LORD’S DAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 26 April 2020
Sermon Text: John 18:33-40
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I. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world
II. Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of truth
III. The question all seek, “What is truth?”
We’ve been following John’s Gospel and opened up the last section of ch. 18. Next Sunday, we’ll jump to its last chapter, ch. 21, because we’ve already covered chapters 19 and 20 over this past Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, over several weeks, we’ve been focusing on the final moments of Jesus’ life and ministry. One thing we’ve found out and reminded of with these last chapters of John is that Jesus our Lord longed to die on the cross, thus, fulfill His mission, that is, to draw to Himself as many as were appointed to eternal life. He so desired to accomplish this mission and see all His elect come to Him and receive His eternal life.
So, coming to our text passage in ch. 18 and explaining its background, I guess you remember what began from the Mount of Olives and on up to this far to the end of ch. 18. In that evening, Jesus saw the mobs who came to arrest Him, and He eagerly presented Himself to them. Then, He was taken to Annas the high priest. He was interrogated in the high priest’s court. Then, He was sent to Caiaphas, the high priest of that year, and before the Sanhedrin which was the Jewish high court. After that, finally Jesus was brought to Pilate, the Roman governor, and our text passage covers what happened in the governor’s headquarters while it was still early morning.
Considering what happened to Jesus in that night and the following morning, I believe that this moment in the Roman governor’s headquarters was the quietest moment since His arrest at the Mount of Olives; it was rather a restful moment for Jesus who had had no time to rest overnight. Jews were still noisy outside the building, but inside, Jesus might’ve been attended by just a few officials and Roman guards. There, facing Pilate the governor, Jesus might’ve enjoyed the last moment of calmness before the fever of crucifixion, and He would’ve utilised that moment for taking a deep breath.
And it is interesting to hear through the apostle John that Jesus also used this brief moment for explaining the nature of His kingdom. Was it a suitable moment for teaching a subject like that? Jesus could’ve done it at another time earlier than this while He had plenty of time, and in fact, He had taught His disciples about His kingdom. Then, why was He explaining it again at this strange time and place? Was Jesus simply answering to Pilate?
The answer is ‘no’ to all of these questions. Jesus intended this very moment be used for explaining what His kingdom was about to not Pilate, but to all His disciples scattered at that moment and all Christians after them, including you and me. He was answering to Pilate, but His answer, His teaching on His kingdom was for all true believers throughout generations to hear, understand and rejoice. In a word, that was the best moment for giving a lesson on Jesus’ kingdom. That moment in Pilate’s headquarters – the then centre of worldly politics – was the best chosen place and moment for telling us about the nature of His kingdom, thus, about what you and I must understand in terms of Jesus’ lordship and kingship as well as our citizenship in His kingdom. So, Jesus’ lesson in this section of Jn. 18 is important for us who continue our life in a worldly regime but belong to the only true and eternal kingdom.
So, let us follow our Lord as He talks about His kingdom in terms of what it is not, firstly, then, what it is.
I. JESUS’ KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD
Firstly, the Lord says in v. 36 that His kingdom is not of this world and not from the world. Literally, He means that His kingdom – which is often called as ‘the kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’ – neither come from this world, nor exist by the consent of this world. This is the first important point everyone must understand.
Someone might want to change the term, ‘kingdom,’ to something like ‘nation’ or ‘regime’ because we no longer live in the era of kings and princes and nobles, but in an extremely democratic world. After all, the UK and Japan and some other nations still have their kings and queens, but no longer do they rule their nations.
However, the main concept of ‘kingdom’ remains the same; it cannot be changed because every nation and kingdom share the exactly same three fundamental elements for their existence. To be either a kingdom or a nation, a governing body is required (that is, either king/queen or president/prime minister), then, a land and a people over which that governing body exercises sovereign authority are required. If a nation or kingdom lacks any of these three foundational elements, that is no longer a nation or kingdom. No kingdom on earth is without a king but a territory and a people – no. No nation in this world can claim its independency and sovereignty while it has no land or no citizen. It’s like a pot that has three legs.
