Where is your kingdom?


Please read John 18:33-37

The dichotomy of this world or the world to come is evident in this passage from John. It is the end of the liturgical year - Christ the King Sunday - and another opportunity to decide where your kingdom loyalties lie.

The “Jesus situation,” if you will, is being dumped on Pontius Pilate, Governor of the Roman province of Palestine. This region’s physical location is on a major trade route. Security of this region is a necessity for the empire. And while there is money to be made in trade, uprising and rebellions can be very disruptive. Wealthy people, military powers and governments do not like this, and any sign of instability is seen as a threat that gets put down with an iron hand. Pilate is wondering why he is getting this case for him to judicate. For him this is a religious matter, not a security threat.

But the religious Temple authorities tell a different narrative. They are adamant that Jesus and his followers are a dangerous group of insurgents dedicated to the overthrow of the government. After all, Jesus their leader, is reported to have said as much with his vision about creating a new kingdom. With this information at hand, the Temple elite turn Jesus over in hopes that Rome will do the dirty work that good upstanding clergy just do not do.

In this scene, Jesus is questioned by Pilate. Jesus answers, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting..."
This got Pilate’s attention. We remember from the Garden of Gethsemane scene that indeed there were some in the ranks who were ready to fight, but not Jesus. The vision of Jesus is bigger than a military showdown.

There is a conflict at play here. Jesus and Pilate, two men from completely different contexts, also serve two different deities. One the living God, the creator of the world and the other the temporal god Caesar, leader of the empire with a polytheistic pagan religion. One who is the son of the highest God. One who has political intentions and would gladly advance up the ladder to be near his god and king in Rome. One wields earthy military power and the other, the power of self-sacrifice.

Christ the King Sunday invites us to consider this conflict. Which power do you choose? An honest answer might say “both.” We like to have it both ways. And that is why Christ the King is important to celebrate. We must deal with our contradictions about power and authority.

In our own time we are struggling with these forces. We have the growing world refugee crisis, the struggle with the pandemic and the inequities of vaccination distribution, climate change and the deaf ear to justice by the very powers that have the money to shield themselves from the most devasting effects. Which kingdom do you want? Oh, I know the default answer for the well-mannered Christian, but we struggle too. But to think that you or I are immune? Really? Are you sure it is not just your denial kicking in? I don't know about you, but I am pretty good at denial as was Peter. In fact, he had three experiences right in a row – because denial is a powerful force. But whether in denial or not we are still confronted with which kingdom we will serve. I hope all of us might look with fresh eyes and take stock on this closing Sunday in the Church Year.

• When has there been a time you caught yourself in this conflict?
• How have you been aware of the impact of denial in your life?
• What has denial saved you from? What relationships did it keep you from embracing?
• What realities help you break free of the fear that denial saves you from?


Rev. Dr. Todd D. Anderson, Ohio River Valley District Superintendent 
West Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church