The Country That Does Not Belong To This World

November 25, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
John 18:33-40

1. When Jesus was set before the judgment of the governor Pontius Pilate, he made the following pronouncement before Pilate, "My country does not belong to this world. If my country did belong to this world, my subordinates would do battle so that I would not be handed over by the Jews. But, my country is not actually affiliated with this world," (John 18:36). The scripture says, "my country," but this is a term with the meaning of "my kingdom." His speaking about "my kingdom" is but the same as a pronouncement that he himself is a king. But, Jesus says his kingdom is different from the temporal kingdoms of this passing world. What in the world does he mean by this?

Envy And Deceit

2. To begin, let's take a good look at that scene where Jesus spoke about this kingdom. Today we read from verse thirty-three, but in verse twenty-eight and so just before it the text says the following. "The people brought Jesus from the place of Caiaphas to the governor's official residence. It was dawn. However, they did not go into the residence themselves in order not to become unclean but to have the Passover meal. At this, Pilate came out to them and said, 'With what crime do you accuse this man?' They responded, 'If this man had not done evil, we would not have handed him over to you.' When Pilate said, 'Since you have taken charge, try him according to your own law,' the Jews said, 'We do not have jurisdiction in giving him the death penalty.'," (verses twenty-eight through thirty-one).

3. The people made a case against Jesus before the governor. They made their case saying, this man did evil, and he did an evil worthy of the death penalty. Only they did not have the authority to give death penalties. Therefore, they began to appeal to the Roman authorities which did have that authority. [I] said that the people accused Jesus, but these people here are not the general public. They came from the place of the high priest Caiaphas. That is, it was the religious authorities who are the central topic of discussion.

4. There are details as to when the religious authorities first started to hate Jesus and began to think how they might kill him. If we back track to chapter eleven we can see them. In verse forty-seven the high priests and the Pharisees convene at the [Jewish] high court [of the Sanhedrin] and say, "This man has performed many signs, but what should we do? If we let this go, everybody will come to believe him. And the Romans will come and end up destroying both our temple and citizens."

5. The many signs that Jesus performed revealed the love of God. It was not the religious teachings and the precepts, but the people were touched by the reality of God's love through Jesus. For that reason many were being attracted to Jesus. So what was going to happen now? Their positions which were regarded as the religious authority to that time were coming under a threat. Here lies one of the reasons they harbored hostility against Jesus. In Mark's Gospel, very clearly, the scripture says, "(Pilate) knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him."

6. Furthermore, when the people started to follow Jesus fanatically, [the religious leaders] became more disturbed. There was a possibility of it being viewed as an uprising against Rome. If it came to that, the Romans might send in troops. It was quite likely to develop into the situation they feared as [the troops coming in and] "ending up destroying both our temple and citizens." In this way then they were threatened both on the religious and the political levels. At this the high priest Caiaphas said, "You [all] don't understand anything. Won't you consider how it is more expedient for you for one human to die on behalf of the nation than for the entire nation to be destroyed?," (11:49-50). In effect, he meant, "Doesn't it make sense that we can put things right if we get rid of Jesus?" Then after that the scripture says, "From that day they plotted on how to kill Jesus," (verse fifty-three).

7. These guys are showing off their righteousness but yet accusing Jesus. That's the scene we read today. Jesus is evil. They are righteous. That's how they made their case. However, there is a lie on the side of the prosecutors. Behind [the lie] there is an ugly envy and a self-protection. Furthermore, the text sarcastically says, "They did not enter into the residence themselves in order not to become unclean but to have the Passover meal."

8. They appealed to the Roman state authorities, doing whatever they had to do, in order to give the death penalty to Jesus, but to be perfectly truthful, to the Jews the Romans were in the same company as dogs and hogs. They were a dirty people, defiled. Should they enter into the dwelling where an unclean [Roman] lived, they would end up unclean. They would be religiously or ceremonially unclean. That's why in order to not become unclean, but to eat the Passover meal, they did not enter the governor's residence.

9. Isn't it a really sarcastic portrayal? They were avoiding becoming unclean. But, all the while as they looked at others as unclean, they did not notice the ugly thoughts within themselves and their own unclean hearts. While looking down on others as if they were dogs and hogs, they did not notice their own vulgarities. While deciding upon the crime of one person, they do not notice their own crimes. While avoiding becoming unclean, they don't understand what it really means to become unclean in the slightest. That is the figure [of them] that is being described here.

10. As we read this very part here, we cannot relegate it to something for other people only. More than two thousand years may have passed but this is still the figure of the world today, a picture of the world now. It is the way we are [as] we live in this passing world. But, Christ is standing in the middle of this truly ugly world so filled with lies and deceit. The savior is standing. That is the scene that we are reading today. At this Jesus announces, "My country does not belong to this passing world."

