Then 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.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Christ the King Sunday is the New Year’s Eve of the Christian calendar. Many of us might celebrate the New Year beginning on January 1st, but in the church the season of Advent is the beginning of our year as we wait for the coming of the Lord on Christmas. For centuries the church has celebrated this rhythm where we start a new year in anticipation of Jesus’s birth, we proclaim Jesus’ life and teachings, and we mark his death and resurrection with Holy Week. Then we look forward to the celebration of Pentecost when God’s Spirit was poured out on the first disciples, and we have a long season of what we call ordinary time to learn more about the stories from scripture.
The Christian year is built the way it is so that we retell the greatest story ever told, every year.
But just like with the celebration of New Years Eve we need a big party to mark the end of our year, we need to pull out all the stops and look back over where we’ve been, and get excited about where we’re going. We need our New Years Eve, but for us we call it Christ the King Sunday.
Since the foundation of the early church, disciples have worshipped Christ in his three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King.
Throughout the Christian year we learn about Jesus as Prophet whenever he shared a lesson with the disciples, whenever he told a parable, and whenever he spoke out against the injustices of the world. Like a true Prophet Jesus spoke the truth in love. He went out to the last, least, and lost and helped to speak words that gave them value. Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of society and challenged the world to behave according to the way God would have us to behave.
Throughout the Christian year we learn about Jesus as Priest whenever he healed the sick, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. Like a true and holy Priest Jesus shared his final meal with his friends and told them he was offering his body and blood for their sake and for others.
Jesus atoned for the sins of the world by sacrificing himself and dying a terrible death on a cross.
Throughout the Christian year we learn about Jesus as King whenever we hear about the kingdom of God, whenever we discuss what it means to take up our cross to follow him, and whenever we confess Jesus as Lord. Like a true King Jesus watched out for the people of his community, fed the multitudes and offered a new way of life. But perhaps one of the greatest insights into what it means to worship Christ as King comes from Jesus’ interaction with Pontius Pilate.
It was early in the morning when the Jewish elders brought Jesus to Pilate with death on their minds. Of course, according to the Law, they could not kill him but they knew that the Roman leader could. So Pilate entered the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you asking because you want to know, or did other people tell you about who I am?” Pilate replied, “I’m not Jewish! Your people, your chief priests, your nation handed you over to me. So, what have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If it were from this world, my followers would be fighting to the death to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose 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.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
What is truth?
Pilate wanted to know. Christians have wanted to know. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we want to know as well. What is truth?
Seeing as how today is our New Year’s Eve, I thought we would do well to look back over the last year and examine what we have learned to be true…
In Advent we learned about how everyone is given a new beginning in Jesus Christ. That when God came into the world it changed everything, and when you discover Jesus in your heart it changes everything. It changes the way you think, the way you speak, and the way you act.
During the winter we asked tough questions about are faith like “Is it better to be cremated or buried?” and “Is it appropriate to have an American Flag in our sanctuary?” We talked about how being a Christian means sacrifice, how food will not bring us closer to God, and how God strengthens the weak.
During Lent we spent the season praying for God to cleanse us of our sins, and heal our brokenness. We got back to the basics of our faith by looking at the Ten Commandments, admitting that we cannot save ourselves, and that God is God (and we are not).
During Holy Week we went from the joy of the last supper with a foot washing on Maundy Thursday, to the shadow of the cross on Good Friday, to the glory of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Before Pentecost we looked to the stained glass windows in our sanctuary to learn about the faith attested in the Good Shepherd, the Methodists, and the Johns. On Pentecost we listened to two of our youth proclaim that the church is not a building but a people.
Throughout the summer we retold some of the greatest and strangest stories from the Old Testament, we even had a donkey preach one of the sermons, and we spent time praying for one another.
And this fall we addressed why we do what we do. Why we worship, why we give, why we serve, and why we pray. (All of them bring us closer to God)
What is truth? Every Sunday that we gather in this sanctuary is an attempt to answer that very question. Every sermon, every prayer, every hymn is all geared toward discovering the truth in our lives.
As we look forward to a new year in the Christian calendar we anticipate more services attempting to answer Pontius Pilate’s question and the question that rests in our hearts. We will have sermon series and bible studies, we will have prayer vigils and fellowship events, we will have baptisms, and we will have funerals, all striving to answer “What is truth?”
For us today, sitting here in this worship service, Jesus has a simple and profound answer: My kingdom is not of this world.
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, the French community continues to mourn and grieve over the fragility of life. For days, Parisians have gathered from across the city to place flowers and light candles in memory of all the innocent people who lost their lives.
A French interviewer recently caught sight of a father and son who were kneeling by the flowers and the interviewer asked the boy if he understood what had happened. The four year old said, “bad guys who were very mean did something very bad. We need to be very careful and my family has to move out of France.” The father quickly interrupted and said that they did not need to leave because France was their home but the son, with a quiver in his lip reminded his father about the bad guys who have guns and can shoot us because they’re really mean.
The father took a moment to think about what his son said, and then he replied, “Yes. They have guns. But we have flowers.”
The son was incredulous, “But flowers don’t do anything!”
“Of course they do,” said the father, “look, everyone is putting flowers here. It’s to fight against guns.”
“It’s to protect us?” “Exactly”
Then the son asked, “And the candles too?” “Yes. The candles are to remember all the people who are gone.”
The boy, who had clearly been distraught the whole time, finally began to smile as he took in the abundance of flowers and candles in the square and looked right at the interviewer to say, “The flowers and the candles are here to protect us.”
We live in a remarkably tumultuous world that feels like it’s on the brink of something terrible. Just turn on the television or open a newspaper and you are immediately bombarded by tragedy after tragedy. But when a young boy discovers the power of a flower, something dismissed by so much of the world, we are reminded that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.
It is not easy thing to be a Christian, to live our lives in such a way that Jesus is our king. Because our king asks us to do some strange things like: pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, and give away our clothing and possessions to help those in need. But Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world, it does not harmonize with the expectations of the world.
The world tells us to gain all we can.
Jesus tells us to give all we can.
The world tells us to seek vengeance.
Jesus tells us to seek forgiveness
The world tells us to destroy our enemies.
Jesus tells us to love our enemies as ourselves.
The world tells us that we are the center of the universe.
Jesus tells us that God is the center of all things.
The world tells us ignore the weak.
Jesus tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth.
The world tells us that death is the end.
Jesus tells us that death is the beginning.
What is truth? The answer to the question is our collective effort to know who we are and whose we are, to remember the stories of scripture so that they shape our lives, to live out the incarnation so that the world can be transformed.
The whole Christian year is the attempt to answer: “What is truth?”
But today Jesus gives us one response: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.