“Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Jesus cuts right through all the sugar-coating and defensive or back-and-forth rhetoric and gets right down to it.
Jesus is standing face-to-face with Pilate, and he just says it: After watching me, after meeting me, is this a conclusion you’ve come to, or did someone else feed you this line to repeat at me here.
Jesus gets brought to Pilate on the accusation that he’s claiming to be King of the Jews. King. That’s serious stuff. Why? This country already has a king, and it’s Caesar. That guy on all the money. Pilate—the guy whose job is to keep order in the land—reads him the charge. Jesus is claiming the authority of Ceasar.
This is the crown the people put on Jesus. They give him this title—Messiah—and they throw all sorts of assumptions on top of what that category actually looks like. Commander of armies. Restorer of the land. Ruler. King. Rich. Rider of the clouds.
Problem: these images don’t mesh with what Jesus said about himself.
Shepherd. Bread. Light. Gate. God’s Son. Son of Man. Resurrection. Life. Teacher. Way. Truth. Vine.
That's just from the book of John, but you get the idea. Jesus didn’t say great general. Or Caesar. Or anything like that. He doesn’t mention earthly wealth or owning land. In fact, Jesus flat out denies a kingdom of this world.
So what could have led to these assumptions? Well, Jesus does affirm that he is the Messiah, and that is a really loaded term in their world. Legend had it that the Messiah was this coming ruler—set to take back the land God had promised the Israelites on earth. Falling into the category of a messiah—an anointed one—ultimately put these generalizations on a person. It was a category. A classification.
The classification people put on Jesus.
So today, Jesus says look me in the eye, meet me, listen to me, and then tell me I want an earthly kingdom.
Pilate, actually looking at Jesus, admits that he’s repeating the rumors fed to him by others. When faced with the person rather than the categorical generalizations, he sees the differences and realizes what has been brought to him looks differently in person than the image the gossip presented.
It’s not the golden crown of jewels, but something else. We can probably see this at first glance, but we have the advantage of a few centuries of hearing this story. We know what’s coming. In this world, it is not a throne, but a cross that Jesus arrives at. His true kingdom is not in this world, but in a world that we have yet to fully see.
It’s New Year’s Eve. Did you know that? I know, all this talk about Thanksgiving, and it's already New Year's Eve. It's true, though. Christ the King Sunday marks the last Sunday of the church year. Next week, we will be talking about Advent. The chancel up here will have turned blue, the greens will have been set up, and our season of waiting and watching for the coming of Christ will kick off our new year.
That makes this New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve—it’s a time of celebration. It’s a time to think about what will be happening in the coming year, to consider what we hope to accomplish in our lives, to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve done so far. It’s a time of excitement and possibility.
At this particular time of the church season, we proclaim Christ as King. As we’ve seen, this king’s kingdom is one that is especially appropriate for a New Year’s Eve. It’s a kingdom that is to come. We can consider today the hope within Jesus’ words here—the kingdom he rules is not of this world. It’s a hope and a promise.
So, what’s in store for this coming year?
Where do we want to go?
What do we want to be?
As part of the church’s presence in this world—part of Jesus’ legacy—who do we hope to be? Who do we hope the rest of the world will see us as?
This is still a world that operates on assumptions. That sees people as categories—gender, ethnicity, age, status, and yes, even religion. Christians are stereotyped in this world—and not all of the opinions are positive.
How do we cut through that red tape of assumption to the heart of the matter? How do we get to what’s inside? How do we follow Jesus and call the world to see past categories and gossip and assumptions to see the real story? How do we show our care for this world that God has made—for all the people in it?
This is the New Year’s Eve of the church year. We get a chance today to remember who we are, who we belong to, where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’d like to go. We get a chance to see Jesus as Christ the King, but we also get a chance to hear his words and realize what they mean for us. Amen.