Posted on Sun, Nov 22, 2015
November 22, 2015
3rd Sunday in Advent
Gospel Text: John 18:33-37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35 Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37 Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘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.’
I have been reading so many great books by great writers and one of the main conclusions we have come up with is that, there are two great motivators, love and fear. Fear narrows us and holds us down. Love broadens us and lifts us up.
We have seen the affects of this truth all over the world in the past few weeks from the massacre in Paris. However, nobody seemed to be interested in the atrocities being done by the terrorist called Boko Haram in Cameroun, Nigeria and several other African countries; Or, over many years the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. Some say Boko Haram in Africa has been even more horrific than ISIS. I wonder why there is so little uproar when the innocents in African countries are tortured and murdered, but when terror reaches the shores of Europe or North America profit based media can’t stop talking about it. Maybe the news of their horrors don’t inflict enough fear for the so-called developed world to cause them alarm, and sell commercial time… The terroristic attacks got the attention of the western world, and now because the danger, even the entire city of Brussels was essentially closed down this weekend out of fear from another attack.
People and leaders from all over the world, states, countries and even cities have shown their stripes in the topic of accepting, or not accepting, Syrian refugees trying got escape the terror and death resulting from their own country or other different groups fighting for political, tribal, as well as so-called religious grounds in their own countries. The reasons for all of these different conflicts are so complicated and seemingly unsolvable, I found myself with a very heavy heart this week wondering, “What does this all mean?” It was only in prayer and mediation time that I found some relief.
The best part of the week was when I saw the article about the man whose wife was murdered in Paris carrying a poster that said, “I will not let them cause me to hate!” In light of the hate and vitriol that has absolutely contaminated social media a faith statement this was a statement of faith, a “Light of the Earth” proclamation!
What happens when we allow ourselves to be caught up in the barbs of hate and the desire for revenge? Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, only makes us blind and unable to eat.” (Or something like that…) Over and over, from politicians to talk show hosts, I saw and heard people making statements for the sole purpose of striking our nerves and causing people to make some reaction whether to support their point of view or to degrade their opponents. Considering the magnitude of the horror going on all over the world, these comments are shallow, disrespectful, degrading, flat out dangerous and do nothing to bring people back together again to begin some sort of process of understanding, reconciliation and healing. My prayer for all of us as People of the Word, is listen carefully and control all emotions and check our prejudged assumptions at the door before we even dare to come to some sort of conclusion… let compassion by our highest priority before coming to any judgments. The one thought we must keep forward in our minds eye, is how can we as Christians be vessels of compassion, mercy, comfort and understanding when we are faced with the need to reacting to those in need.
When I hear people, especially politicians, lumping all the refugees fleeing the terror of the homeland as thugs and terrorists, I am so disappointed, angry and my heart sinks considering the damage they are causing by their position of influence. If I knew that staying where I was would lead to any kind of violence toward my children and I was powerless to stop it, I guess I would have been one in those huddled masses, even if it would have cost me my life… frankly, this would be an easy decision on my part.
In today’s Gospel text, there are some texts that are often barely noticed, but they actually point us to the extent God would go to rescue us from our own precarious position of living in a world filled with terror and darkness.
The scene takes place shortly before Jesus will obediently go the cross in order to save us from ourselves. He stands before Pilate because only Pilate has the power to sentence Jesus to death, which is what the religious leaders want Pilate to do… but Pilate really doesn’t want anything to do with the controversy, and makes it clear that he has no evidence against Jesus, especially to put Jesus to death. Pilate makes it very clear that is “Jesus’ people who handed Jesus over to Pilate.” Pilate is forced to ask the basic question, “What have you done? (to bring you to this position?)”
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
What do you hear in Jesus’ answer? What images come to your mind? What world is he talking about and who are his followers? Do you imagine angels swooping down to rescue Jesus from being sent to the cross?
In order to understand Jesus’ answer you need to recall when Jesus told his disciples that after they arrived in Jerusalem that he would be arrested, tried, and crucified but on the third day rise again. Of course no one heard those last words about resurrection, so what did Peter say and do after hearing Jesus’ prophesy about his crucifixion? Peter said, “This must not come to be!” Why do you think Peter said this? Was it out of fear or love? Peter said this out of FEAR. If Peter had understood that Jesus was actually going to accomplish the complete forgiveness and salvation for the through his death and resurrection, Peter would have remained quiet and faithfully followed. That is why Jesus’ response to Peter appears so harsh, “Get thee behind me Satan!”
First of all, the people Jesus’ refers to as “followers” are those who “hear” Jesus’ words IN FAITH; that means Jesus followers “hear and believe” what Jesus is teaching and most important, they understand that everything Jesus says and does is based on love FOR THE PURPOSE OF BESTOWING GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE. Jesus’ followers are those walking in Faith and the Light of Truth!! Not violence.
Jesus says, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews;” If Jesus’ followers were from “this world” what kind of people would they be? They certainly would not be people who have ears to hear and eyes to see! They would be people living in darkness with no faith and would resort to violence to accomplish their own goals, which would be to stop Jesus from going to the cross in order to fulfill his goal of fulfilling God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation.
Rather than being a God of violence and escape, our God is truly a God of service, faithfulness and even suffering for the sake of our forgives and salvation.
The text reminds us that the purpose of Jesus’ birth was to go to the cross for all people. The purpose of Jesus birth did not spare him from suffering and even death, but through Jesus’ resurrection, the purpose of Jesus’ birth was to give US new birth, forgiveness and the promise of resurrection.
As I prepared for today, the text made it clear that as a people of faith, we too are not to be a people of escape, rejection and fear, but a people with the eyes and ears of Jesus reaching out to all people living in our parks or those trying to flee horror and death. And sometimes, suffer a little bit for those who are truly suffering. The question is, as a church, as a Body of Christ, how do we become Jesus to all those who are hurting? Amen.
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