A Coronation

 
The only war on Christmas was when Herod tried to kill Jesus, and that failed, so we can just relax.  We don’t have to worry about a war on Christmas.

Jesus survives the War on Christmas, he’s taken to Egypt by Mary and Joseph, comes back to Nazareth and is raised, and when he comes of age he begins his ministry.   Jesus’ ministry consisted of announcing and enacting the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is what was happening around Jesus.  Jesus IS the Kingdom of God.   Jesus IS the reign of God.  Jesus IS the politics of God.  So people being healed and forgiven, and outcasts being restored, THIS is the Kingdom of God.   THIS is the politics of God.  It all revolves around Jesus.  Being connected to Jesus is to enter into the Kingdom, the politics, the government, the reign and rule, of God.

Through Jesus, the world’s true King was bringing the government of God.  BUT – this true King is unlike any king the world has ever seen, and that’s what throws people off.  This is what confused John the Baptist, and Jesus’ family, and even Jesus’ disciples.  They correctly believed that Jesus was the Christ, that he was the King.  The Messiah, the King of the Jews, the King of the World.  But their category of “King” was shaped by the great kings of the world.  Their concept of “King” was completely shaped and defined by Pharaohs and Caesars…

They confessed Jesus was king, they were right about that.  But they thought Jesus was going to be king like Pharaoh or like Caesar (and truth be told, we still mostly believe the great finish to the story will be just that – King Jesus triumphantly returning, renouncing all his teaching and all he ever stood for and killing all of of his {our} enemies).  Everyone believed that to be a king Jesus had to rule by force and kill Israel’s enemies.  But Jesus would not be that kind of King, though he was tempted.  He refused to a king in the mold of Alexander the Great, or the Pharaohs, or the Caesars.  Jesus would be a king, but without conventional power.  That is, he would be without the power of violence or coercion.

This is what the Roman governor Pontus Pilate found so incomprehensible. Looking at this in John 19, let’s remember the scene.  Jesus has been arrested, we’ve gone from advent to Holy Week now, getting the big picture. Jesus has been arrested in the garden of Gethsamane.  He’s had a late night preliminary hearing before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court.  He’s been condemned of blasphemy.  In the morning he’s delivered to the Roman governor for sentencing.  As Jesus is brought before Pilate for questioning and sentencing, Pilate has only one question.  “Are you the King of the Jews?” John‬ ‭18:33‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  That’s the pertinent question.  Because if you are claiming to be King of the Jews, we have a problem here.  We already have a king of the Jews, it’s Herod the Great’s grandson, he’s the king of the Jews.  Because we appoint the king of the Jews.  He’s our client.  He serves our interests.  So what do you say about yourself, Prophet from Galilee?  Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus acknowledges that Pilate has spoken correctly, that he is in fact a king, but then he adds this –  …“My kingdom is not of this world…” John‬ ‭18:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  And there we have it, right?   You see, it really is only a spiritual kingdom, in your heart.  Except for that’s not what Jesus is saying at all.  Jesus is saying My kingdom does not come in the way of this system that you are so familiar with.     “”My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭18:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  If my kingdom were of this world’s system, my servants would be fighting, but they are not, because my kingdom does not come that way.  I know you don’t get this Pilate, because  that’s the only way you can think.  But I’ve come to bear witness to the truth.  Because, Pilate, you’ve lived your whole life under the delusion of a lie, the lie that began with Cain.  Cain’s lie is that our brothers are our enemies and they have to be fought and killed.  Jesus says, that’s a lie, and I’ve come to bear witness to the truth, that there is another way. And Pilate cynically says, What is truth?

Finally, to chapter 19.  “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple [that is, Royal] robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the [Royal] purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!””  ‭‭John‬ ‭19:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  They dressed Jesus up as a King.  They put a scepter in his hand, made of a reed.  They put a  crown upon his head, made of thorns.  They put a robe upon his back.  They say things like “Hail, King of the Jews.”  He is scourged, he’s brought back before the people, Pilate says Behold the man!  

“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭19:14-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  The ultimate betrayal.  For just a moment, Caiaphas and the chief priests take off their mask.  They say, We pretend to be religious people who have faith in God.  But let’s get one thing straight –  we play the game just like you do, Pilate.  And We have no king but Caesar.   That’s where we’ve REALLY pledged our allegiance, to Caesar.

This is the same mistake the church made after 300 years.  They said our true political allegiance will be to Caesar, and we’ll talk about Jesus being Lord in our hearts, or something like that.  But we have no king but Caesar.  The ultimate betrayal.

“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.””  John‬ ‭19:16-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  To believe as a Christian is to believe that Jesus’ crucifixion was in fact his Royal coronation.  Hear this.  To believe what Christians believe is to believe this – that this macabre mockery of a king, where’s it’s this hideous satire, this exercise in cruelty, where they call him a king but they don’t believe.  They call him King of the Jews, and they crown him.  A king has to have a crown, let’s make it out if thorns.  A king has to have a scepter, let’s make it a little reed.  A king has to have a royal robe, here’s one, we’ll put in on him.  We’ll bow down, say Hail, King of the Jews.  Then we’ll slap him.  Then he will have his Royal procession, carrying his cross through town.  And finally, he will enthroned him upon the cross.

To believe as a Christian is to say, Yes!!   And all of that was the real, true, genuine coronation of the world’s TRUE KING!!  And we make the confession because we believe that God VINDICATED his son by raising him from the dead on the third day.

To become a Christian is to baptized into Christ, to be baptized into the person of Christ, but also into the Kingdom of Christ.   The apostle Paul points out that this is a kind of Exodus, where you are leaving Egypt to live under the reign of God.  You are exiting the old dominion ruled by the Pharaohs of this world to live as the people of God!  To believe as a Christian is to believe that the crucifixion of Christ was the coronation of the world’s True King.  To become a Christian is to baptized into Christ, to be initiated into Christ’s kingdom.  To live as a Christian is to live under the reign of King Jesus here and now!!

Join the Kingdom!!  Believe the Gospel announcement, the wild, outlandish, crazy announcement, that even as it’s announced to you the Spirit bears witness to your heart that it’s true.  That this particular Jew, born in  Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, who went through Galilee announcing the government and politics of God, who was betrayed by his own people, condemned, crucified by the Romans, God has raised him from the dead and has made him to be King and Lord over all the nations!!

BELIEVE THAT!!  Then be baptized in that name that you might belong to that Kingdom, and begin to learn to live under the reign of Jesus Christ.  It won’t be easy, but you don’t have to do it alone.  There are others in the church, who are here with you.  We are trying to learn the same thing.  And we will resist Babylon.  We will resist the principalities and powers.  We will resist the world being run the same way it’s always been run, because we confess that Jesus is King.  And he’s king now.  He’s king over the nations, right now.  And we will be a part of his Kingdom, and when he comes again, the curtain will be pulled back, and that which HAS ALWAYS BEEN TRUE will be revealed, but we will have been living that way for a long, long time.

Amen.
 

 

John Lewis
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