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Jesus, King of Kings

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Gospel of John: Life in Jesus’ Name
John 18:28-19:16 Jesus, King of kings

Two weeks after my second daughter, Jenna, was born, I was called for Jury Duty. I was selected for the jury in a case being tried in Federal Court in Des Moines. It was an arson case where a man was accused of setting his Health and Fitness business on fire. And the stakes were raised significantly, because in putting out the fire, two firefighters died. The trial lasted three weeks. It was a fascinating case. In the end, we the jury unanimously agreed the man (who was my age) was guilty of arson. And he was later sentenced to 27 years in prison.

In our world, we strive for justice. Because we are made in the image of God, we love justice. And we despise injustice. Injustice makes us angry. Even furious.

We are nearing the end of a sermon series going through the Gospel of John. The fourth book of the New Testament. In this Gospel is a trial. It’s not a trial as we think of it—in a courtroom with a jury and a judge on a bench. But it is a trial.
Who is the accused? God. God is on trial.

In this trial is a horrifying injustice. Some of you have experienced injustice. As bad as that is, this is worse. Far worse. The holy Son of God from heaven—the Creator of the heavens and the earth—is on trial. A mockery of a trial. He is being accused of a crime worthy of death. The irony of this moment is astonishing. The Giver of Life is facing Death. The King who rules over all creation is being treated like a criminal.

This story can….it must…change our lives.

John 18:28-19:16a

We’ll start in John 18 today.

As you are turning there, I will introduce myself. My name is Brad Barrett, one of the pastors here.
A little background: I attended Iowa State in Civil Engineering. I worked as an engineer for 15 years, mostly with the Department of Transportation. Then 19 years ago, I switched from engineering to full time pastoring here at Stonebrook. We train our pastors within our church. Through mentoring, serving in a variety of ways in the church, the family, and the workplace. And also through training in theology and leadership classes. If you’re curious about some of those details, I would enjoy talking further with you.

Now to our text today.

We are nearing the end of a sermon series going through the Gospel of John. The word “Gospel” simply means “Good news.” So this is the Good News about Jesus Christ, and it was penned by one of Jesus’ disciples names John. And the words were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.

So these words we will read today have been ordained by God himself. They are not to be taken lightly, but soberly with joy. Sometimes it may seem to us that God is a million miles away, but he is very near to us, both through the presence of the Holy Spirit and through his words recorded as Scriptures.

Today’s passage has, somewhat subtly but profoundly, a major theme: KINGSHIP.
Jesus is mocked as a King over Israel. He is pitted against the Roman King, Caesar, by his own people who deny him as their king. And then Jesus declares he is a king, but he has a kingdom in another world.

Before we read today’s passage, we need some background. Jesus is in his last hours on earth. His death on the cross is only a few hours away. He ate his Last Supper with the disciples just a few hours before. And he gave them a long sermon and a prayer to God the Father…..all recorded in John 13-17.

Then last week we read about Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane where he was arrested, having been betrayed by his close friend, Judas Iscariot. He was taken to the high priest where he was interrogated by the high priest, Caiaphas, and other Jewish leaders.

With no justification, the Jewish leaders declare that Jesus is worthy of death.

John 18 (ESV)

Now we pick up the next scene in these extraordinary, history-making hours.

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.
29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”

Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest. He and his cohorts put Jesus through a trial of sorts, to determine his guilt. They declared him guilty of blasphemy. And they uttered these words: “He is worthy of death.”

Never have any more UNTRUE words been spoken. The Giver of Life could never be worthy of death.

Since Israel was under the rule of the Roman government, they had to abide by Roman law which did NOT give them permission to have capital punishment. So they took him to Pontius Pilate.

Pilate was the Roman governor over Judea. He was a weak and immoral man. In general, he despised the Jews. Ancient history says he had numerous run-ins with Jewish leaders.

31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”
32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate knew of no Roman law that Jesus violated, so he wanted the Jews to deal with him themselves.
The Jews reply, “It is not lawful for us” to put Jesus to death. What they mean is, “It is not lawful by Roman law” for us to do so.

Then vs. 32. If the Jews executed Jesus by their law, i.e., the Law of Moses, it would have been by stoning. And several times he was nearly stoned to death (John 8:59, 10:31, 11:8). But because Rome prohibited the Jews from using capital punishment themselves, Jesus’ execution would have to be approved and implemented by the Roman government, and thus by crucifixion.

This fulfills Jesus’ prophecy of the type of death he would experience, being “lifted up”, which Jesus said three times in this Gospel.

Now we go back inside Pilate’s headquarters. (This back and forth happens several time.)

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Pilate scoffs at the notion that he would ever associate with the Jews. He says, “Your own people want you dead. What did you do to deserve death?”

