The Gospel lesson for this Sunday is taken from John’s Gospel, chapter 18, verses 33 through the first half of 38. The subject matter may be surprising—it is Pontius Pilate’s examination of Jesus following Jesus’ arrest. Pilate was the Roman governor of the Holy Land. In Pilate’s attempt to understand who Jesus is, and what kind of king he might be, Jesus proclaims to him that “my kingdom is not of this world”. It is of a higher order, and it calls for a higher loyalty not to a particular state or country, but to God. Pilate has trouble understanding that, as he himself is part of a kingdom that answers to Caesar, which has unparalleled power, and which could anything that it wanted to until a stronger power came along. Pilate helped build the Roman kingdom with brutality, torture, abuse, force, and manipulation of certain Jewish leaders who wanted to maintain the peace and not provoke Rome.
In John’s telling of the story of Jesus’ appearance before Pilate, it looks at first glance as if Pilate is interrogating Jesus, but in reality it is the other way around: Pilate is on trial before God and Jesus, and it is Jesus who is interrogating him! The two kingdoms stand face to face: Rome with its power, coercion, abuse, and torture, and on the other side, Jesus with his love, grace, mercy, peace and justice. Pilate reveals all we need to know about him when he sent Jesus off to be tortured, scourged, mocked, abused, and beaten.
In my sermon on Sunday, I’ll talk about how we can live out our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom which is “not of this world.” As we bring food for People Helping People’s Thanksgiving program, as we dedicate our offerings to the work of the church, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving around our family tables, we show what it means to be citizens in the Kingdom of God.