John #8 | A Subversive 👑

February 23, 2020

John 18:28-38a

28 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. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 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.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 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?” 36 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.” 37 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.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

(Duccio di Buoninsegna - Christ Before Pilate Again)

King

If you have been reading the Gospel of John with us, you know what this truth Pilate asks references (14:6-7).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The focus of John’s gospel is eternal life. And as I shared last week, eternal life is life in relationship with God and Jesus and those who believe. Eternal life "isn’t a place or a gift or a certificate of acquittal, but a relationship."¹ And this relationship reveals a kingdom where Jesus sits at its throne. And this kingdom embodies an alternative politics. In this kingdom, the king marches sitting on a donkey. In this kingdom, the king kneels to wash his peoples’ feet. In this kingdom, the king still invites his betrayer to his table. In this kingdom, drawing a sword is not the appropriate response to violence. In this kingdom, conquest is fulfilled with the king dying a violent death on the cross. In this kingdom, "greatness is lowliness and compassion, the last is first, and loving matters most."²

This king gives his people a new way of life, that is an alternative to this world. Stanley Hauerwas describes this king like this:

“He gave them a new way to deal with offenders—by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence—by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money—by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership—by drawing on the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society—by building a new order, not making the old. He gave them a new pattern of relationships between man and woman, between parent and child, between master and slave, in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person.”³

This is the kind of king the Christian church worships. And this subverted image of kingship guides the church’s lifestyle. In the Book of Acts, the persecutors of the Christian church blamed Christians for “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6-7).

The church is to be a community that is an alternative to the world. That’s why we do what we do despite living in our busy, distracted, and egotistic world: show up in the beginning of the week to reorient ourselves to the king, build relationships and friendships outside of our comfort zone, sharing our stories and our resources with one another, inviting and guiding one another in the journey of love.

Lent

Starting this week's Ash Wednesday, we are entering the season of Lent where we ask these questions more diligently.

  • What does it mean to worship such a subversive king?
  • What does it mean to be a part of community that is an alternative to the world?

This week, I want to challenge each one of you. Why don’t you go back and think what would be the best practice to reconfigure ourselves to the subversive nature of Jesus’ kingdom? What practice/discipline would realign ourselves to this alternative community?

(resourceumc.org)

My ask is to think one practice which you can comit yourselves to for this Lenten season. And next Sunday, we will come back together and share what our practices are going to be. Let us pray.

This post is an adapted excerpt from Minoo Kim's sermon from 2/24/2020.

¹ William Loader, "Easter 7: 28 May John 17:1-11," Bill Loader's Home Page.

² William Loader, "Christ the King: 25 November John 18:33-37," Bill Loader's Home Page.

³ Stanley Hauerwas, "What's love got to do with it? The politics of the cross," ABC Religion & Ethics.