Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Where are you from? The way that you answer that question reveals a lot about who you are. The essence of who you are and the reality of where you are from are intimately related questions. People everywhere are sensitive to this, but Mainers are especially so. Iâ€™ve noticed that when I meet someone here in Maine, the first question they often ask is â€œWhere are you from?â€, even before asking the standard question, â€œWhat do you do?â€ Mainers intrinsically know that who you are is intimately related to where you are from. Perhaps this is why I will never be a true Mainerâ€”Iâ€™m not from here. Only people born in Maineâ€”only people who are from hereâ€”are true Mainers. Who you are and where you are from are intimately related. In our Gospel Reading for this Christ the King Sunday, we hear a portion of St. Johnâ€™s account of Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate. In this brief exchange, we see that Pilate is extremely concerned with who Jesus is. The problem is, he fails to ask the all-important question, â€œWhere are you from?â€
2. Letâ€™s consider our text more closely.
Therefore Pilate again came into the Praetorium [that is, his headquarters] and he called Jesus and said to him, â€œAre you the king of the Jews?â€ (John 18:33).
Do you see what Pilate is concerned with? He wants to know who Jesus is. He wants to know if Jesus is a king. He wants to know if Jesus is a rival either to himself or to Caesar. Who are you, Jesus? Are you a king? Are you the king of the Jews? Of course, we know the answer to this. Jesus is a king, but not in the sense that Pilate thinks.
Jesus replied, â€œDo you say this from yourself or did others tell you this concerning me?â€ (John 18:34).
Jesus knows that if he answers Pilateâ€™s question outright, it will do more harm than good because Pilate wonâ€™t understand the nature of Jesusâ€™ kingship. So, Jesus changes the focus.
Pilate replied, â€œAm I a Jew? Your nation and chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?â€ (John 18:35).
Now Jesus is going to begin to answer Pilateâ€™s question.
Jesus replied, â€œMy kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom was from this world, my servants would be fighting in order that I not be handed over to the Jews. But now, my kingdom is not from here.â€ Therefore, Pilate said to him, â€œSo, you are a king?â€ (John 18:36-37a).
On one level, Pilate is starting to understand who Jesus is. He recognizes that Jesus is a king. But on another level, he has absolutely no idea who Jesus is because heâ€™s missing the point of where Jesus is from. Jesus is a king, but his kingdom is not from this world. If it were, his servants would have fought and overpowered Pilates servants so that Jesus would have been freed. But Jesusâ€™ kingdom is not from here.
3. So, where is Jesusâ€™ kingdom from? In our Second Reading, we heard the answer to this:
â€œTo him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see himâ€ (Revelation 1:5b-7a).
Jesus is a king. But his kingdom is not from here. To use Johnâ€™s words, Jesusâ€™ kingdom is â€œcoming with the clouds.â€ This is an undeniable reference to our Old Testament Reading from Daniel chapter 7, in which we heard Danielâ€™s vision of Godâ€™s throne room.
â€œAs I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days [that is, the Lord himself] took his seat . . . I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyedâ€ (Daniel 7:9a, 13-14).
This is where Jesus is from. This is where Jesusâ€™ kingdom originates. His kingdom finds its origin in the heavens at the very throne of God. But itâ€™s a kingdom which is not isolated to the heavens. People donâ€™t have to try to find a way to leave behind their earthly body to find a place in Jesusâ€™ kingdom. Jesusâ€™ kingdom finds its source at the throne of God, but it is coming to earth.
4. As our text concludes, Jesus explains to Pilate how his kingdom is coming to earth.
Jesus replied, â€œYou say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world: in order that I might bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is from the truth listens to my voiceâ€ (John 18:37).
Jesusâ€™ kingdom began to come to earth when he was born. Jesus for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. He was born and came into this world to earn for us salvation and to proclaim the truth that he is the only way to eternal life. He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). Anyone who is from the truth listens to his voice. Jesusâ€™ kingdom began to come through his birth, life, death, and resurrection. He kingdom continues to come to us when we listen to his voice through his word. And in the end of the reading from Revelation, we heard about how his kingdom will fully come at the end of time.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. â€œI am the Alpha and the Omega,â€ says the Lord God, â€œwho is and who was and who is to come, the Almightyâ€ (Revelation 1:7-8).
The Lord is the beginning and end of all things. He has always existed and will always exist. He will return on the last day to overthrow all the powers who oppose him, and they will wail on account of this. But we donâ€™t have to be afraid. As we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, we can be sure of one thing. Jesus is our king, and his kingdom is coming to this world. Jesusâ€™ kingdom began to come to earth when he came down from heaven, it continues to come among us through his voice, and it will come finally and fully when he returns at the end of time. This is what it means to understand both who Jesus is and where he is from.
5. The question is, where are you from? At the end of our text, Jesus said, â€œEveryone who is from the truth listens to my voice.â€ So, where are you from? You know the answer to that question. You are from the truth. The source and origin of your life as a Christian is none other than Jesus. He is the way and the truth and the life. You are from the truth. But the world so often tries to convince us differently. The world constantly bombards us with advertisements, marketing schemes, and messages to try to force us to give our allegiance to anything other than Jesus. The world does not want us to define ourselves as people of the truth. This is why, as Pilate did in the verse immediately following our text for today, the world mockingly asks, â€œWhat is truth?â€ (John 18:38). They say there is no such thing as truth. All that matters is you and how you feel. All that matters is that we uphold life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at all costs. We know that this is wrong. We know that it is nothing but an empty sham. Yet the pressures to cave into this way of thinking and living are real. Theyâ€™re all around us. In the face of such pressures, we listen to the voice of Jesus. In the face of such pressures we stand firm in our conviction of the truthâ€”not because we are strong, but because our king is. We confidently live in the truth that Jesus will bring his kingdom from the heavens to overthrow the powers of this world on the last day. So, in the face of the worldâ€™s pressures, we live in the truth of Jesusâ€™s word because we are from the truth. We are from Christ. And Christ is the king.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Date: November 21, 2021
Text: John 18:33-37
Liturgical Date: Christ the King Sunday (Proper 29)
Title: â€œWhere are You From?â€
Congregation: LCR Waterville
Loci: 2nd Article – Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
Goal: that the hearers would confidently live in the truth of Jesusâ€™ words.
Malady: (IL) The world constantly bombards us with advertisements, marketing schemes, and messages trying to force us to give our allegiance to anything other than Jesus.
Means: Jesus will bring his kingdom from the heavens to overthrow the powers of this world.