My Kingdom is Not of this World

Today’s reading: John 18:28-40

OpeningGod, I praise you for the story You tell, the ultimate wonder tale You invited us to become part of. I praise You for a Kingdom with doors wide open. Show us that wonder is not far.

ReflectionSomething I immediately find interesting in this passage is the fact that the Jewish leaders are meticulous about being ceremonially clean. But they miss the heart of such cleanliness with their handling of Jesus. They find loopholes anyway!

They complain to Pilate that they have no right to kill anyone. While asking him to help kill Jesus. As if calling on another to do your dirty work leaves you with no blood on your hands.

Loopholes, you know?

Is that how we believe God works? When we participate in or perpetuate a system that allows for torture and brutality, let me tell you right now, just like that we are guilty. When we aren’t the ones that assault, but are still the voices who allow for assault, we are guilty.

Now Pilate, who doesn’t want to get involved, gets hung up on whether or not Jesus is King of the Jews, trying to define this person before him.

But Jesus shifts the focus from men’s entitlement to His life’s purpose:

“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.”

Jesus doesn’t care for this world’s label of “king” and concept of greatness. He emphasizes something else entirely.

“My kingdom is not of this world.”

Well, what is of this world? Measures of greatness in desperation, and violent battles for a name. Oppression of one people group over another, human beings tearing at one another then shrugging off the blood, going, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Many of us long for something not of this world. There’s a reason why the Cinderella tale is found in thousands of traditions–we are still shaken in wonder that an ashen and abused slave, mistreated and misnamed, can be first chosen into a kingdom with doors wide open. We’re in love with the idea that someone will find us even if we’re shut away from the palace that sent invitations to all.

Let’s get wild for a moment, even giddy and childlike. When I say a magical kingdom, what comes to mind? An isle of dragons and people soaring on their backs? A Disney castle with the clearest streams of water gleaming in the moonlight? A grassy expanse of the savannah with a tree of life under the stars, where lion and antelope lie in peace?

Now what about the people? How diverse is your image of heavenly people? Can you look at people different from you and see them as rightful citizens of heaven? No one is an illegal immigrant to heaven as far as Jesus is concerned.

Jesus also says He was born for this reason: to testify to the truth.

Now, usually when I hear Christian insistence on telling truth, it’s this rush to say, “Jesus died for you. Accept it!” and check off the back of a pamphlet and say, “Welcome, you’re in!” And ingrained with an almost shallow idea that those still on a spiritual high are more securely in than those left to so much thinking, feeling, and questioning.

But Jesus is talking about “the truth” before He dies. Surely, He wasn’t born to go around telling every town and country, “Hey, I’m gonna die, accept it, and welcome, you’re in. Oh, don’t even think about it. Really. (Or else.)”

Sorry to echo Pilate, but, what is the truth He meant? What else could He have testified to?

Perhaps something less literal and with less loopholes in it. Not just the message that He is going to die. But the truth that these people, I love them. They are now reconciled with you; you can be brothers and sisters again.

He didn’t come for conquest, as kings of this world come and go for, as Christians still make clubs about crusading in His name. He didn’t come to make us all the same image, as we’re already all equally the image of God.

He came to find us in our time, live alongside us in our cultures, and never deny us in our ashes and dirt. To prove to us, cut off and far apart, that we are still invited, never forgotten, and so loved.

Truth is, These people belong, even if you find us crazy. This is what the Kingdom looks like.

ClosingWhat truth would you testify to? What would Jesus not just die for, but live for?

What shall we do to love a kingdom not of this world?

Created by: Ellen Huang
About the author: Ellen Huang is here for the changelings, the dragons, and the unicorns of this world. She takes joy in writing twisted fairy tales, directing original skits, and venturing out to the ocean. She also loves cake, dark humor, and the occasional Thai iced tea.

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Image by: Varshesh Joshi