Text: John 18:36
Open your Bibles to the Gospel of John once again. We are going to begin reading with verse 28 of chapter 18 and read through verse 40. We really need to read the entire chapter. I wish that you would read chapters 18 and 19 together. They are some of the most powerful words that have ever been written as they concern our Lord as he is arrested, brought to trial, and then to the cross. You see great conflict between individuals and a great conflict between their goals. It is a wonderful psychological study, seeing the interplay between all those characters in these chapters.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. (I underlined that as I thought there was great hypocrisy. They didn’t have scruple one about crucifying an innocent man, but they were certainly not going to defile themselves ceremonially. The sad fact is that some people wouldn’t smoke a cigarette or take a drink of wine if you put a gun to their heads, but they do not mind murdering someone with gossip and innuendo. I have found in my own ministry that sometimes those who are the most particular and the most precise about maintaining the ritual cleanness they are the worst at the massacre of the reputations of others.) So Pilate went out to them, and said, what accusation do you bring against this Man? They answered, if this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you. Pilate said to him, take him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews replied, we are not permitted to put anyone to death. This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death He was to die. 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 (ought to put a period there) I am a king. (In our vernacular, it would be something like, you said it; 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? (Not waiting for an answer because he really wasn’t serious; he was a practical man, a cynical man. He turned after he said this and went out.) He said, I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews. They shouted in reply, not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a bandit, a thief, an anarchist.
If you hate someone, and you want to get rid of them, one excuse is as good as another. If you want to get rid of someone so badly, you don’t need to resort to the truth, especially if there is no truth that will help you in your case. So you pounce upon any part of a statement they have made and you bring up charges that cannot be enforced. Anything—it doesn’t matter. If somebody doesn’t like you, it doesn’t matter what you do; they are going to find some way to find fault with what you do.
The chief priests were this way. They were so absorbed by their hatred of Jesus that any old reason would do. They brought him to Pilate and Pilate asked what he was charged with. They didn’t really have a stand-up, legal charge or accusation, so, they said he was obviously a criminal or they would not have brought him to you in the first place. Somewhere along the line, someone had mentioned to Pilate that he claimed to be a king. This caught Pilate’s attention because if there was another king floating around, he was a threat to the empire, and a threat to Caesar. He brings Jesus into his headquarters and asks if he is king of the Jews. And Jesus said, are you asking for your own sake or do you perceive something in me, or has somebody else put this notion in your head. Pilot said, I’m not a Jew. I don’t know about that stuff. Your own people have brought you here. So there has to be something wrong. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If there is an accusation, then there has to be something to it. After all, we are guilty until we are proved innocent. Are you a king?
Jesus said, you said that I am a king. And then come what I believe are the key words in these chapters. In verse 36, Jesus answered, my kingdom is not from this world. Literally, it is not out of this world. Literally, it is not laid aside this world as for comparison. It is not like this world. If my kingdom were like this world, and from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom is not from here. Then Jesus defines his kingdom. He says, I am a king, and for this cause I was born, and for this I came into the world (and here it is) to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Now, I want us to focus on those words as we think about the king and his kingdom. Let me just point out five things about the kingdom of our Lord.
1) This kingdom is not of this world.
This is not a worldly kingdom. If my kingdom was like this world, and of this world, then my followers would fight. In the garden, when they came to take Jesus, Peter did pull out a sword and fight. He went to Malchus and cut off his ear. Peter wasn’t afraid to fight, but he was a poor shot. He didn’t mean to cut off his ear; he meant to slice him down the middle—Mal on one side, and Chus on the other. Jesus said, put away your sword. And he restored the ear. You would think right then and there, that would be enough to say this man is a good man. This man must be a godly man, but that makes no difference. He said, if my kingdom were of this world, then my people would act like that and they would use worldly methods to obtain their goal.
One of the problems that Christianity has always had is that there has always been the temptation to make his kingdom a kingdom of this world. Even the Jews thought when the Messiah would come that he would establish an earthly kingdom right here and now, and throw off the Roman yoke of bondage. They did not accept him because he did not appear as they expected him to appea, and his goals were not their goals. Even the disciples didn’t understand. After the resurrection in Acts 1, they said, Lord, will you at this time now restore the kingdom to Israel? Pagan writers like Tacitus ?? and Setonia ?? said, there were legends and tales that out of Judah would come a deliverer. Everybody was thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom, an earthly power, an earthly reign. But Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.
In about 320 A.D. Constantine did the worst harm that has ever been done to the Christian church. He made it a kingdom of this world. Jesus said, if my kingdom was of this world, I would use worldly methods to build it. Of course, the implication is to build my kingdom I do not use worldly methods. The church throughout the centuries has often forgotten those words. There is that constant temptation for us to revert to the methods of the world to build the kingdom.
