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I Am a King

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king …” John 18.33-37.

When Jesus is brought before Pilate, he does not know what charge the chief priests have brought against him, but Pilate’s first question to him makes it clear. They must have accused him of claiming to be the king of the Jews and that, of course, if it were true, would amount to sedition under Roman law. There was only one real king — Caesar — and the puppets such as Herod whom Caesar had appointed to rule over various parts of his territories. So if Jesus had claimed to be a king, Pilate must needs get involved. “What have you done?” he asks Jesus; for he knows that something must have triggered this overnight meeting of the Sanhedrin and their early-morning delivery to him of the prisoner who now stands before him.

But Jesus won’t be drawn into discussing his activities. Instead he wants to draw a clear distinction between his own kingship and all other kingships — including kingships such as that of Herod and even Caesar himself. “My kingdom is not of this world”. And the word “of” there is ek. It is a preposition of origin and would be far better translated as “from”. As most translations put it, Jesus might be taken as saying that his kingdom has nothing to do with this world … that it is a heavenly kingdom, a spiritual kingdom that does not concern itself with earthly matters. But nothing, of course, could be further from the truth; and Pilate would certainly not understand Jesus’ words in that way. All Jesus is saying is that his sovereign rule, his kingly activity (for that is the meaning of the Greek word basileia and its Hebrew equivalent malkuth) does not originate (as does the rule of Herod or even Caesar) in this “world” — this kosmos, which is to say “this world as a place of organised human systems, hierarchies, rules and procedures.”

What Jesus says is far from a denial of kingship. It is in fact an assertion by Jesus that he does indeed have a sovereign rule here on this planet but that it is not one conferred on him by humanity. And Pilate recognises that this is the force of what Jesus has said. “You are a king then?” he says. “Yes,” answers Jesus. “I am.”

The truth is that Jesus has been demonstrating his sovereign rule and exercising it throughout his three years of ministry. He has healed the sick, cast out demons, given sight to the blind, raised the dead, forgiven sins, and brought people from darkness into light. That sovereign rule had come to Jesus from God the Father when he had been baptised by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3.21-22), but it was a sovereign rule to be exercised in this world so as to change this world. It is a rule that Jesus exercises still through his followers on this earth. And so it will be until the day when the seventh angel can sound his trumpet, and the voices in heaven can cry: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11.15).

The one before whom Pilate refused to bow will one day be not only a king but “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19.16) for already “God has exalted him to the highest place and given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2.9-10).

King of kings, Majesty.
God of heaven living in me.
Gentle saviour, closest friend
Strong deliverer, Beginning and End.
All within me falls at your throne.
Your Majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your Majesty

Earth and heaven worship you.
Love eternal, faithful and true,
Who bought the nations, ransomed souls,
Brought this sinner near to your throne.
All within me cries out in praise.
Your Majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your Majesty.

Jarrod Cooper.

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