Christ the King John 18:33-37 November 21, 2021

We follow what is called the Church Year.  Four Sundays before Christmas we celebrate that Jesus, the Son of God was born; and one day He will bring a new Heaven and a New Earth.  We celebrate how Jesus showed himself to be God’s son.  Then we focus on the meaning of his suffering and death. Then we celebrate his rising from the dead.  Then we focus on the birthday of Christianity and for almost half the year we ponder the question what it means for the Church to be Christ’s presence in the world.  Then we come to Christ the King Sunday.  It is like the Hallelujah Chorus of the Church year.

Jesus is King.  He is monarch of the universe.  What does that mean?  Today the Church picks as its gospel for the day, Jesus’ encounter with Pilate, in the middle of the night before he is crucified, to compare and contrast the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God.

He has been arrested by the religious authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane.  At the High Priest’s home, he was put on trial for blasphemy.  The real reason was he had overturned the tables of the money changers at the Temple, messing with their money at the great religious festival of Passover, celebrating God freeing them from their slavery in Egypt.

They decided he was guilty of blasphemy and wanted him killed.  But the Romans saved execution for themselves.  So, in the middle of the night they went to Pilate’s Headquarters and accused Jesus of declaring himself a King.  That would mean that he was a revolutionary preparing to take over political power.  They wanted him crucified as a potential terrorist.

Oh, the irony of the moment.  They have twisted things to make Jesus really look bad so they can appeal he be executed, but at the same time they would not go into Pilate’s headquarters, because entering the house of a non-Jew would defile them and keep them from going to the Passover events.

So, Pilate comes back in to interview Jesus.  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus turns the question around.  “Are you asking this question on your own, or have others told you?”  Pilate is irritated.  He is used to asking the questions.  The man before him should be pleading not to be crucified, and instead he is asking Pilate the questions.  Pilate responds, “Am I a Jew?”  I don’t understand why they want you dead.  “Jesus, what have you done?”  “My Kingdom is not of this world.  If it was, my followers would be rioting right now to free me.”

“So, you are a king.”  “You say 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 me listens to my voice.”

Pilate represents earthly power.  It involves having an army greater than your perceived opponents.  It involves having your headquarters in a palace and looking out for the rich and well connected.  It involves taking all you can from the poor and ignoring the needs of the widows and the orphans.  It gives you the power to free prisoners or execute them.  It is basically a kingdom of death.

Jesus is a different sort of King.  He is a king who loves humanity, especially the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  He spends time with people rejected by the religious and politically elite. His is a Kingdom that brings life, hope, and new beginnings.

The kingdoms of this world go to war against their enemies and attempt to crush them, and rape them of their power and resources like England and France raped Germany after World War I.  The treaty of Versailles planted the seeds of World War 2.  Germany went through a terrible economic depression, and a terrible dictator came to power, Adolph Hitler, and evil such as the world has never seen before was unleashed, including the extermination of six million Jews.

On the other hand, when the allies won World War 2 Europe was devastated.  General George Marshall convinced the US needed to rebuild Europe, even Germany and help them start over.

Today, most of Europe are our allies.

In India the British had firm control of the country and had made it a colony.  After World War 2 the people there wanted to be free.  They did not have the tanks or military hardware to remove England so under the leadership of Ghandi they began to non-violently oppose British rule.  This soft power won them their freedom.

In Germany after World War 2 they decided they needed to own up to the atrocities of Hitler.  They ripped down swastikas, and signs of Hitler’s power.  After the allies finished their trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg the civil authorities punished all the supporters of the 3rd Reich, especially the prison guards.

In South Africa when apartheid was ended the nation formed a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”  The idea was everyone would be forgiven of what they had done wrong during apartheid if they came forward and confessed their sins.  That was a new beginning for the nation.

Jesus’ Kingdom is of the heart.  He softens our hearts so that we might be ready to forgive folks who have done evil to us even before they beg us for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a mighty river that can flow through our hearts and cleanse us of all anger and bitterness and be an open channel for us to experience forgiveness.  But if we attempt to dam that power by holding onto anger and resentment the river cannot flow and cleanse us.

Jesus’ love flowing through us causes us to help our neighbor build a ramp to take his wife in a wheelchair out the door to get medical care.  And the congregation gives money to purchase the steel to build the ramp.

Jesus’ love flows when we decide it is more important to give the furniture we have collected for a yard sale and give it to Open Door Ministry.

Jesus’ love flows when we use the Angel Tree to give needed Christmas gifts to the needy children.

The list goes on and on.  But these kinds of actions inspired by Jesus brings the Kingdom of God a little closer to our world.

Yes, this is the day we celebrate Christ the King who inspires soft power and humanity looking out for each other.  Amen.