This is exactly what Jesus is referring to and says that His kingdom is not like any kingdom or nation of this world. In other words, Jesus’ kingdom does not necessarily require all three fundamental elements. His kingdom does not stem from a land with a people; His kingdom does not depend on any worldly elements, but stands solely on Jesus’ kingship.
Let me explain this with the example of Noah’s time and generation in the OT. If you remember Gen. 6, especially vs. 5-8, the Bible says that no one in Noah’s generation looked to God but all of them were evil. Although Noah found favour in the eyes of God, as v. 8 says, that was a favour rather than an earned status. After all, Noah’s family weren’t mentioned as righteous but saved by grace from the flood. So, none in that generation belonged to God’s kingdom, but His kingdom continued its existence.
The point is that God’s kingdom, Jesus’ kingdom does not depend on physical existence or nonexistence of its citizens and land. Jesus’ kingdom does not rise or fall subject to any of these elements. If any nation of this world lacks any of the three elements, that nation falls and disappears. But not for Jesus’ kingdom. So, His kingdom is not ‘of’ this world – in other words, not subject to anything of this world; and His kingdom is not ‘from’ this world – that is, nothing of this world grants power, authority or sovereignty to Jesus’ kingdom. His kingdom stands alone by Jesus’ kingship, and I’ll explain it more in a minute.
But before moving on, let me briefly touch two common faults some people make in terms of understanding Jesus’ kingdom. Firstly, some try to understand this kingdom like any earthly nation. So, they regard Christ’s kingdom in the form of church, clergies, believers, or anything of Christianity. Nonexistence of such things means to them nonexistence of Christ’s kingdom. Pilate’s first question to Jesus is a typical example; he asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Of course, He is not; rather, He is the King of the whole universe. The kingdom Jesus talks about depends none of anything that is visible, physical or measurable.
The second fault some others fall is about the relationship between Jesus’ kingdom and the present worldly regime. Some try to divide two, claiming that Christ’s kingdom has nothing to do with the mundane things of this world. But, some others say that this world must reflect the nature and attributes of Jesus’ kingdom, thus, Christians and churches must get themselves involved in the affairs of this worldly regime to change it socially, politically as well as theologically and bring it under Christ’s authority. But Jesus’ kingdom is not a ‘better’ regime in form and philosophy, nor is it a separate administration. Christ’s kingdom is far greater than any and all worldly nations collectively. His kingdom is not anything that could be numbered with nations of this world. Both of these views misunderstand what the kingdom of Jesus Christ is, thus, miss its true nature.
II. JESUS’ KINGDOM IS A KINGDOM OF TRUTH
Then, what is Jesus’ kingdom? Jesus’ kingdom is, in a word, a kingdom of truth. And this is our next point to consider.
Saying that Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of truth is exciting and amazing. Exciting, first, because Jesus’ kingdom is the true kingdom and a perfect kingdom, lacking nothing in any sense. Whereas nations rise and fall, this kingdom under the name of our Lord never falls but stands eternally. Also, amazing as much as exciting because this kingdom exceeds man’s expectation, exceeds man’s imagination or anticipation. No one can see its origin because this kingdom is older than the whole world that exists, let alone any earthly nation; no one can claim that he has grasped it because he is finite like a breath, but this kingdom is infinite in length, power and glory. In fact, news of its existence should blow away any human mind that happens to hear of it and starts to figure out that it truly exists!
Jesus says in Jn. 18:37 that He came to this world to bear witness to the truth of this kingdom. This truth is, as the entire Bible testifies, about God who is the Creator; this truth is about sinners who have rebelled against God, thus, are dead in sin, deserving eternal damnation; this truth is about Jesus the Son who came into the world and died in the place of sinners; moreover, this truth is about anyone and everyone who comes to God through repentance and faith in the Son will be forgiven of their sins and receive the eternal life of Jesus Christ. This truth is the good news Jesus brought to the world and proclaimed to the ears of sinners like us.
