John 18:33-37 The Nature of the Kingdom: Theocracy and Truth, Sermon Audio

Sermon Audio at Providence Church, Last Sunday of the Church Year

Date: 11/22/2009
Category: Sermon
Price: FREE

Sermon, Uri Brito, “The Nature of the Kingdom: Theocracy and Truth”, John 18:33-37

Sermon Manuscript & Footnotes

Text: 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?” 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.”

Prayer: Our God, thank you for bringing us to this point in our calendar. We thank you for guiding your Church through it and by so doing, structuring our lives around the life of Christ our Messiah. Teach us about your kingdom and teach us to love your kingdom. For this is our Prayer, O Lord. Amen.

Sermon: People of God, this is the last Sunday of the Church Calendar. Next week we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. “Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, and longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!”[1]

“It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.”[2]

This is the Spirit of Advent. So what can your pastor say in this last week before Advent Season? Peace, justice, and righteousness comes through Messiah and Messiah comes with a kingdom that brings peace, justice, and righteousness. This morning our lesson takes us to the nature of that kingdom, more precisely, how we as a Kingdom people must view this Kingdom inaugurated by Christ.

The context is a familiar one. Jesus is on trial before Pilate. The Jews will soon cry out “Crucify Him!” The trial of our Lord in the gospel of John is the longest in the four Gospels.[3] There are legal details in this account, but one can say that this is more like an interview than a trial. There is a sense in which John focuses on Pilate as a psychological portrait. There is a lot of attention given to Pilate in this narrative. Pilate plays a crucial role in redemptive history. The Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.”[4] It is through the suffering of Christ under Pilate that Jesus is exalted in his death and resurrection. In other words, “the death that the Jewish hierarchy regarded as a final negation of Jesus’ claims” [5] became the means of his justification.

It was precisely the fury of the Jews that puzzled Pilate. This led Pilate to ask his first question in our narrative: Are you the King of the Jews? Is this what you are claiming? This verse can also be translated as an exclamation by Pilate as if he were saying: “You are the King of Jews, are you!” Pilate was probably expecting “a belligerent rebel and met instead the calm majesty of confident superiority.”[6] Jesus in verse 34 probes a bit deeper into the intention of Pilate’s question. Are you seeking this information at your own initiative or does this derive from other sources? Pilate’s answer is one filled with irritation: “I am not a Jew, am I?” The Greek implies that Pilate is seeking a negative answer. He does not want to be associated with the Jews and their quest, but he is deeply interested in “what Jesus had done to arouse their hatred?”[7] Pilate’s questions and inquisitiveness are answered in verses 36-37.

The Nature of the Kingdom: The Other-Worldliness of the Kingdom

Jesus says: “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.”

The first obvious observation about Jesus’ response is that His kingdom is other-worldly. Jesus is posing a sharp contrast between His kingdom and all other kingdoms. In other words, whatever the nature of Christ’s kingdom, it is diametrically opposed to this world’s kingdoms. Jesus is not saying that Pilate should order his kingdom the way He pleases, whereas he would order His kingdom the way He pleases, and never the two shall meet, No, Jesus is saying that the vision of His kingdom is one whose authority comes from the royal kingdom of heaven. Its authority comes from the Father. It is a distinction in a vision of and application of doing government.[8]

Pilate’s kingdom is the kingdom of apostate civil authority. Pilate’s kingdom is in direct contrast to the kingdom Christ is establishing. Pilate’s kingdom is predicated upon the principles of a fallen race, which includes fear, terror, and destruction. The kingdom of Pilate is a kingdom “categorized by a lust for rule and being ruled by lust,”[9] but the kingdom of God “is categorized by love for God and submission to the rule of God.”[10]

The Nature of the Kingdom: In and Over this World

The second observation is that while God’s kingdom is not of this world, that is, it does not receive its authority from the authorities of this world, God’s kingdom operates in and over this world.[11] Even Pilate is dependent on the authority and power of Christ’s kingdom to operate his own kingdom. So, if Pilate is dependent upon the kingdom of God in and over this world, then Pilate’s kingdom cannot be separated from Christ’s kingdom. The Messianic Kingdom encompasses all things in heaven above and earth below.

There are two errors we can make when we look at this passage.[12] The first error is to identify Christ’s kingdom with the affairs of this world. “The other is that of detaching the relevance of Christ’s kingdom for this world.

In order to understand this complicated subject, we must keep a fundamental distinction in the forefront of our minds. There is a difference between separating the Church from partisan politics, which must be done, and separating the world of politics from God’s standards (as declared and preached by the Church) which must never be done. Politics is not our Savior, but we believe politics will be saved. All of us need to be faithful citizens, family-members, and church-members, and each under the law of God. And our involvement in civic affairs must be explicitly Christian.[13] In other words, you cannot put on your Christian hat on Sunday morning and take it off the rest of the week. This is not the way of the kingdom. Jesus is not telling Pilate He is not a King, He is telling Pilate His kingship has no resemblance to His. Jesus does not rule like earthly rulers. He does not seek to manipulate and control us; His kingship is manifested in service and love.

