The Kingdom of Christ

John

The Kingdom of Christ

February 5th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
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THE KINGDOM OF OUR LORD JESUS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 18:33-37

2-5-89    8:15 a.m.

 

And once again welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio.  You are a part now of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus.  In our preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, this is a scene in the eighteenth chapter, reading from verses 33 to 37:

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews?

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered. . .but now is My kingdom not from hence.

Pilate therefore said unto [Him], Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king—the strongest affirmation in the Greek language—to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should be the King of truth, that I should bear witness unto the truth.  And every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.

[John 18:33-37]

This is a little segment, a little pericope of the trial of the Lord Jesus before the Roman procurator.  And as you read through the trial, of which this is a segment, you cannot but be overwhelmed by the incredulous, unbelievable succession and series of paradoxes and anomalies in that confrontation.

He who came to deliver the prisoner free is Himself now arraigned and arrested and imprisoned.  He who came to lead us into life is Himself now bound over unto death.  He who through all eternity was surrounded by the hosts of angelic angels worshiping Him, He is now that lone and solitary figure in the judgment hall [John 18:33].  He who was described by the prophet Isaiah as being the wonderful Counselor [Isaiah 9:6] is now before a vapid and vacillating judge [John 18:33].

And the Jews, who refused to enter the judgment hall of the Gentiles lest they be defiled, are there in the presence of the Holy One of Israel.  And the most astonishing of all of the claims that could ever be made: the Lord Jesus says to Pontius Pilate that He is a king [John 18:37].  And Pilate looked incredulously, amazingly, unbelievably on that poor peasant from an unknown little city in Galilee.  “You are a king? [John 18:37].  How could such a thing be?”  One of His own disciples betrayed Him [John 18:2-3; Matthew 26:14-16, 47-49].  His own countrymen have delivered Him up [John 18:35]. He is not acclaimed, but derided and scorned [Matthew 27:39-44].

He stands there a pitiful figure [John 18:33].  Had He been of the line of the pharaohs, had He belonged to the family of Nimrod, had He been of the race of the Caesars and said He was a king, then Pilate might have been somewhat impressed.  But this Man, peasant, standing there with a crown of thorns and a castoff purple robe and a reed for a scepter in His hands [Matthew 27:28-29; John 19:2, 5], and He says He is a king?  [John 18:37].

And yet never in history did any man ever stand so imperiously sovereign and royal as did that Man.  They might spit upon Him, and buffet Him, and deride Him, and curse Him [Matthew 27:30-31], but they could never deny or destroy the sublime truth upon which He stands [John 18:37].  And as though that were not overwhelming enough, this peasant who claims to be a king speaks of a kingdom that belongs to Him [John 18:36]; a kingdom whose reality lies not in things seen, but in things unseen [John 18:36].

And Pilate listens, and with his lips curled in scorn asks what kind of a kingdom over which this peasant presides.  The only kingdom that Pilate knew was the iron dominion and domain of Rome.  It was a kingdom of armies.  It was a kingdom of tax collectors.  It was a kingdom of marching marshal forces.  It was a kingdom that exacted tribute from a conquered and enslaved people.  He could imagine no other kind of a kingdom.  And this Man, this poor peasant standing before him claiming to be the King over a kingdom, and where was His power to rule?  So subject Himself, so bloodied and beat, what power did He have to rule?  [John 18:36].

In this next [chapter], he says to that peasant, “I have power to crucify You or to release You” [John 19:10].  And what he did, true to his word, he delivered that peasant to be crucified unto death [John 19:16].  That’s what the story says.  And I read it here on the Word of God.  Pilate, “I have the power,” and he delivered Him to be crucified, and to die [John 19:16].

But I ask you, dear people, who emerged victorious and triumphant and ascendant?  Was it Pilate or was it that subjected, beat, and bloodied peasant?  Who truly reigns?

In the diadem of that peasant there shined the everlasting stars of all God’s creation.  The sovereignty of His spirit has seized and held the noblest men and women of all the generations.  And the kingdom of that despised and derided peasant has ascended over all the dust heaps and ash heaps of the great kingdoms of this earth.

The only reason that we know the name of Pilate is because of this confrontation with the Lord Jesus.  He is buried in an utterly unknown and forgotten grave.  The kingdom that he represented is a candle that has been thrust into everlasting darkness.

