Not of this World
For the devotional this week, I wanted to pick up on something Jesus said to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate when He was arrested and tried on the fateful day of His crucifixion. In response to Pilate’s question as to whether He was a king or not, Jesus answered in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm.” Jesus was explaining to Pilate that He is a King, but His rule is not political or military. His kingdom was and is a heavenly one that stands in stark contrast to the worldly kingdoms with their armies and navies, their swords, and battering rams. As we know, Jesus did not come to conquer Rome or any other earthly kingdom. Had He come to take the world by force, His followers would have fought for Him, so would legions of angels, and they would have kept Him from going to the cross. Jesus’ rule and reign then is one of redemption, salvation, and restoration.
Coming off of a wonderful Easter season where we saw many of our fellow church members and friends for the first time in a long time, and reflected on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, I want us to pause and give thought to Christ’s kingdom. Jesus’ words about His kingdom to Pilate were so fitting because though everyone wanted to know who He was, Jesus rarely talked about Himself. Rather, most of His preaching and teaching was about the kingdom of God (and the God of the kingdom). In Mark 1:15, after commencing His ministry, Jesus proclaims “the time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” What did Jesus mean when He said the kingdom of God has come near? The kingdom of God is not just the place we go when our lives here on earth are done. It’s not just synonymous with heaven. The kingdom of God is the dynamic rule and realm of God that has broken into all the world through the person and work of Christ; and it didn’t just start with His death and resurrection. It began with His life and ministry.
In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus gives us a picture of the good news of the kingdom of God by describing His mission. He said “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is the kingdom of God! Jesus goes on to say in vs. 21 “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus Himself constituted the presence and nearness of the kingdom of God. He wasn’t just describing something in the future but a reality that began with Him. Christ is king right now! With His presence in our lives, we also embody His kingdom. In Luke 17:21, when asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus said “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Beloved, we are part and parcel of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not a place in the way we normally think of location and boundaries. That’s why it is not of this world. But through Christ, it is in us and advancing in the world around us. It is as real as the United States is or China or Japan. It is where Christ rules as King and God’s sovereign hand touches people’s lives.
John Calvin said it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom visible. We, as Christians, are called to be a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom and we are to have a profound impact on the world around us. R.C. Sproul says “we do this by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ in our jobs, our families, our schools, and even our checkbooks, because God in Christ is King over every one of these spheres of life. The only way the kingdom of God is going to be manifest in this world before Christ comes is if we manifest it by the way we live as citizens of heaven and subjects of the King.” Let us then live for our Risen Savior and King.