not of this world | John 18.33-36
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “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 18:33-36 | ESV
Pilate left the council members standing on the steps, and went inside the praetorium, summoning Jesus to follow him, and then he put it to Jesus straight: “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus calmly asked, “Is this your question, or are you just repeating what others have said to you about me?”
“Do I look like a Jew to you? It’s your own people and priestly class that have put you in my hands.
So what did you do?”
Jesus paused. “My reign, my dominion doesn’t merely occupy a rival place on the map of this jaded world system. If it did, then my followers would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish high counsel, wouldn’t they? So it’s clear that we’re talking about two different dominions/dimensions!”
MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
“My kingdom is not of this world.”
So easy to take this as a permission slip for us to withdraw, to hide in a spiritual retreat, cloistered with wagging fingers and folded hands as we await our divine lift out of this world into heavenly realms divorced from this earthy, unwieldy, messy existence. But make no mistake. Jesus was standing in this hall of power because his life and message confronted it to the core. This isn’t just a story about two competing loyalties, one below and one above, one terrestrial and the other celestial, as if Jesus were telling Pilate, “Relax, I’m no threat to you or to Rome. I’m talking about heaven later.”
It’s about two different ways of putting the world together.
The heart of Jesus’ life and message is the kingdom – reign, dominion, presence – of God, and it’s not out or up there, but planted and sown down here. “The field is the world” and that’s where the seed is sown, pushing through our scavenging birds, our barrenness, our weeds, our thorns. That’s why disciples are taught to pray “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” – as opposed to “get us out of here!”
Sometimes we summarize this tension by saying we are in the world but not of it. Would that we handled such tension more wisely. How ironic that those bearing heavenly “not of this world” banners can end up waving them over their own religious/political domination systems that are so very “of this world.” Slapping “Jesus” on our platform doesn’t make it kingdom.
He confronts us as he did Pilate and Pharisee alike: God has a new way of putting the world together called the kingdom of God, and it’s breaking in. It’s not a competing domain. It’s another dimension that doesn’t dominate but permeates – like seed planted in earth, or yeast in dough.
Which usually makes as much sense to us as it did to Pilate on that day.
Practically speaking, how do you handle this tension of being “in” the world but not “of” it? How does it show in your life?
Abba, let your kingdom come, let your will be done, as in heaven, so in this earth. Here. This day. Through Christ.