So, Jesus’ kingdom of truth means, simply put, ‘reality’ of all things. Jesus’ kingdom of truth means, there is a realm eternal and true beyond all and every form of illusion and disguise and unreality and lie. There’s a kingdom under the rule and dominion of the righteous King, Jesus Christ. You may not see it; you may not touch it; you may not taste it, but it surely is there. In a word, Jesus’ kingdom – which is a kingdom of truth – is the only kingdom that truly and really exists whereas all other nations and regimes are shadows. You look at kings, queens, prime ministers, presidents, dictators and more, but they disappear and are no longer remembered. World’s history lists powerful empires and nations like Rome, Mongol, British, Soviet Union and the United States of America; who knows any other superpowers would appear in the future? But most of these have already been forgotten and the rest will soon be erased from the face of the earth. But the kingdom of our Lord is not like any of these, but stands eternally because this kingdom alone is the reality and truth!
Many of Jesus’ teaching simply points your eyes to this reality, to this truth of the real kingdom. Take Mt. 6:31 and 33, for example, and listen to the Lord’s words: He says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Here, the Lord means that being anxious about eating, drinking and wearing is to miss the reality for illusion, leaving the substance behind and chasing after shadow. And the reality is God and His sure and perfect plan for His beloved. Daily provisions such as food, drinks and clothes are simply a means or channel of God achieving His will for His dear children. So they should not worry about those things but consider the will of their heavenly Father for them.
Let’s talk about it with a couple of daily activities everyone is engaged. As you drive your car, going somewhere, you only concern about how to reach there safely in time. You would not be anxious about how your petrol is drawn from the petrol tank and flows through the fuel supply line. No, you don’t do that. Or when you walk, you would never be anxious about how your individual leg muscles move and how your blood cells carry all necessary nutrition to those muscles. No, you don’t do that. Instead, you look ahead and be watchful of your way, yet, enjoy your environment. Why would you not be anxious about such things as your fuel or your muscles? Because it’s silly to be anxious about something that goes naturally and runs automatically; because, doing so, you’d miss the real and true purpose as well as its real joy. Seeking and chasing after what is not real is silly and harmful.
Truth is that people in sin are blind and they only listen to sin’s lie. Therefore, their eyes focus on unreal things and shadows. So, Jesus came into the midst of sinners and drew them and draws us to His truth, His reality, that is, the reality of God and Jesus and His salvation. He came to bear witness to this truth, to His kingdom of truth.
III. THE QUESTION ALL SEEK “WHAT IS TRUTH?”
Pilate heard Jesus’ words. And did he understand the Lord? No, he didn’t. He turned away and went out to meet the Jews and exercise his authority as the governor of that land and those people. But before turning away from Jesus, he made an interesting inquiry and said, “What is truth?” I believe that this is God’s work carefully wrought out for our good.
In fact, this is what all people, sinners, ask, isn’t it? Everyone wants to know what truth is, and truth is sought after from a kindergarten classroom to a death bed. So, Pilate asked on behalf of all sinners of the world, ‘What is truth?’
Funny thing is that he had the truth; he faced the truth, and spoke to and heard from the truth, Jesus Christ! But he turned away from the truth, never grasped the truth!
The answer to this most-sought-after-question is truly simple, that is, to know Jesus. To know who He is and what He has done and promised is the answer. No wonder why the Lord says in Jn. 14:6 that He is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” and in Jn. 5:39 that “the Scriptures … bear witness about” Him, the Christ. No wonder why Jesus says in Jn. 14:7, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Jesus is the truth and knowing Him is the only way to have the only answer to this age-long-inquiry, ‘What is truth?’
So, knowing Jesus who is the truth means that you and I abandon our former way of the world and our worldly and materialistic viewpoint, and enjoy following Jesus, seeing all things through His point of view. Know for certain that Jesus’ kingdom is reality; Jesus is your King and mine, and our heavenly Father is faithful. Also rejoice always as Christ’s kingdom will come on earth as is in heaven, and He shall reign forever and ever together with us! ***