What is a King? What is truth?
Bible readings for this Sunday were Psalm 72:1-7, 1Samuel 8:4-20 and John 18:33-38
What is a King or a Queen to you? We of course relate perhaps to the reign of our own monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, a fellow sister in Christ who is our constitutional monarch. She is our head of state and head of the Church of England and represents our country, all that we are to the world around us. She isn’t an absolute monarch who holds power and absolute authority over the direction of our country, for this is left to elected representatives in her Government.
In Samuel’s time things were different, very different for God’s people. Samuel was a prophetic judge of Israel, he heard from God, he sought his face and he guided the nation in God’s purposes, judging their actions and leading them into God’s purposes. I suppose he might be a bit like the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope leading the people into God’s kingdom. God after all was their King.
When Samuel became old he handed over his prophetic ministry to his sons who unfortunately failed to listen to God and so they fell into disrepute and the people demanded a human King, just like the countries around them and we hear this painful warning through Samuel from God.
Listen to the voice of the people says God to Samuel, they haven’t rejected you they have rejected me as their King. The one who has rescued them and saved them out of slavery into a land they can call home.
Go ahead let them have a King but be warned! An absolute Monarch will demand that the people serve him. He will take your sons and your daughters, he will take the best of your food and drink, he will take one tenth of your goods and you will cry out to be released but God will not hear you.
It is a prophetic and startling revelation of what we would know as an absolute monarch, someone who commands absolute power and authority over our lives. Someone who we would swear allegiance to and who we would serve. We only need to look at our own history to see what an absolute monarch is like. King John was a cruel dictator reigning rough shod over his people, demanding ever greater taxes only to be forced in the end to sign a bill of rights, embodied in Magna Carta. This is what life can be like serving an absolute monarch.
You might have heard of the court jester who went too far one day and insulted his king. The king became so infuriated that he sentenced the jester to be executed. There was to be no trial. His court preyed upon the king to have mercy for this man who had served him well for so many years. After a time, the king relented only enough to give the jester his “choice” as to how he would like to die. True to form, the jester replied, “if it’s all the same to you my Lord, I’d like to die of old age.”
God’s people continued to have absolute monarchs as their leaders. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was King of the Jews in Jesus time under the auspices of the Roman Empire, where the Roman Emperor Tiberius was worshipped as a god and Pontius Pilate was his Governor.
The subject of who is King and who held absolute power and who the people served was a question of great importance.
I can’t help but think of our world today and where power is being exercised. We are living in a world of change; Brexit, The American Presidential Elections, Global Warming, Russian ascendancy, extremist aggression, and peoples persecuted around the world and people in developed countries feeling neglected and left in poverty. We are living in an age which we are told is called ‘Post Truth’, where truth no longer matters, it’s the end result that matters.
Who and what is our King today and what is truth?
Jesus comes in front of Pilate. Here is the man from God coming into a world where there is rebellion against God, where there is evil and he comes to bring God’s kingdom into this world, into our world, to rescue us and save us from the all that is wrong by showing us how to live. Here is a King who comes to serve, not to be served and his Kingdom is one of God, of his direction and purposes, of grace, sacrifice, salvation, serving and truth!
No wonder Pilate doesn’t quite understand. What is important to him is where absolute power resides.
‘Are you the King of the Jews’ he asks Jesus, because as far as he is concerned Herod Antipas is the King of the Jews but absolute power resides with Pilate under the authority of the Emperor Tiberius who is a god. Pilate is concerned to keep power where it belongs so that the people serve the Emperor. Jesus indicates that his kingdom is not like a worldly kingdom, where people will fight for absolute power, but one of God’s kingdom where truth is known. This truth is that God, through Christ, is King. Christ is King. Not an absolute monarch or dictator but one who guides, nurtures, loves, encourages, and saves those who belong to him and shows his people how to live together with him.
The truth is that God comes to serve humanity in Jesus Christ and gives his life in order that others may be redeemed and be free.
It is illustrated in the story of Barabbas a revolutionary and convict being freed and replaced by Jesus at his execution. It is illustrated by the criminal on the cross being redeemed by Christ into God’s kingdom. It is illustrated by you and me, people who are free and redeemed to live our life with God in our hearts and in our minds and with each other. It is illustrated by the power of evil being defeated in our lives and in our world, so we can choose to lead a different life with God in his kingdom.
This is bought by another power, the power of the cross on which Christ our King gave his life. This is the truth that Jesus came to witness to and to be. It is the truth that Pilate could not comprehend, so he said ‘what is truth’?
It appears that truth doesn’t matter anymore in our world. Our postmodern society likes to pick its own truth and beliefs and life styles to suit ourselves, to suit each individual. Everyone has a right to their own truth and life style. The only problem is that one person’s life style impacts on another person’s life style and we have experienced in our country and in the United States a large proportion of people who feel neglected and uncared for and even condemned for their orthodox views, Christian people are amongst them. It appears that we have now entered a post truth world where politicians can publically be shown as untrustworthy, untruthful, where promises are only words and those words can be changed at anytime because the end result is the most important that. Time will tell how this new world of change can benefit all, but I hope the neglected are cared about.
What is truth I can hear these politicians saying? Power to change and the end result is what is important, not the way we act and what we say on the way.
I can hear Christ reminding us saying ‘I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Leaders ignore God at their peril.
On the day we recognise Christ as our King, and that our King comes to serve and to bring truth, we recognise the power of the cross to save and set us free from all that is evil, as Christ becomes sin for us, so we can live a life with him in God’s kingdom. He is the one we give authority to, our servant King, our redeemer.
Christ our King, our redeemer, makes his power available to the ordinary Christian through prayer.
In personal prayer, in Morning Prayer, in home groups, in prayer triplets, in monthly prayer meetings, in our services and in our prayer mornings, another of which is next Saturday morning. This is where we as redeemed people know what a King is and who our King is and what authority is and what power means by bringing his Holy Spirit into our lives and into a world that is changing and is desperately seeking its King and its truth.
This is where we are called to tell and show people about the truth we have. We have much work to do.