2014-03-30 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
GodStory, Act IV: Jesus
Key Event #30 of 40
Reading: John 18:28-40
Title: “Re-rooting Our Hearts in the Kingdom”
This week we continue right where we left off last week…the rooster has crowed, Peter has denied Jesus three times and the day is dawning on Jesus’ last day of his life.
Can you imagine being a Jesus follower in this moment in time? Your hopes and dreams are crumbling right before your eyes…perhaps that is why we don’t read of any disciples being around in these last hours of Jesus’ life…they’ve run to the hills! Leaving Jesus abandoned and alone. In the final hours of his life, he would stay the course, he would “drink the cup that the Father had given him”…and that is why we sing “What wondrous love is this, oh, my soul, o my soul, what wondrous love is this, oh my soul?”
Jesus is bound up, bruised and weary…he’s taken by the high priest security officers to the headquarters of Pilate, also known as the Praetoreum. This is the “governor’s house” for the Roman Governor (Governor of Judea) who represents Caesar to the Jerusalem citizens. Since this is a huge Jewish celebration, the Passover, Pilate needs to make a visit and remind the Judeans who is really in charge in these days.
He is a living reminder of Rome’s power that is still alive and well in Jerusalem…lest they forget!
And on this particular Passover morning, the Judeans are happy to submit to & “hold hands” with the Empire…it seems that one of the perks of joining up with the Roman Empire is that Romans really know how to put on a public, humiliating and cruel death!! They can quite expediently condemn people to death…Judean religious law does not allow for this same kind of swiftness & cruelty so the Judeans are pleased (and practical?) as they bring their criminal forward for sentencing.
Now there are limits… the Judeans do not want to get too cozy with Empire, as it is the celebration of the Passover and they need to keep themselves pure and clean for their religious rituals…they are celebrating their great deliverance from God remember? But first things first, let’s get rid of this one who keeps on saying he is from God and is promising a new deliverence…he keeps on saying that “if the Son, sets you free, then you are free indeed” (see John 8:36) but we will have none of this. He is a criminal and a liar…a fraud who needs to be put to death!
Imagine the scene….the Praetoreum is a lavish mansion surrounded by a courtyard the size of a football field…the Judeans stay in the courtyard (there could have been 50-75000 people there!) and Jesus and Pilate are in a 2-story edifice, decorated with lavish stone columns, with a large balcony overseeing the courtyard and the people.
With Jesus inside the governor’s chambers, Pilate steps out onto the balcony and questions the people… “What charge are you bringing against this man?”
Spokespersons from the rambunctious crowd shout out: “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you in the first place!”
Pilate responds: “You try him, then!”
The People answer: “We can’t! It’s not legal for us to put anyone to death!”
Pilate leaves the balcony and returns to his inner chambers where Jesus awaits.
He asks: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus responds: “Are you asking this on your own or from others?”
Pilate ignores Jesus’ question and presses in further: “What did you do?”
In a way, Jesus, ignores Pilates’ question! Instead he starts speaking words of invitation and declaration…reminiscent of Jesus’ conversation with that “moonlight seeker”, Nicodemus…
Jesus invites Pilate to consider a kingdom that is not built on power, control, threat and intimidation…Jesus declares: “My Kingdom is not from down here.”
Pilate jumps on his response… “A-ha! There you said it….three times! Kingdom!
SO YOU ARE A KING, then!”
Jesus makes a point of clarification: “YOU say that….but I say my WHOLE PURPOSE IS TRUTH…my whole reason for being born and my whole reason for coming into the world is this: to bear witness to the Truth.”
And then a final invitation from Jesus…the Light of Life pleads with Pilate to see the light…
It’s almost as if Jesus is saying…
“Pilate…are you listening to me? This is one of the most important moments in your life!
Jesus says: EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL who is rooted in the TRUTH…listens to my voice.”
This echoes the invitation that Jesus offered Nicodemus… “the individual who is doing the truth comes toward the Light so that it may be made perfectly clear that this person’s life has been worked by God” (John 3:21).
“Pontius Pilate…I AM…truth…listen to my voice!”
And we don’t know whether Pilate sneered or sighed – – whether the lights were going ON or OFF!…but we hear his response: “What is truth?”
“WHAT IS TRUTH?”
I’d like to suggest that we ponder the posture and tone of Pilate’s final response for a moment…
It would have been really helpful to have some kind of recording device at this conversation…how did Pilate inflect his voice as he lobbed this final question at Jesus?
Was he cynical?
Seeking? Despairing? Inviting? Dismissing?
Did he look at Jesus with eyes of wonder? Vulnerability? Hostility or Indifference?
How are we posturing ourselves toward Jesus this morning?
My hunch is that if you are here, as a north american going to church…I’m gonna venture out and say that I don’t suspect you are mad at Jesus. Now, let me assure you…if you are mad at him, he can handle it…historically he’s done a pretty fine job with people who hated him.
But I trust that we have some kind of sympathetic inclinations toward Jesus…and when Pilate asks Jesus “what is the Truth”… I’d imagine that we gravitate towards the way of the “seeker” and the “inviter” as Jesus stands before us in this text.