36 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.”
37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

This is, to me, the high point of the passage. Jesus admits he is a king. But he is not a king over some earthly land, like Judea or even the Roman Empire. No, his kingdom is from another world. Another realm. If he was a king in this world, his subjects would have already fought for him and defeated all who oppose him. This is an astonishing statement. This ought to shake us, as it shook Pilate. Any of us who doubt Jesus or question him or belittle him need to pay attention. Jesus is a King from another world. And over 50 times in John has Jesus said he was sent to earth from heaven. So we could say he is King in heaven.

Then he says the very reason he came into this world from heaven is to testify of the truth. His kingdom is a kingdom of truth, not of lies. Just a few hours earlier, Jesus told his disciples that he is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.” His name is Truth. He personifies truth. He lives in truth. He speaks truth.

38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Pilate seems to scoff here, uttering this age-old question, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Three times in this passage Pilate says Jesus is not guilty of the crimes you declare. Pilate should have released Jesus. He should have done the righteous thing, stand up to the Jews’ intimidation, and let Jesus go free. But he caves in to fear.
So he succumbs to giving the Jews an option. As is the Roman custom of annually releasing one Jewish prisoner, he offers to do this with Jesus. I think Pilate just wants this “Jesus problem” to go away. He hopes this will work.

But it backfires on him. Instead of releasing Jesus, the crowd of Jews want a man named Barabbas released. This is astonishing and shameful. Barabbas, as the Gospels describe him, is a notorious prisoner. He is a rebel. An insurrectionist and a murderer. Today, we would call him a terrorist.

So the Jews prefer to release a terrorist from prison than to set Jesus Christ free. This is astonishing. And grieving. What irony. They are accusing Jesus of being a pretender king who wants to disrupt the Roman government. But they want to set Barabbas free, a man who truly has tried to start a rebellion against the government. Such irony ought to leave us speechless.

Pause here. If Jesus truly is a King from another world, why doesn’t he stop all this evil and stupidity?
Why doesn’t he, as he said a couple hours earlier in the Garden, call down from heaven 12 legions of angels to kill all his enemies? Isn’t that what kings do?

Jesus does not do that because he and his Father in heaven have another plan. And that plan is that the Son of God, the Creator of this world, die in place of sinners. In John 1:29, Jesus is called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
In this moment that appears to be completely out of the control of heaven and in the control of the Romans and the Jews, God himself and his Son are completely in control. This extraordinary, remarkable injustice is part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. To give eternal life to all who will call on the name of Jesus.

This moment of chaos and irony and injustice is OUR MOMENT. This is our moment where God’s merciful offer of salvation comes from.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.
2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.
3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

I tremble every time I read this. The holy, innocent, righteous Son of God, the mighty Creator from heaven, is being mocked and tortured like a wicked man. These men in their gross ignorance are mistreating their Creator. I tremble for the day of their own deaths when they realized who it was standing before them. On that day, instead of mocking him, they would fall to their knees in terror and dread. He truly is the King of another world.

4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Pilate tries one more time to get out of this predicament the Jews have put him in. He is too weak and fearful to do the right thing.

6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

Once again, he confirms Jesus’ innocence.

7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

In the Greek/Roman world, they worshiped many gods. So to hear that Jesus is the Son of God, Pilate was afraid he was dealing with one of the gods. Well, he wasn’t dealing with “one of the gods.” He was dealing with God Incarnate. The Word…the Logos….of God.

9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

Pilate can’t understand why Jesus won’t answer him. So he tries to play on his authority.

11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate is not as powerful and in control as he thinks. God in heaven has given Pilate authority over Jesus at this moment.

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

Pilate is in the worst moment of his life. And he knows only a fraction of how bad it really is.
• He knows Jesus is innocent.
• He knows Jesus should go free instantly.
• He hearts Jesus is from heaven, and apparently he is some type of god.
• In one of the other gospels, Pilate’s wife warns him that she had a dream about this Jesus, and that Pilate should have nothing to do with him.
• Yet the Jews are angry and could start a riot.
• And if that happens, Caesar might remove him from his governorship. Or perhaps even kill him.
Doing the right thing is going to be very difficult. Too difficult. So he does the wrong thing.

13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

Once again, he is mocking the Jews. He knows how much they hate this claim that Jesus is their King.

15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified….

After multiple opportunities to do the righteous thing, Pilate gives in. Severe will be his judgment.
Then the chief priests, the religious leaders of God’s chosen people, utter the words, “We have no king but Caesar.”
Again, I tremble when I read these words. They are denying God as their rightful King and Ruler. I find myself saying to them, “Oh no, don’t say that. Take your words back.”
They are declaring allegiance to an earthly authority over their heavenly authority. What’s makes it even worse is that they despise their earthly authority, the Romans. They are enemies, not friends. But their hatred for Jesus is so intense that they cry out this utter foolishness.
One day they will stand in front of Jesus, their King, and he will judge them with his fury. They will rue this day they denied their true King.