You see, this is the kind of Messiah the disciples started to follow. When they started to follow Jesus, they had a different Jesus in mind. They had a Jesus who one day would overthrow that Roman yoke of bondage. That’s why the sons of Zebedee said they wanted to sit one on the right hand and one on the left hand. They were anticipating a worldly kingdom, and they were wanting to share in that power and authority. This Jesus of the cross—oh, no, this is not the Jesus they wanted to follow. If you notice as you study the gospels, every time Jesus brought up the cross, the disciples tried to change the subject. This is not the Christ they decided to follow. Not the kind who was going to be humble and humiliated and act as a servant and finally die on a Roman Cross. This is not the Jesus they chose to follow.
I am afraid today many of us are trying to follow the wrong Jesus. We are not interested in following the Jesus of lowliness and humility and service and suffering and sacrifice. We are wanting to follow the Jesus who will make us healthy and wealthy. Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world. The values of this world do not have any values in the kingdom that are mine. Each one of us needs to apply this to our own lives.
2) This kingdom is a kingdom of truth.
He says, for this cause I was born, and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. His kingdom is not of this world; his kingdom is of the truth. Jesus is saying, if my kingdom were of this world, my followers would use worldly methods as their weapons. But he said, the only weapon I have to gain candidates for the kingdom is the weapon of truth. I came to testify of this truth. My disciples will be commissioned to testify of the truth—to preach the gospel, to preach the Word. The thing that disturbs me so much today is that we have gotten to the place that we think you can’t build a church, or you can’t build the kingdom just with preaching. Oh, I heard a pastor ust a week or so ago bragging. That he didn’t preachdoctrine at his church. He just preached Jesus. Well, Jesus is doctrine, folks. They say doctrine divides. Well, doctrine is just another word for truth, and truth does divide. That is what it is intended to do. Paul believed that you can build a great church by just preaching Jesus. You read in Colossians 1 where he says, whom we preach, teaching and warning every man, that we may present every man perfect, full grown in the presence of Jesus Christ. Paul’s method was by preaching the truth. Yet, so much today we withhold the truth in order to make sinners feel comfortable. I don’t think the truth ever makes anybody feel comfortable. I don’t want to know the whole truth about myself, do you? We hide from that truth.
When I had reconstructive surgery done on my hand, and they took the bandages off my hand, I didn’t want to look at it. I can’t stand the sight of my own blood. I can’t stand the sight of your blood as a matter of fact. We are getting mighty personal when we talk about my blood. And I’m afraid if I saw the innermost of my being, down in the guts of my soul, I am afraid it would make it sick. Don’t want to know too much truth. But Jesus says, this is the only way to build the kingdom—by testifying of the truth. I want to re-emphasize this truth: the one weapon that the church has to conquer the world is truth.
3) This kingdom is based upon allegiance to Jesus Christ.
You’ll notice he says, everyone who believes the truth listens to my voice. In other words, in this kingdom, there is an allegiance to Jesus Christ. We believe that he is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except by him.
Listen to the chief priests. Pilate didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. We’ll see why in a moment. In verse 10, he said, do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have the power to release you, and the power to crucify you? In your dreams, Pilate. Jesus answered him, you would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above. What a tremendous statement! The Jews cried out (because Pilate was wanting to release him), if you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against Caesar. Then the damning statement they make in verse 15: they cried out, away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate asked, shall I crucify your king? And the chief priests answered, we have no king but Caesar.
Well, if you want to get rid of somebody, any excuse will do. They were lying. They knew God was their king. Besides, they hated Caesar, the emperor. What they were looking for was to be delivered from Rome. If Jesus had come promising that, they would not have hated him. But, you see, they will side with their own enemy in order to get rid of truth. We have no God but Caesar. This is a kingdom of truth. The way you gain members in this kingdom, the one weapon we have, is to preach and proclaim and testify of the truth. My dear friends, if the truth about Jesus will not bring men into the kingdom, you had better not bring them in any other way.
4) This kingdom depends upon the king dying.
In Yugosloslavia, as long as Tito lived, there was one kingdom. When he died, the kingdom fell apart. It is the way of the kingdoms of this world that the king must live.
In the ancient days in England they guarded the king’s life. Why? Because there were always those who were threatening to overthrow the king. Then all kinds of changes could come about and the political ramifications would be too much for them to take. There was always someone else waiting to take over. So, they guarded the king’s life. They had men who tested the food before the king ate of it. Why? They couldn’t afford for the king to die.
I hear the pope is sick. They are trying to keep it quiet, because that is a kingdom of this world, and the political ramifications if there is a new pope, are more than the establishment wants to bear. You see, worldly kingdoms depend upon their king surviving. But this kingdom, not of this world, depends upon the king dying. This kingdom will only survive, and only be brought forth into abundance, if the king himself dies.
