- Chapel of St John the Divine
- November 25, 2018
- 09:00 AM
Nov. 25, 2018 Proper 29B Last Pentecost
I can’t read this passage from John without adding the next line. It’s not a punch line, but I think it is the real conclusion of this part of the story.
Jesus said to Pilate, “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.”
And Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Was Pilate being dismissive? Was he saying that Jesus’ truth was not important? (What is truth?)
Or was he really asking a question he wanted Jesus to answer? (What is truth?)
Pilate seems to have been a bit unsure of the situation he was facing.
There was no reason for him to have questioned Jesus, there were others who could have done that. But he did.
And then he washed his hands of the verdict—he found no guilt in Jesus.
But with Jesus standing before him, Jesus who was God’s truth on earth, truth personified, Pilate could not recognize him.
His fear of retribution from Caesar was far greater than whatever ideas he might have had about Jesus.
He was right to fear retribution—Jesus was accused of being the King of the Jews. This was a crime. To the world outside Judaism, to the vast Roman Empire, the only King was Caesar.
It’s no wonder that Pilate couldn’t see Jesus as king. He had no army of soldiers, no royal robes. Jesus stood before Pilate abandoned and alone.
Pilate didn’t understand that the kingship of Jesus is about revealing God’s love.
God’s love is peace and reconciliation. There is no room in God’s love for retribution, retaliation or violence. No room in God’s kingdom.
That is truth.
So Jesus stood there, at peace, alone.
Today is the last Sunday of this church year. Next week, even though it will still be 2018 on the calendar, we will move into the season of Advent, and into Luke’s gospel in our cycle of readings.
This year we have been reading Mark’s Gospel, and Mark has given us a Jesus far removed from the traditional idea of a king.
Mark has given us a Jesus who heals, forgives, welcomes, and constantly shows us a kingdom that is not of this world. God’s kingdom is not from here, but it is here, and Jesus’ life and ministry show us what that kingdom is about.
So as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, we can say what God’s Kingdom is not about: fear, violence, destructive power, legalism, punishment, excluding, building walls…
As we realize what the kingdom is about, we could call today: Christ the King under arrest and soon to be crucified Sunday; Christ the King held hostage as royal political prisoner Sunday; Christ the innocent victim Sunday.
He was not a typical king in the world’s eyes.
But Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate was thinking of a worldly kingdom, a political system, like what we know, with people in charge telling the rest of us what to do.
(I know, that is a simplification, but not far from truth.)
Our system also has a material component, so our worth is usually measured by what we have.
Listen to the news this weekend—it’s all about shopping and getting good deals.
Not so in God’s kingdom.
Jesus said that he came “to testify to the truth.” He is contrasting himself with the Devil, the father of lies, who leads us from the truth.
St. Augustine said that we all have a “God shaped void” in our beings.
Rather than fill that void with God’s truth, we take the way that seems easier and grab at whatever our culture offers to fill it.
This void is a longing for God, so when we try to fill it with something else, we are not satisfied. It is like that old joke about eating Chinese food and being hungry in 20 minutes.
When we look to anything but God to satisfy the longing in our beings, our souls if you will, we have to keep feeding that longing with more and more of whatever isn’t really working.
The truth is, only God can satisfy that longing. But isn’t there always time to play another game of solitaire, or to read one more page in a book, or take a walk, phone a friend.
Not to mention all the expensive ways like finding the perfect pair of shoes for winter, or another book to read, or—well, you can fill in the blank.
We do all these so easily, and then find they aren’t what we were looking for after all, instead of sitting and letting God fill that void!
And I know, unfortunately, that is truth.
Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus’ voice is the voice of the Good Shepherd, leading his flock to peace and safety and good pastures as we follow him.
Gail O’Day writes that we belong to the truth as we “recognize that Jesus is the truth of God, as we see the fullness of God in Jesus, and as we hear God in Jesus.”
Pilate was judged and found wanting as he stood face to face with Jesus and did not see him as Christ the King, but only as a rebel criminal.
We are judged by how we respond to Jesus as our King. Are we like James and John who wanted seats of power when Jesus became king of Israel?
Or are we showing with our lives that we live the command Jesus gave us, “Love one another as I have loved you. That is how you will be my disciples, if you love each other.”
Do we thankfully live the forgiveness that Jesus freely gave us from the Cross?
That is how we live as brothers and sisters of Jesus in God’s kingdom, and celebrate the Reign of Christ the King.
That is also how we live as good stewards of the lives we have in God. That is truth.