John 18:33-37 (below): In this week’s Gospel reading, Pilate mockingly asks Jesus, “Are you King of the Jews?” And in so many words Jesus answers, “Not the way you think of kings. If I were an ordinary king you’d see plenty of violence. But I was born to depend on truth as my only weapon—the truth that God’s enfleshed love won’t stay dead even if you kill it. My kingdom is not based on the business-as-usual model of this world—it’s the relentless, reconciling, enfleshed presence of God that nobody can banish, not even you.”
Well … we know where that answer got him—crowned with thorns and enthroned on a cross. It’s only with that anti-crown and from that anti-throne that he lives and reigns among us today. He does live, because the enfleshed life that God lives with him wouldn’t stay dead. And he does reign, because the power he unleashes in the world is the power of a love that will always outlast any attempt to stop it. But this is no ordinary life, and no ordinary king.
The power of an ordinary king looks impressive for a while, but it always fails. Nobody today celebrates the real presence of Pilate or Caesar—any Caesar. We do celebrate the real presence of Christ, and that in itself shows that there’s another kind of power at work in our world that may not look impressive but that doesn’t fail. That’s the power of Christ, the power of God-with-us, the power of God’s enfleshed love that won’t stay dead even if you kill it.
When Christ is king, all our ideas of royalty get turned on their heads. Trains definitely do not run on time. But enfleshed love remains stubbornly undefeated. This is no ordinary king.
John 18:33-37: 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.”