Jesus is not trying to save his life. He doesn’t have any royal food testers around. He doesn’t have bodyguards around him. He doesn’t travel in a bullet-proof donkey. He is not trying to protect his life. Why? It is necessary that he die. So Jesus gave up his life. He said, I lay down my life. No man takes my life from me; I lay it down. In chapter 19, verse 28: After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said, in order to fulfill the Scripture, I am thirsty. A jar full of sour wine was standing there, so they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, it is finished. Then he bowed his head (the idea is voluntarily he bowed his head) and he gave up the Ghost. It was a voluntary death.
There is a statement in the Gospel of Luke that I find quite remarkable. In Luke, chapter 23, verse 46, when Luke is talking about the death of Jesus on the cross, he says, then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Crying with a loud voice!
People don’t die that way. People don’t die with a loud voice. Oh, if they see they are going to be in a car crash, they may scream. If they see somebody is going to shoot them, they may scream. Here is a man who has been hanging on the cross for hours, dying, dying, dying. People don’t die with a loud voice. They die with a whisper. I learned this from doctors. I would be visiting in the hospital and, passing by a room, I would hear somebody in the room yell, Oh, I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying. I would expect all the doctors and nurses to run in there. They didn’t do it. I asked one why, and he said, ah, they are not dying. He said, nobody dies shouting. They go out in a whisper, even if they are able to do that. But Jesus cried with a loud voice. What was he saying? I’m in control. This death is of my choosing. You haven’t weakened me one bit. You haven’t taken one thing from me. With a loud voice, he cried, it is finished. You see, the only way this kingdom is going to be brought about is if the king himself dies.
I have a fifth thing I want to say about the Kingdom. Why was Pilate so interested? You cannot get away from the fact that Pilate didn’t want to crucify him. Pilate tried again and again and again to get away from the issue. He wanted to release him. Over and over again, he wanted to release him. He said, I find no fault in him. . I guess he thought to himself, I know these people are simple and good enough if they had a choice, they would choose the right man. He said, it is your custom at the Passover that one man be released to you. Surely you want Jesus, the king, released to you. They said, no, away with him. Give us Barabbas! I wondered why they singled out Barabbas when there were a thousand prisoners anyone of whom could have been released. You see, Barabbas was guilty of the crime with which they accused Jesus. He was an anarchist. He wanted to overthrow the government. So they will murder the innocent child of God and take a thief. Pilate is desperately trying to release him. Pilate’s only interest in Jesus was his threat as a king. In the final analysis, Pilate released Barabbas to keep his job. They caught his attention when they said, well, if you side with Jesus, you are no friend of Caesar’s. Pilate wanted to be the friend of Caesar. All Pilate was interested in was whether this man who claims to be a king is a threat to Rome. That was his only interest. Is he a threat to the overthrowing of the empire? Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, his followers do not fight, so Pilate was assured that this man and his kingdom were no threat to Rome.
5) This kingdom will bring down all the kingdoms of the earth.
So Pilate said, let him go. Why? He’s no threat. Look at him, this peasant, this Jew that his own nation rejects. He refuses to talk to me to save his life. He has no soldiers. This man is no threat to Rome, and yet it was this man who destroyed Rome. It was this kingdom who brought down the kingdom of Rome. The thing about Jesus’ kingdom is that it will bring down all the kingdoms of the earth.
The other day my wife asked me for a credit card, and I gave her one. She said, I want another one. I said, why two, Kaye? I worked hard to get that in! The millennium is bringing out all the nuts. Most of those preaching and talking about Y2K are also selling books and tapes. I was in the bookstore the other day, and they had a whole table full of books on Y2K. One book was entitled, Y2K, It’s Already Too Late. I thought that was a terrible title. If it’s too late, why buy the book? It is amazing. I’ve had people try to sell me thousands of dollars worth of food. There may be a few glitches when we turn 2000. I’m prepared for that. I have an extra carton of cream soda, and a couple of extra mud pies, and a little bit of extra money in my pocket. They are so worried. Friends, it’s just another date on the calendar. You say, well, the world’s going to end. Well, so what? I don’t care. I’m ready. Frankly, I’ve seen all of the world I want to see. If there’s going to be some madman push a button, and we are all going to be nuked to death, you’ll go out in a flash and won’t feel a thing.
I know this much. The kingdom to which I belong rules over every other kingdom. The king to whom I have given my allegiance rules over every other king. I have nothing to fear. So, there they are in that great coliseum, those Christians being torn and eaten by lions, slain by the gladiators. They were just a little group of people who prayed, and as the lions licked the blood of the saints, and Caesar seemed unconquerable, who would ever have imagined that the little group who prayed would win—and be victorious. This kingdom shall bring down all the kingdoms of the earth.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2006