On the other hand, too many evangelicals treat politics as equivalent to the kingdom. This is precisely what Jesus speaks against. To trust in politics as our salvation is to trust the kingdoms and methods of this world. This is Jesus’ concern when speaking to Pilate. “God’s kingdom should not be made in the image of Roman political theory.”[14]

You see, if Jesus’ kingdom were like Pilate’s, he would use the same sort of political manipulation. His servants would take up swords like the Romans and use fear to manipulate the population, but Jesus’ kingdom and His servants follow the paradigm of another kingdom. So though Christ’s kingdom does not receive its authority from this world, this Messianic kingdom brings its ethic in and over the earth. Pilate wants to affirm Jesus as King of the Jews, but he does not understand that Christ’s kingdom is far broader than his kingdom.[15] The kingdom of Messiah is not from this world, because it was not intended to be limited geographically, it was intended to be cosmic in scope and power.

The Nature of the Kingdom: Theocracy in this World

The third observation is that since this kingdom is heavenly in nature, and since it is in and over this world, then we are called to exert our Christian view of life in the world, and in particular, in the political arena. There are implications in Messiah’s coming. In that day, says Isaiah, the government will be upon His shoulders… “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”[16]

“We are to be witnesses to the magistrate. The gospel is the message of Isaiah confronting the King in the person of Christ. The gospel is the good news that the theocratic kingdom has been established by God.   We need to call every civilization to call upon Christ. Let the civil magistrate know that their job is to read Proverbs”[17]and seek biblical wisdom. Let the civil magistrate know that unless they seek Christ as ruler of this country and world, there is no hope for politics. The idea of theocracy may give the impression of rule and coercion, but this is not the Biblical view of theocracy. Theocracy means “the rule of God.” This is not an option, it is already a reality. Psalm 2 says that the nations are given to Messiah. Christ rules and His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom of influence. Theocracy is inevitable! You can have the rule of Islam, the rule of paganism, the rule of secular humanism, or you can have the rule of Christ. Competing worldviews cannot live together forever. Christ’s kingdom is the only kingdom that will overcome the kingdoms of this world; it is the only kingdom that must have supremacy over all, because Christ is King, not only King, but King over all earthly kings.

The Nature of the Kingdom: The Rule of Truth

This leads to the final observation about the nature of this Messianic Kingdom. In verse 37 Jesus tells Pilate that the purpose of His incarnation is precisely so that the world will know the truth of His kingdom. He is King, and so His Church proclaims His kingship over all things. Listen to the words of N.T. Wright:

God intends to put the world to rights; he has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting-to-rights purpose.[18]

This is and must be the nature of the kingdom: one of peace, righteousness, and truth.

How shall we then live?

The nature of the Kingdom of Christ calls us to think about our relationship to the kingdoms of this world. Christ’s kingdom teaches us not to be afraid. The earthly rulers may act in complete contradiction to God’s commands, but in the end God has the best laugh. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Their power is given to them by God and God can take it away when He pleases. So we do not have to rebel against godless governments. We rest in the effectiveness of Christ’s reign. Christ overcomes the principalities by death and resurrection.[19]

We are to live in light of the resurrection of Christ. Christ came to die, but He also came to kill death through His resurrection. We live in the day of God’s joyous laughter. The laughter of God in derision against His enemies is the joyous laughter of God of pleasure for His friends. We are to live this morning without fear. No matter how ungodly our rulers may be, no matter how ungodly the kingdoms of this world may be, the Kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of truth, and no system, no ruler will subvert its effect in this world. This is the Kingdom Christ introduces in His Advent. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.


[1] Dennis Brachter, The Season of Advent: Anticipation and Hope. http://www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html[2] Ibid.[3] Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 174.

[4]http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/apostles_creed.html

[5] Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 175.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Jeff Harlow, My Kingdom is not of this World. Sermon on John 18 & 19.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Gary Demar, You’ve Heard it Said. Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 165-166.

[12] Douglas Wilson, Critique of Gregory Boyd; http://www.dougwils.com/?Action=Search&searchstring=john%2018&page=1

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gary Demar, You’ve Heard it Said. Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 166.

[15] Dennis Tuuri has an excellent sermon on this topic. He provides a helpful presentation of the inescapability of theocracy.

[16] Isaiah 9:7, quotations from the English Standard Version.

[17] Dennis Tuuri.

[18] N.T. Wright. Believing and Belonging. Excerpt from his book Simply Christian.

[19] Jeff Harlow’s observations on the Kingdom.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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