2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-12 and John 18:33-38a
Perhaps you have heard this story. It’s a great story: Many years ago, when Hitler’s forces occupied Denmark, the order came that all Jews in Denmark were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars of David. The Danes had seen the extermination of Jews in other countries and guessed that this was the first step in that process in their country. The King did not defy the orders. He had every Jew wear the star and he himself wore the Star of David. He told his people that he expected every loyal Dane to do the same. The King said, “We are all Danes. One Danish person is the same as the next.” He wore his yellow star when going into Copenhagen every day in order to encourage the people. The King of Denmark identified with his people, even to the point of putting his own life on the line.
It’s a wonderful story with a powerful point. The only problem is it isn’t true. It’s an urban legend. It’s been around for a long time and told thousands of times over. And now with the internet we are getting a lot of these legendary stories retold. Too bad! What an image for a king, identifying with his people.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked. “Is that your idea,” Jesus said to Him, “or did others talk to you about Me?” That’s how these legends get started. Other people talking about what some other people in turn have said. Jesus was essentially crucified on gossip and rumour. An urban legend had developed around his ministry that He was going to lead a revolt against Rome.
In his conversation with Pilate, Jesus finally does imply that He is a king. “My kingdom,” He explains, “is not of this world.” Not of this world. That’s what it takes. That’s what it takes to find a King who identifies with his people. A King of heaven, a King of kings from some place other than this world.
Pilate and Jesus. Kingdoms in conflict. There are great lessons found in the tension between these two….
When we look at the way people govern across the world, it is is quite evident that lies are often the benchmark for governing. Often lies are used as the standard for keeping a government in place. It seems that if you want to manipulate people’s opinion, it becomes essential to lie. Fake news which gets spread across the internet, through Facebook, Twitter and many other forms of media. Why would people want to do that? Why distort the news and messaging to support one’s own worldview? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of promoting one view over the other. Fake news, distorting the truth are one thing. Add on to that conspiracy theories.
One of the conspiracy theories is roughly one that goes like this: Four thousand Israelis employed by companies housed in the World Trade Center stayed home from work on 9/11, warned in advance of the impending attack on the World Trade Centre. None of us needed any reminders after the events of September 11 about what an ugly place the world could be, but we continued to receive those reminders nonetheless. In this case, there were plenty of anti-Semitic groups eager to use the horrors of September 11 as fodder for propaganda to serve their own political ends. Those with something to gain by sowing the seeds of divisiveness would have had the world believe that Israel had advance warning of the World Trade Center attack and managed to notify 4,000 Israeli nationals who worked in the two towers about the upcoming horror, but that they left the United States completely unaware of the danger. This conspiracy theory proved to be totally false news.
In the wake of people spreading false news or even ugly rumours, our reading from John gives us a different spin on events when Pilate asks “What is truth?”, particularly in the midst of Jesus’ trial.
This is exactly where we observe how Jesus came and brought a very different way of governing. Jesus was, contrary to the belief of many onlookers, not an upcoming political leader who would free the people from the Roman empire. With Jesus it’s not a matter of whatis truth, but rather whois truth. The style of Jesus’ governing gets described here. He is a king unlike any other king, and his kingdom is unlike any other, for it is not of this world. What is this kingdom, this reign, like? Jesus’ way of governing seems to be self-sacrificing, and it is one of serving, one of caring for the oppressed. Our text from John 18 challenges us to answer important questions. Are we willing to accept Jesus as our king? We, too, are tempted by the allure of secularism and the power of the world. In what ways do we bow to the empire of this world?
Are you and I, as believers in Jesus Christ not called to live a very different type of life, when we acknowledge that Jesus brought a very different form of reign to this world?
What does a Christ-centred faith community look like when it lives under Jesus’ way of governing? Kingdom of God people, for starters, recognise that the systems of this world are utterly flawed. They don’t give up on this world. They love this world, and they passionately care for a world that is filled with so many clear signs of suffering, illness and abuse of power.
A community of faith and care such as Dayspring, of which we are part, might be inspired by God to want to see suffering alleviated, wherever it is possible. Wouldn’t our community be shaped by God to go to the places where we could make a difference in the midst of sickness and disease? This is where we would bring light and hope to the hopeless and the despondent.
Let us detect that while the world we live in is bent on deception and that the Christ-child came to show that God cares, by being the ultimate truth. It is with this knowledge that God empowers us to strive towards making a heaven-inspired difference to the many abuses, and if only in part, still never giving up.
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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