Because the good news for Pilate…and the good news for us…is that TRUTH is not a proposition or a platitude…it’s not a cultural issue or icon that we need to fight for or defend.
TRUTH is not a “what”….it is a “whom”!! [Truth has a name…Jesus!]
Just as TRUTH was standing right in front of Pilate’s nose, inviting him to believe…inviting him to accept the truths of deep, lasting life that was offered to him… so Jesus stands in front of us today and says: I AM…Truth.
Come to me…all you who are weary and heavy laden…and I will give you rest.
I will give you the way. I will give you truth. I will give you life.
For my yolk is easy…and my burden is light.
Earlier in the gospel of John, Jesus says:
“If you continue in my word, you are TRULY my disciples; and you will know the TRUTH…and the TRUTH will make you free” (John 8:32).
This presence of TRUTH, working through us is echoed in today’s passage where Jesus says: “Every single individual who is rooted in the TRUTH is listening to my voice” (John 18:37).
This word “rooted” really came alive for me in this passage…and I’d like to suggest that we use it as our “living out of the story” access point for today…
As today’s sermon title suggests…I’d like us to consider taking on a “re-rooting” practice as we keep on moving through the season of Lent (btw, we’ve got 18 days left in the Lenten journey…1/2 way there!).
One of the good news proclamations for us in today’s intense confrontation between Jesus and Pilate is Jesus’ declaration:
“My Kingdom is not rooted in this world…” He goes on to say: “If my Kingdom were rooted in this world, my followers would have been fighting to keep me from being handed over…but as it is, my Kingdom is not from down here.”
Lent can be a providential and intentional time for us to get re-rooted. It’s a 40-day journey of humility, reflection, repentance…so that we might be open to the revelation from the Spirit as we rest upon the bosom of Jesus…allowing his heartbeat and his words to shape the way we live as Jesus-followers…as those who put the heart of Jesus on display in our lives and our actions.
So I’d like you to sit with today’s text…and specifically 2 promises:
v. 37 “Every single individual who is rooted in the Truth is listening to my voice.”
v. 36 “My Kingdom is not rooted in this world.”
And as you allow those promises to INTERSECT with your life, your heart, mind, imagination… what might it look like to “re-root” the rest of your Lenten journey?
E.g. Perhaps it might be a renewed commitment to:
– lay down your weapons… “If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would have been fighting!” In a culture where it’s so easy to fight…Jesus says “put away your sword!”
– Choose the way of blessing VS the way of curse. In the intensity of this situation with Jesus and his interrogators…Jesus didn’t get violent. Now I don’t suspect he was a pushover…his words show that he was intentional and very present in the moment…but it wasn’t a way of violence.
– Join the way of suffering VS the way of power. Jesus walks the way of suffering in these hours…the losses and the grief is piling up…and yet he stays the course. Jesus knew that the way of suffering leads to glory and freedom for all the cosmos. What does it mean for us to allow our sufferings to be a way of encountering Jesus in the Lenten journey? This is not choosing to be a masochist, but there’s something about embracing our suffering…embracing the dark moments and seasons of our lives and thus meeting the living Jesus…for he is familiar with our suffering and present with us in our darkness. Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn…you will have pain, but your pain will turn to joy” (John 16:20).
A simple prayer I found this past week went like this: “We travail. We are heavy laden. Refresh us, O home-less, jobless, possession-less Saviour. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us…so it is for all of us…amen.”
– One of the Lent websites that I have been reading this season has used the exhortation to “stay slow.” Perhaps re-rooting yourself in the way of the Kingdom is simply a re-commitment to “stay slow.” To not feel like every moment is a fight to get more, buy more, make more or show more. Instead we are to be reminded that this journey of faith is a “long obedience in the same direction.” Jesus is not asking for instant discipleship or quick-fixes in our spiritual lives. Jesus simply invites us to be with him. To stay with him. To pray with him. To wait and watch with him.
– Maybe re-rooting your way in the kingdom is taking one of the images of Jesus that we’ve been encountering over the past 14 weeks and allowing that image to shape the way we move and live in the world: perhaps it’s the lavish generosity of Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana, or it’s the image of joining Jesus in his efforts of Justice (turning tables in the temple)…or it’s joining Jesus as a healer (offering up healing prayer or healing words to & for others)…or taking the role of a foot-washing servant (getting down on our knees in humility before others, posturing ourselves as listener, learner and sojourner).
This is an invitation. Not an obligation. This is Jesus inviting us into a way of being that is rooted in him…rooted in good soil and nurturing pastures (“the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” Psalm 16:6).
It is an exercise in listening to the voice of Jesus who stands before us saying
“Listen for my voice…I AM…truth…you are not alone…I am loving you to the end…and in me, and in serving me, you will find deep, lasting life.”
[silence…a re-rooting moment]
[this is not an exercise in certitude…that’s why we close with this honest prayer from Thomas Merton]
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
(Thomas Merton, 1954)