One day, after a family outing, grandparents and their children arrived home to discover that someone had broken into their house and stolen various items. A local teenager was soon identified as the likely culprit after his father turned him in to the police. The father had noticed that his son was suddenly in possession of several items that didn’t seem to belong to him, and the police quickly realized that these items matched the description of some of the things stolen from my grandparents’ home. As such, my grandparents were asked to testify against him in court. At this point the young man had not yet formally confessed, but it was expected that he would be found guilty based on his possession of the stolen items.
During the court proceedings, the judge asked the grandparents to describe the items that had been stolen. They listed off several items, including one particular item that was missing from the refrigerator: an expensive cake from a famous bakery. However, upon hearing the grandmother said the cake was chocolate! The young man piped up and said “It wasn’t chocolate it was strawberry!”
He was found guilty!
Our scripture passages this morning is John’s version of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. Jesus had been brought before Pilate on the charges of sedition and claiming he was a King. It was supposed to normal trial. But it was anything but normal. It was more a less like a sparring match between the two. Pilate posed questions to Jesus about what he was King of. Jesus making sure that he didn’t reveal too much about what he was King of. The closest he come to saying he was a King was at the end when he told Pilate, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. ‘
What is strange about this trial is Jesus not just coming out and telling Pilate that he was King of everything including Pilate. From the very beginning of John’s gospel, it is clear who Jesus is and this the King of all creation.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.
We can agree that is a pretty definitive statement about what Jesus is King of. Instead Jesus was vague and obtuse even a bit argumentative. Perhaps Jesus was that way because of us. We aren’t always sure what it is that Jesus is King of. There are parts of our lives that we keep to ourselves. For example, politics. We get uncomfortable whenever the conversation about Jesus gets political.
Just what is Jesus King of anyway? It’s a relevant question because today is Christ the King Sunday. Today is the last Sunday in the lectionary calendar that started last Advent. For the past year our scriptures have focused on different aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry. We have spent the time listening to what Jesus did and say and how that relates to our lives with the purpose of deciding whether Jesus King of our lives or not.
I imagine that if we made a check list of our lives over whether Jesus is King, we would find a lot of places that are unchecked and is to be expected. It’s not easy to have Jesus as King in our lives. I don’t have to tell that a lot of what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God is hard to do. I have even heard some Christians, whenever there is a hard passage, say, “Well, I am sure Jesus really didn’t mean it that way.” You may remember a number of a years ago there started appearing what were called God Billboards. They first showed up in the Dallas metro area. They were short admonitions signed by God. My favorite was the one that read: That “Love Thy Neighbor” Thing, I Meant It.” – God,
I’ve heard people say, “Jesus must not be much of a King if you don’t take what he says seriously.” They have a valid point and something that Christians and the Church get dinged on all the time. It’s hard to stand before a person and ask them to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and follow him and be a part of the Body of Christ, when we as his Disciples purposefully keep part of our lives away from Jesus.
Instead of asking the question What Jesus is King of, it might be better to ask the question. “Who is Jesus King of,” The answer to that question would give a better appreciation for not just what Jesus is King of, but also the type of King Jesus really is.
Think of Who is Jesus King of? Think of who you are and the what you have done in the past. I know a lot of people would say why they would not Jesus want to be their King. I can’t tell you how many times I have invited people to come to church and their response is, “If I walked in the church right now the walls would collapse!” I am sure you have heard that too.
And yet the truth is Jesus wants to be King our King in spite of how we think about ourselves. So, who Jesus is King is over better explains what Jesus is King over.
So, Jesus is King over people like you and me. To put it another way, Jesus is King over what I would call sinners in recovery, meaning we have been saved by grace, forgiven of our sins. What’s more we are, with other sinners in recovery, members in the Church in Recovery. I came up with the concept of the Church in Recovery years ago when I was writing my Systematic theology in Seminary. The idea came to me after attending a two-week training event on Chemical Dependency and after attending a bunch of AA meetings. What I noticed about those meeting is the people acted more like the Church than the churches I was serving. They were gathered together from different backgrounds, rich and poor, different colors sharing their stories and burdens particularly their struggles to remain sober. It got me to thinking how difficult it is for us as Disciples to be faithful to Jesus and not sin. And it’s made even more difficult to do when there are parts of our lives that we feel we can keep from God. It’s those part we keep to ourselves that tend to get us in trouble.
We are all sinners in recovery helping one another in the Church in Recovery. I like the term Church in Recovery because it implies that the church has a purpose for being, it implies that the church is re-building people’s lives. Think about all things that people thing when they look at this church from the outside. “Beautiful building”; “people must have money”; “people live in nice homes”, “normal families”, “a place too good for me, I would never fit in”; “lots of old people”, “unfriendly”, “cliques”. I am sure I could go on and on about what people think when they look at our church.
But what would happen if people looking at this church and began thinking that we are a Church where the members are supporting one another in their recovery from sins and its consequences. How might that way they feel about the church if we were to show them who and what Jesus is King of? Those people in the church are just like me.
The Church in recovery explains not just what Jesus is King of but also why. There’s a reason why Jesus didn’t come out and directly tell Pilate that he was King. Pilate expected Jesus’ kingdom to be about power. But the kingdom that Jesus is King over is hard to explain. It’s not about power or the powerful. It’s about loving human beings and their faults and mistakes. Pilate only understood a Kingdom based on power and influence and violence over people. Jesus’ kingdom is about love and grace and forgiveness and non-violence. Jesus kingdom is made up of people who sin, who are imperfect and make mistake. A kingdom made up of people who have a hard time loving their neighbors as they should. Can you imagine trying to explain that someone like Pilate who only understands power, and winning, and loyalty and self-interest.
When you think about what Jesus is King of, it is best to think first, about the kind of people of that Jesus is King over. People like you and I who are imperfect and make mistakes but who God loves anyway. And when we think that Jesus wants to be King of us, in spite of who we are or what we have done, we have a better appreciation of who Jesus is and what he is trying to do. And I think the more we appreciate Jesus the more we can be honest with ourselves and see ourselves as sinners in recovery. And we see ourselves as sinner’s in recovery we are able to others as well and begin to see that we are all a part of the Church in recovery. And as we do that it will be easier to begin to let Jesus be King over those things, for whatever reason, we keep from Jesus and his love and grace.