A reading and a reflection
St John 18: 28-38
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate 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?’ Jesus 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.’ Pilate 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.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
“Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.” If you are anything like me, you picture Morecambe and Wise mucking around with a skull. Did you know it’s a mis-quote? I’m so familiar with Eric and Ernie’s version that I remember it better than old Billy Shakespeare’s.
Here’s another: “Do you take this man?” … “I do.”
Except it’s not ‘I do’, but ‘I will.’ It makes a difference. Little words can mean a lot.
There’s a little word in today’s passage that means a lot.
‘of’. Words don’t get much shorter than that.
“My kingdom is not of this world.” That’s how many of us remember it. Jesus is explaining that he’s not the ‘riding on a noble steed, vanquishing the enemies’ type of king that many were expecting, and that’s true. But it might sound like his kingdom is other-worldly, ethereal, nothing to do with the here-and-now, and that’s not.
The Greek word for ‘of’ is another short one: ‘ek’. It means of, but also out of, either physically (like ‘exit’) or logically – the reason or source. ‘My kingdom is not from this world.’
So where is it from? Where does ‘kingness’ come from?
Here in the UK we’re celebrating our Queen’s diamond jubilee, but some time over the next few years we’ll be mourning her loss and proclaiming a new king. Who proclaimed Jesus king?
It sure as heck wasn’t Pilate!
That’s what Jesus was saying: ‘Yes, I have a kingdom, but it comes from a much higher authority than this world. I’m not a king because the Roman Empire recognises me, or because the Jewish people call me that. I’m a king because God says so. My identity and calling are from God, not from this world.’
So what about us? What about me, what about you?
Are our identity and calling from this world, or from God?
God of eternity, God of present,
God of there and then, God of here and now,
may I find the source of my being in your love,
may I know the base of my calling in you,
may I rest content in hearing you call me your own.