus would have us do. What Would Jesus Do? How would GOD have you spend your life? GOD has something for you to do––SOMETHING for each of us to do.
What would Jesus do? How would he have you spend your retirement years? The late Andrew Grove, one of the founders of Intel Corporation, the company that makes most of the chips for computers, used his retirement years to try to reform health care in America––especially health care for the poor. That really bowled me over! Andy Grove was one of the richest men in the world. He had plenty of accomplishments to his credit! He could have sat back and relaxed. He could have spent his later years playing golf. Instead, he tried to solve the problem of uninsured people, some of whom were jamming emergency rooms and the rest of whom were getting no medical care. I think it’s wonderful that this rich man spent his retirement years giving instead of taking.
What would Jesus do? Today, after we leave this church building and scatter throughout the community, each of us will be faced with decisions that will give us a chance to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Asking that question is the first step toward making Jesus King in our lives. If you are wondering how to get your life into focus, and stay on the right track, ask that question––”What would Jesus do?”––and let the answer set the direction for your life.
Heavenly Father, who is blessed with son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life.
Grant that we having this hope, may live pure lives, even as he is pure,
And when Jesus Christ shall appear in power and great glory
we will be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom, where he is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit ONE God now and forever
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