Based on: John 18:33-37
What is it like to have a king? None of you have ever lived in a country ruled by a king, have you? I’m afraid that living under a king is a concept that is foreign to our culture. We can not understand fully what that is like, but let me share a few examples that might give some insight.
In the book of Esther an evil man plans to destroy the Jews, but Queen Esther works to save the Jews. When the plan was first discovered, Esther’s uncle tells her to go talk to the king, but Esther explains, “If anyone goes to the king without being asked the king has the right to execute him” (paraphrase of Esther 4:11).
About 2000 years later there was a king named Henry VIII. Perhaps you have heard of him. He had 4 of his 6 marriages annulled, and two of those women, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were promptly beheaded after the annulment. The motive for so carelessly getting rid of many of his wives was that he wanted a son.
We have lived under our current form of democratic government all our lives. Perhaps we find it difficult to imagine what it was like to live under an earthly ruler that had so much power and authority over the lives and deaths of his subjects.
But just as last week on Saints Triumphant Sunday we saw the truth about who is really alive and who is really dead, today we see the truth about who really rules this kingdom. We have a powerful King ruling over us, and we see that our King is a King like no other.
Even though we often do not think about it, each one of us has a king. Each one of us has someone or something that rules us, and not just rules us, but has control over our very life and death. The question is not “Do you have a king?” but the question is “Who is your king?”
The Apostle Paul says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey” (Romans 6:16). Doesn’t that make sense? Even if you don’t want to consciously admit that you have a king, if you act like a subject in one kingdom or another then you become a subject in that kingdom.
To which kingdom do you belong? I will give you three choices. The first is Satan. Of course you don’t want Satan as your king, but have you ever thought that disobeying God was really what was best for you? When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he basically told them that what God wanted was not what was best for them. So, for a current day example, God wants you to hear what he has to say to you – not just once, but over and over again. What if you continually say to God, “I have other plans that are more important this Sunday than hearing your Word”? You are giving in to Satan’s temptation! You are doing exactly what Adam and Eve did and when you give in to Satan’s temptation you become a part of his kingdom. You say, “Oh Satan, you are my king!”
Here is your second choice. Is the world your king? Maybe you think that because other people are buying a new car, a flat-screen TV, boat, clothes, or whatever it might be on black Friday, that you need to buy those things as well. Or maybe you think that because someone else is using offensive language, telling lies, or spreading rumors that it is OK for you to do it. Or it could be any number of things that you justify to yourself by thinking, “Well, other people are doing it.” If you let others in the world determine your own behavior, you show the control they have over you and you have just made the world your king.
Your third choice is the worst of all. It is the one that gives us the most trouble. It is you. Do you make yourself into your own king? Perhaps you think things should be done a certain way because that’s the way you like them, or you look at people who struggle with sins that you don’t struggle with and you feel a little pride that you are not like them. Maybe you think you know what’s best for you and so you aren’t too concerned about what God’s Word says or others think. You have made yourself king over a kingdom of one.
I have in no way exhausted the ways we make one of these three our king. Day after day by our sin we run to Satan, the world, and ourselves and say, “Be my king”, even though they only bring death. None of them can give us what we really need – the truth.
Satan lied to Adam and Eve so they would give up the blessings God had given them, and Satan lies to us too for the same reason. The world makes promises that so many things will make us happy, but in the end the world only wants us to share in all it’s misery and pain. And as for making ourselves king – if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we are spiritually lost and blind. We don’t have the truth.
There is only one source for the truth – Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus came into the world and stood in front of Pontius Pilate for the very purpose of bringing us the truth. He is a King like no other.
As we see him standing in front of Pilate, does he look like a king? Certainly, he does not look like any earthly king we would expect to see. His clothes are plain. His hands are tied. He has bruises and wounds. He has no visible kingdom. He controls no territory. No people come to protect him. In fact, those who claimed to be followers deserted him. If we didn’t know any better we would think he was a lunatic and out of touch with reality to call himself a king.
But Jesus himself explains that he is a King like no other, "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."
Jesus is the King, a King like no other. His kingdom is not a worldly kingdom. It has no defined boundaries and it is not made up of only one ethnic group. No, his kingdom is made up of all those who listen to the truth – “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” What is the truth?
The truth is that we started out in those three kingdoms of Satan, world, and self. We believed the lies and followed them wholeheartedly. We didn’t want to be anywhere else or serve anyone else. But these kingdoms and their leaders were headed for eternal death. As their followers, we would suffer right along with them.
The more wonderful truth to which Jesus testifies is that God loves us. We see God’s love for sinners in this King, Jesus, because this King is like no other. He does not gather people into his kingdom so they can serve him. Instead, he serves us so that we can be a part of his kingdom.
That is why he stands in front of Pilate. He is standing there as our king to purchase us for his kingdom. The entire time he stood before Pilate, King Jesus was in control. Even as he hung on the cross he was testifying to the truth that God does love us. By his blood he bought us, he purchased us from the kingdoms that only lead to death and made us a part of his kingdom where there is life.
This King, who does not look like a king as he stands in front of Pilate, is a King. He is the only true King, the King of truth. You know the truth because you listen to him and the truth is that you are a part of his kingdom. On the last day you will see him coming on the clouds in all his splendor – looking like the King he is, a King like no other.