Tale of Two Kingdoms

This is a story of two kingdoms. Both firmly planted on earth. Both with rulers who claim and demand unquestioned allegiance. One of them is rooted in the ability of humans to win wars and wage peace, to conduct trade and keep the populous content. The other is rooted in God Almighty whose kingdom is eternal and, although it encompasses our earth, it is not founded or originating of this world.

A legend is told of a king who travelled throughout the countryside somewhat incognito. One Sunday he chose to worship one in a small church in which he sat quiet and prayerfully in a pew. A woman entered the church and informed this man that “He was in her pew”. The man quietly moved to another pew to worship. At the end of the service the minister, who knew the King was visiting announced the presence their Lord in worship and invited him to say a few words.

How would you have liked to have been that woman? Maybe she was shocked, embarrassed, or confused? She might have been bothered that she didn’t recognize him in street clothes. Perhaps she excused her behavior because he wasn’t dressed like a king. But that brings up another question, is that how she’d treat anyone? One would hope she was heartsick about the way she had treated him.

But before we’re too hard on her how many of us have treated Christ as if He had invaded our space. I’m guilty of expecting Jesus to kowtow to my plans and desires. I’ve prayed as though my situation was the most important. I’ve expected others whom he brings into my sphere of knowing to behave in an acceptable manner and not embarrass me. In other words, I’ve told Jesus to get out of my pew and go somewhere else. And I’ve done it more than once.

That was the problem for Jews in the 1st Century. They missed who Jesus was because he didn’t meet the expectations their own minds had set out for him. He didn’t do what they thought he needed too. He didn’t act the way they were taught and had come to expect him to act. The reason for such a disconnect is quite simple. Humans don’t understand the ‘truth’ of God’s Kingdom.

Human truth is fluid. What we ‘believe’ often is shown to be incorrect or only true in certain situations. We often confuse truth with opinion so questions like, “What was the cause of the civil war?” or “Should the Atom bomb have been used in WW2?” may become open to a variety or ‘true statements’ often at odds. Not so with God’s truth.

God ordained His Son, Jesus to be King of his creation. God’s plan lays out how our fallen human race can be saved and restored to their creator. At Jesus’ baptism the heaven’s opened and God declared Jesus’ position. “This is my beloved son with whom I am pleased.” When Jesus was transfigured, and Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. The Father declares Jesus’ authority with the command, “hear him”.  Jesus’ authority comes from His Father, God Almighty. Jesus exercised His power in the way he loved and cared for people. This is his plan for His Body, the Church. Jesus healed the sick, exorcised demons, and did other works proving He alone is the long-awaited Messiah. The not so easy truth is that Christ is the universal King.

We, the Church, His body are called to exercise His power by serving others, by forgiving others, by healing others, by giving to others and by sacrificing for others. His power is the power of truth, the power of faith, the power of hope, the power of love and the power of life itself.

The Jewish leaders weren’t convinced. Their charge against Jesus before Pilate was that Jesus was a usurper to Caesar. Understand that there had not been a king in Israel since Herod the Great. His son, Herod Antipas, “was exiled for simply requesting the title, which an earlier emperor, Augustus, had granted Herod the Great.) (Kenner)."

In Greek the term Kingdom has a dual force—realm and reign. It refers to the place over which a King has dominion and to the “kingly function, authority or power; sovereignty, supreme rule; the position or rank of a king, kingship (Beasley-Murray 330).”

In verse 37, Jesus describes his kingdom to Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The sentence starts with ego ‘I’ which emphasizes that it is His Kingdom, so Pilate was right. Jesus is a King. But Jesus’ birth and coming are not simple facts of history. His birth and coming was not a one-and-done deal. Both his birth, and his coming continues impacting our world and lives today. God’s Kingdom is still alive.

It is not a stretch to understand Jesus’ description of who He is as an invitation to Pilate to believe. One British writer describes it as “Jesus the prisoner sets his judge in the dock! (Beasley-Murray 332).” But that was not to be for Pilates answer, “What is truth?” demonstrates his unwillingness to even entertain the idea.

Is there a difference between those who are a citizen of God’s kingdom and those of Rome, Russia, or the United States of America? A former missionary in Laos tells of how the Kings of Laos and Vietnam taxed their citizens in the times before colonial map making.

Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited (Hess-Yoder).

We live within and among this world and the political, social, and cultural powers that rule it. But our citizenship is in heaven and so, our standards and values should be in line with our Lord’s Kingdom rather than our world’s.

The fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in all it’s glory will shatter creation itself. John describes it as a “new heaven and earth”. Listen once more to Daniel’s description,

13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

    there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

    and was presented before him.

14 And to him was given dominion

    and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

    should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

    which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

    that shall not be destroyed.

Let us pray,

 

Works Cited:

Beasley-Murray, George R. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36: John. 2nd ed. Dallas: Word Books Incorporated, 2002. Print.

Hess-Yoder, John. "Kingdom Citizenship." Preaching Today. Web. 23 Nov. 2018.

Kenner, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1993. Print.

Bibliography:

Beasley-Murray, George R. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36: John. 2nd ed. Dallas: Word Books Incorporated, 2002. Print.

Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2003. Print.

Carson, Donald Arthur. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016. Print.

Hess-Yoder, John. "Kingdom Citizenship." Preaching Today. Web. 23 Nov. 2018.

Kane, Jim. "We Hold These Truths." Sermon Central. 2002. Web. 22 Nov. 2018.

Kenner, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1993. Print.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publ., 1985. Print.