Christ’s Kingdom is Not of This World
Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
37 Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:36-37)
The origin of the kingdom one builds defines how that person and his or her agents engage their opponents! Jesus’ Kingdom is not “of this world,” as most English translations read. I quoted the NET Bible above because it gives the best sense of the original. Jesus is not saying that his kingdom has no relationship to this world, as the vague “of” could imply. He is saying that His kingdom is from another place, not this world. In fact, to be clear, Jesus finishes verse 36 saying, “My kingdom is not from this place.”
The kingdom over which Jesus is Lord, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, having all authority in heaven and on earth, is the kingdom about which Jesus speaks. That kingdom is being established here on earth. We are, after all, called to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Why did Jesus tell us that His kingdom is from another place? What significance can this have in the life of God’s people in the world? In order to answer these, let’s start with another: What did Jesus mean when he said, “If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…”?
The origin, or source, of the kingdom one builds defines how that person and his or her agents engage their opponents!
To be clear, Jesus is not speaking about “fighting” in the metaphorical sense. He is saying, “If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be engaged in hand-to-hand combat, or maybe a knife fight.” The origin, or source, of the kingdom one builds defines how that person and his or her agents engage their opponents!
As a church we’ve been studying Matthew’s Gospel. In the Sermon on the Mount we see what a kingdom from heaven looks like. It looks quite the opposite of the kingdoms which come from this world. This week our nation celebrates our independence. Many times we will sing and/or hear sang the Star Spangled Banner, with its lines “Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” That describes how earthly kingdoms are born. However, Jesus’ kingdom is from another place and comes in a completely different way, as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear.
The Star Spangled Banner describes how earthly kingdoms are born. However, Jesus’ kingdom is from another place and comes in a completely different way.
Here in John, Jesus makes clear the alternative method he has in mind as he speaks to Pilate. “For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Jesus is not fighting but is testifying to the truth. He is about to be crucified as a means of testifying to the truth. The truth that the best of world governments and religions (the Romans and the Jews) will crucify the only fully Innocent One in order to maintain power.
Jesus will be a faithful witness to the truth as he goes to the cross. As the agents of Christ’s kingdom follow suit, fighting is replaced with testifying to the truth. Testifying to the truth involves words but, like Jesus, also involves suffering, even dying. Sometimes the greatest testimony to the truth is proclaimed through suffering. We would not know the depth of the horror of Hitler’s ideology without the testimony of those who suffered and died in concentration camps.
Sometimes the greatest testimony to the truth is proclaimed through suffering.
What significance can this truth have in the life of God’s people in the world? Much. Sadly, as God’s people we are slow to learn the lesson of the cross. We rightly desire Christ’s kingdom of peace to come into the world more fully, but we often think that we will accomplish this by force. We must testify to the truth; but we must not use the power of the sword to bring about Christ’s kingdom. If we do, our fighting births a kingdom that is not from heaven.
Closer to home, the same applies in our marriages. How are you trying to bring about God’s will on earth? Anger, harsh words, hatred, unforgiveness, retaliation and payback, are all means of fighting and can only bring about a kingdom from this world. Love, words that build up, forgiveness, and returning good for evil are the only ways to bring about that which comes from heaven.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,