The Country Where Truth Rules

11. Jesus makes the claim before Pilate of the existence of another kingdom. He speaks to him about "my country, my kingdom" where he himself is the king. It is not some kind of anti-establishment organization within the Roman empire. A while back, when the Aum Shinri religious group caused the sarin poisonous gas incident, it came out through a series of investigations that that organization formed a plan to form its own independent state. But what Jesus is stating is different from a cult group aiming to form a single country because even had they established as a state, it would only be another country belonging to this world.

12. Jesus said, "My country does not belong to this world." The Lord said if he were a king who belonged to this world, "My subordinates would do battle so that I would not be handed over by the Jews." With the kingdoms that belong to this world, military might for doing battle dictates the terms. But the kingdom of Christ does not speak that way. It is different form the kingdoms of this world where force of arms does the speaking and which are kept by military force. It is an invisible kingdom, not belonging to this passing world.

13. His statement to Pilate must have sounded quite ridiculous. I would say so; because a man without power, who was clad in beat up rags, under arrest, under charges, and about to be killed, was speaking about "my kingdom." Therefore, Pilate said, "So then, you are a king, of course?" He is obviously making fun of [Jesus]. Jesus replied to that with, "It is what you are saying, that I am a king."

14. It is actually getting into an exact detail, but this could also be translated as "You are right in what you said, that I am a king." Jesus spoke very carefully so as to not cause any misunderstanding that he was a king in the sense of being set against Roman authority. However, since he was speaking about "my kingdom," we should probably see in this here as well, in the final analysis, that Jesus is making a claim that he himself is a king. But, right after Jesus stated that he is a king, he then continued with the statement, "I was born in order to give witness regarding the truth, I came into the world for that purpose. Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice," (verse thirty-seven). In this way then, the kingdom of Christ is not formed by military might, but is formed by the truth. So, where could the problem come up? It would be on "What is the truth?" Therefore, Pilate asks him, "What is the truth?"

15. Hey everybody, what is the truth? When we say "truth (shinri)" in Japanese, we get some kind of philosophical, abstract image, but it is actually a way of reasoning that is more fresh and relevant to us. I say that because truth as spoken about here is a term that means "the genuine unpretentious article" over against "a pretense," and "that which is not lies and deceit" over against "lies and deceit." Therefore, going the next step with it, it is a word that also means it is someone you can truly trust, someone that is truly okay. Therefore, it may be better to have said "sincerity, honesty, truth (shinjitsu)." Why is this way of reasoning relevant to us personally? I think you will understand because as we saw earlier, Jesus, who states "I was born in order to give witness regarding the truth, I came into the world for that purpose," was standing in a world that was truly filled with lies and deceit.

16. While the people, who pay strict attention so that they do not receive uncleanness, show off their righteousness, the real fact of the matter is that jealousy and hatred are like a vortex around them. It is just as we've already seen, that the figure of these kinds of persons is truly a reality in this world, and it is our own reality as we live in it. Strictly speaking, everything belonging to this world does not have a connection to the terms "truth" or "honesty." But, amidst this kind of world, there is one who pronounces that "I was born in order to give witness regarding the truth, I came into the world for that purpose."

17. What in the world is the genuine article that is not a pretense? What in the world is this thing or this person we can claim is truly not deceitful? What in the world is this honest person in whom we can truly trust? For what did Jesus come into this world to testify? It was for God's love. Jesus came to testify to that love of God, to the one and only honest one, who still accepts, loves and forgives us, [though] the world is full of lies and deceit, [though] we are full of sin and filth. How did Jesus intend to give witness to the love of God? When we read just a bit more ahead, we will see why. It was through his being hung on the cross as the atonement for our sin. It was through his shedding his blood on our behalf and his giving his life. Therefore, John states the following in his epistle. "We did not love God, but he loved us and he sent his son as the redemptive sacrifice for our sin. Here is where God's love is," (First John 4:10). In this sense Christ is the very love of God.

18. He gives a statement about another kingdom. He says that in this world visible to the eye, an invisible kingdom which does not belong to this world has arrived. The kingdom of God has come, where the love of God rules, an unpretentious love, a love that is not a lie and not deceit, a love that is sincere and never changes.

19. Since that is so, we do not need to despair, [even though] we see only the lies and the deceit filling this passing world, we see only the dishonesty of humankind. We do not need to despair, [even though] we see the sin of the world, we see only our sins and the sins of others. In the middle of the world as we [certainly] are, [yet] we can live in the other kingdom. In the midst of the rule of God's love, we can live trusting in [our] true and sincere God and his love. God's truth and sincerity is stronger than this world's insincerity and falsehood. God's love is stronger than this world's sin. The eternal truth to which Christ gave witness on the cross, the eternally true God and his love will deliver us without fail. We believe in the love of God and live. That is the day-to-day life of our faith.