Sunday

25 November 2012

John 18:33-37

"For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth." (v. 37)


Background

Violence is never acceptable to the Christian conscience. Not violence against women (as the Church recalls today on Women against Violence Sunday). Nor violence perpetrated by political or military regimes in struggles for power and control.

Through much of Israel's history the focus of political and military ambition was kingship. Almost without exception, however, kings were a disaster for Israel. Kings could not resist an appetite for power and wealth, or for inappropriate alliances. They betrayed the vision of Israel as a community which trusted God to provide and care for them and who lived justly and simply out of God's generosity.

Even so, by the time of Jesus, after centuries without a king, Israel still dreamed of a new king (often called the Messiah) whom God would raise up for them. Many hoped and even expected that the thrust of such kingship would again be political and military. The Messiah would expel the Roman imperial power from Palestine.

But Jesus could never be any sort of political king. He consistently refused violence to promote his mission. However his prophetic and charismatic ministry provoked great hostility from the Jewish leaders. Jesus met their aggression with love and self-sacrifice. But his enemies could easily pin on Jesus the accusation that he was wanting to overthrow Roman power. For Jesus announced his mission in terms of God's kingdom. So it was not much of a step from that to the Jewish leaders suggesting that he claimed to be a king, the long-awaited Messiah. Enough to make Pilate (the Roman governor of Judea, AD26-36) very suspicious: 'Are you the king of the Jews?' (v. 33).

Jesus' authority was from God. It had nothing to do with armies and weapons. If Pilate insisted on calling Jesus a 'king', the meaning must be changed out of all recognition. Jesus' role and campaign had one purpose only: to testify to the truth - the truth of God's love for all, embodied in Jesus himself. Anyone who is passionate to discover God's truth hears the voice of Jesus and follows him.


To Ponder

  • Abuse and violence are extremely distressing aspects of our lives: we are all capable of a terrifying loss of temper; we all hate to see violence let loose and even more to be its victim. How can we talk sensitively and honestly about this in the Church?
  • How can the Church encourage men and women who are outside its fellowship to become seekers after God's truth?
  • Through what sort of service can you best express, with authority, the humility and love of Jesus?



Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.