The entire scene is utterly out of control.
The Jewish leaders’ rage is leading their True King to his death.
The weak-willed Roman leader judges unjustly.
The Jewish people support their wicked leaders.
Jesus’ disciples have all run away and denied him.

Jesus is entirely alone in the greatest rejection…the greatest injustice… [PAUSE] …the world has ever known. Some of you have been horribly mistreated and abused. Some of you have been recipients of terrible injustice. Jesus understands, for he the Holy Son of God endured the worst this world has ever conjured.

In the end, as King of heaven, Jesus will judge all things with complete righteousness and truth and justice.

What to Think of All This?

So we have all this talk about Jesus as the King. Yet we read Chapters 18 and 19, and at first glance, Jesus doesn’t look so kingly. The Romans are putting him on trial. The Jewish leaders hate him. His own disciples run away and deny him.

Where is this kingliness?

And we look at our world today, and we also wonder, “Where is the King?” When is he going to put this crazy, evil world into order? When will he bring justice to all the injustice?

In order to understand John’s two chapters here….and in order to understand the world today, we have to know the backstory. And we have to know the future story.

The back story is that God had planned all this. His Son’s humanity, persecution, and death. He planned the resurrection, which we’ll talk about in two weeks.

And the future story. God has a plan. His Son is returning to earth to be crowned the King of kings. One old hymn describes him as “The High King of Heaven.”

A passage that has been flooding my mind the past two weeks is written by John, the same author of this book. But it’s in another book of the Bible he wrote: Revelation.
Near the end of that book, John recorded a vision he had of Jesus. It is a glorious and powerful vision. For me, it has been one of the more breathtaking passages in the Bible, and God has used this to shape my view of Jesus Christ for over 35 years.

Revelation 19:11–16 ESV
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.
He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

This is the future story of the King. What a picture of Jesus. We read John 18, and by the will of God and the Father, Jesus has placed himself in the most vulnerable position imaginable: the position of suffering unjustly in order to bear the sin and shame of the world.
But now in Revelation 19, we get a picture of the Resurrected Christ who reigns in heaven and is coming back to earth to judge all who oppose him and to rescue all who love him. Anyone who doubts him or mocks him ought to be very afraid. Let no one trifle with this King.

What Now?

We’ve read this important and glorious and amazing passage in John’s Gospel. Now what do we do with it? How can it….how should it….shape our thinking about God and life and eternity?

Tremble
We must never trifle with Jesus. We must never belittle him. We must never use his name in vain. Carelessly. Meaninglessly…. whether in cursing or in telling jokes.
He is King of kings, and every one of us—when confronted with his power and glory—will fall to our knees shaking like a tree in a hurricane. And if you have never believed in him, do not treat Jesus lightly. Call on him and plead for mercy, that you might find forgiveness and be on his side.

Obey the King
He is your King and Lord. When he speaks, we should listen. When he commands, we should obey. He is King and Lord.
Jesus calls us to listen and respond to every one of his words.

In John 8, Jesus says “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…” Abide in the words he says. Dwell there. Don’t abandon them. Listen. Believe. Obey.

Then he says, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”
Some of the people were ignorant. They simply couldn’t understand Jesus. It was because their hearts were cold toward him, and they couldn’t bear his words. Jesus’ words were too hard. He was asking too much. They couldn’t bear to hear him.

In this Gospel, your King is speaking to us and calling us. We should respond with faith and obedience.

Look to the King, not the king
The Jewish leaders in their ignorance and hard-heartedness said, “We have no king but Caesar.” For their own selfish gain and their hatred toward Jesus, they bluntly denied having a king. They claimed allegiance only to the Roman king, Tiberius Caesar. They were blind fools.
Our #1 allegiance must be to our heavenly King. The King of kings.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not an anti-government tirade. God has instituted human government. That alone is powerful news. And God himself calls us to honor our rulers and submit to their authority.
But my point is, we must never put our allegiance to a human king over our heavenly King. Our loyalty goes to the King of kings, him who is over all.

Long for the return of the King
While Jesus was on earth, his glory was somewhat veiled.
But now as the Risen and Ascended King, he is in heaven waiting to return to earth. When he comes, he will bring justice on the earth. And he will rescue all of his own people, those who have believed in his name.
If you know Jesus, this should be your greatest longing. This should be your greatest hope.
When he comes, he will make all things right.
• He will restore all things broken.
• He will bring order to the chaos of this world.
• He will bring perfect justice to all the injustices.
• He will be the Light of the world and drive out all the darkness
• He will be the Living Water to quench our thirsty souls.
• He will be the Bread of Life to stop all hunger, whether physical or spiritual.
• He will be the Resurrection power to give life to all our broken and dying bodies.
• He will be Faithful to end all unfaithfulness.
Our King is beautiful. Powerful. Glorious. No thing and no one can compare. Long for that day.