Jesus was Born for This, Too 12.9.18

John 18: 33-37
 
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate 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?’ 36Jesus 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.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘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.’
 
This week I continue our Advent celebration of Christmas Carols. Last week we sang “Good Christian Friends Rejoice” and proclaimed the good news of the second verse. Good Christian friends, rejoice, With heart and soul, and voice; Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this! He hath opened the heavenly door, And man is blessed evermore. Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this! We learned that this was what Paul also proclaimed in his letter to the Colossians: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Jesus Christ was born for this. And so good Christian friends rejoice!
 
This week we sing a different carol. “Joy to the World”. In this carol we proclaim: Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing, … Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy, … He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, … We are proclaiming Jesus to be our king who reigns and rules. Jesus was born for this, too. But what kind of King is Jesus? If you wanted a king, what kind of king would you want? Isaiah describes a perfect king: … [A]uthority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for … his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore.
 
I would like a King like that, wouldn’t you?
 
There have been many kings, queens and world leaders over the millennia. I like to read about the history of England. It is the history of kings and queens. My favorite era is the time of King Alfred the Great. He was the king who united all the different tribes in Brittan into what we now know as England. But he was “elected” King of Wessex. Elected, not elevated. Alfred’s dead brother was king and had a son. Typically, the son inherited the throne. A Witan, a gathering of tribal chiefs who had given Alfred’s family an oath of loyalty, was called to decide who would be king was when Alfred’s brother died. Alfred’s nephew assumed he would be selected. But he was not. Not with Alfred available. Alfred was, because Alfred was more stable, more intelligent and more … well … kingly. According to Wikipedia, Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English rather than Latin, and improved his kingdom’s legal system, military structure, and his people’s quality of life. He was given the epithet “the Great” during and after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Alfred was a warrior who threw the Vikings out of the south of England and, with a peace treaty, kept them at bay in the north. It worked out well for Wessex and, in the end England. Alfred was the kind of king the people wanted. The kind of leader most folks want. But even Alfred was not perfect. He did not meet all the qualifications of Isaiah’s perfect king. Alfred had authority of the Witan, was a wonderful counselor and, though a warrior, created a peaceful kingdom at the end of his reign. He was, by most accounts, righteous and just. But he wasn’t the everlasting father, or a mighty God. Alfred was king of this world and no other.
 
Jesus on the other hand, meets all of Isaiah’s requisites of perfection. Because Jesus was the mighty God and everlasting father, too. Which is why we attach Isaiah’s words to him. But is that how Jesus describes his Kingship? Not like Isaiah. Jesus describes his Kingship this way: ‘My kingdom is not from this world. … For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Jesus describes his subjects this way: Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Jesus came to be the voice of truth. What is the truth? Jesus’ testimony. What is Jesus’ testimony? ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. That’s the truth. That truth comes from our King who reigns and rules with grace and righteousness and love. A perfect king. And we want to be his disciples, his subject, right? We need to belong to him and listen to him. We want to follow him. But we need to remember that Jesus reminds us that his Kingdom is not of this world. This world has different truth. This world’s truth is that of distraction. Constant activity. Continuous communication and diversion. Sensory overload. TMI. A world that pushes God into the background. A world where relationships are electronic, superficial and self-centered. A world that pushes us to be and do what the world wants, not what God would have us do. But that is not what God wants. God wants a relationship with us! A deep, reciprocal, and personal relationship. One that requires us to withdraw from the world, at least from time to time. And we don’t want kings like Jesus who seem to require us to change or ways. To move into a different world. Which brings us to Jesus and Pilate. The Temple authorities, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin have been given the civil authority over all Jews in Judea by Rome. Now they have a problem. Jesus has been teaching in the Temple for several days that the Kingdom of God is near, and that they should seek to encounter it. He is calling the Temple authorities that they are hypocrites. He is challenging their power. Jesus is putting all that power at risk. So, they have him arrested sent off to Pilate, the only one who has the authority to have Jesus killed. But they had to make something up that would be grounds for death. They tell Pilate that Jesus claims to be king of the Jews. That is a direct challenge to Caesar! Pilate is Prefect of Judea. A representative of the king of the world, the Roman Emperor. Pilate has the power and the authority to order a death sentence. And here come these troublesome Jews raising a fuss over this Jesus. Pilate’s most important responsibility was to maintain law and order. His job, if he wanted to keep it, required that trouble be dealt with quickly and harshly. Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews. A threat! But wait, didn’t Jesus just say that he was king of some other world? Well, he said he was a king, so … Off to the cross. The people will not care because he is not the kind of king they want. They want a king of this world. Jesus does not offer that. We should all be a bit sympathetic, right? Jesus does ask a lot, doesn’t he? He asks us to seek first the Kingdom of God. To belong to it. And live like it. Disconnect from this world and enter into the Kingdom! We find that really, really hard, don’t we? We are in this world yet must live like we are in the Kingdom. We straddle the boundary between Jesus’ Kingdom and the world. How do we navigate that? We change our focus from this world to the Kingdom, even if it is from time to time. I think it looks like this. From Krista Tippet interview of former Time magazine correspondent Pico Iyer.
 
  1. TIPPETT:We’ve spoken about your notion of stillness, and that’s one way you describe your practice. One way you talk about that — a Buddhist corollary is this notion of “right absorption.” I really like that, and I think that also applies to what you just described: a discipline and maybe even a necessity for all of us in whatever kind of life we lead.
  2. IYER:Yes, I love that word “absorption” because I think that’s my definition of happiness. I think all of us know we are happiest when we forget ourselves, when we forget the time, when we lose ourselves in a beautiful piece of music or a movie or a deep conversation with a friend or an intimate encounter with someone we love. That’s our definition of happiness. Very few people feel happy racing from one text to the next to the appointment to the cell phone to the emails. If people are happy like that, that’s great. I think a lot of us have got caught up in this cycle that we don’t know how to stop and isn’t sustaining us in the deepest way. And I think we all know our outer lives are only as good as our inner lives. So to neglect our inner lives is really to incapacitate our outer lives. We don’t have so much to give to other people or the world or our job or our kids.
This means that if we want to experience Jesus as King, we need to withdraw from this world from time to time and enter into his Kingdom. Unplug. Sit down. Read some scripture. Just think. Just be. Feed and heal our inner lives so we have something to offer the world we live in here. Eugene Peterson says this: To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means … ways doing things … derivative FROM Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. … The way we talk, the way we use our influence, the way we treat one another, the way we raise our children, the way we read, the way we worship, the way we vote, the way we garden, the way we ski, the way we feel, the way we eat.  … And on and on, endlessly, the various and accumulated “ways and means” that characterize our way of life. And Jesus doesn’t just make demands. Jesus offers us much. Righteousness. Justice. Love. Salvation. Redemption. Peace. A perfect kingdom with a perfect king. So, maybe during advent we should unplug and take some time to just sit and reflect on a life in the Kingdom of Jesus. He does have all the qualifications: … [A]uthority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for … his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. For this Jesus was born.
And so, we sing:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.

Leave a Reply