But the kingdom of our Lord rises, and shines, and rules, and lives forever and ever and ever.  The paradoxes and the anomalies of this confrontation, they are, I say, incredulous and unbelievable.  He says, this King, He says, “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36].  Our Lord could have built His kingdom here.

Do you remember that verse that closes the story of the feeding of the five thousand?  When our Lord fed that great throng, there were five thousand men.  How many others were there, women and children?  We don’t know; thousands and thousands, when our Lord fed that vast multitude with that little boy’s lunch [John 6:5-14].  Do you remember the next verse? It says, “And they sought by force to take Him and make Him a king” [John 6:15].  It was obvious: “Here is a Man that can lead us against the imperial power of the Caesars of Rome. This Man can deliver our nation.  Look at Him, He can feed an army on a handful of food.  Look at Him.  If our soldiers are killed, He can raise them from the dead.  He is invincible!”  Then the verse says, “And the Lord went away and hid Himself in a mountain to pray” [John 6:15].

Or look again; our Lord could have built His kingdom, I say, in this world.  When He was arrested, Simon Peter drew out his sword to defend Him.  And the Lord said to him, “Put up the sword.  If I would and if I will, I could ask My Father for twelve legions of angels” [Matthew 26:52-53].  You consider that; twelve legions of angels.  A legion had six thousand soldiers.  Twelve legions would be seventy-two thousand angels.  Do you remember reading in the life of King Hezekiah when he was shut up by the armies of Sennacherib?  One angel, just one, passed over the Assyrian army that night, and the next morning they counted one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses; one angel [Isaiah 37:36].  “If I will, I could ask My Father that He send Me seventy-two thousand angels” [Matthew 26:53].  He could have built His kingdom in this world.

But our Lord repudiated it [John 6:15].  One: had He built His kingdom in this world He would have shared it with Satan, and sin and death would have been forever king in this earth.  What a bargain that would have been for Satan, to share the kingdom with the Prince of glory and the God of heaven.  But the Lord repudiated it.  When Satan came to Him in that third temptation and said, “I show You the kingdoms of the world and all their glory;  I will give it to You if You will kneel down and worship me,” the Lord said, “Get thee behind Me Satan.  Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve” [Matthew 4:8-10]. 

Look again.  Had our Lord built His kingdom in this world, it would have been founded upon force, upon armies.  There was a Pax Romana, an universal peace by the power of the armies of Rome.  There could have been a Pax Christiana, a universal kingdom of Christ built by might and by strength.  But Christ repudiated it, saying to Simon Peter, “Put up the sword” [Matthew 26:52].  Pilate represented the only kingdom that he knew, the iron force of the Caesars of Rome.  But even then, after seven hundred years, he represented a dying domain.

All of those great kingdoms have crumbled into the dust [Daniel 2:31-45].  That glorious vision of the course of history seen by Daniel: the head of gold [Daniel 2:32, 37-38], the Babylonian kingdom is gone; the breast and the arms of silver [Daniel 2:32, 39], the Medo-Persian kingdom is gone; the midsection and thighs  [Daniel 2:32, 39] of the Grecian kingdom is dead and gone; and the two iron legs of the Roman kingdom [Daniel 2:33, 40] have perished in the dust and forgotten grave of the earth, its grandeur is vanished.

And no one could ever say Jesus is the king of glitter and pomp, that He is the king of the sword and the coercive conversion, that He is the king of the sensualists and the ephemeral.  His kingdom is in another world.  And the glory of that kingdom is not of this world, the kingdom of marbled hall, alabaster colonies; Jesus repudiated it [John 18:36].

My sweet people, there is more to be seen and to be felt and to be known in the manger of that cattle stall [Luke 2:11-16], and in the cross on that Calvary field [Matthew 27:32-50] than in all the golden palaces of the world.  And the entrance into that kingdom is not by proud and marshal array, but by humility and by bowing [Philippians 2:9-11].

Who is greatest?  Jesus took a little child and set him in the midst.  And the more like that child you are, the greater you are [Matthew 18:1-5].  And when the disciples were quarrelling among themselves, “Who will be greatest” [Luke 22:24], Jesus disrobes, bound Himself with a towel, and washed their feet [John 13:4-5].  This is the glory of the kingdom of our God [Matthew 20:16; Mark 9:35].

May I speak now of the kingdom of Christ?  First: it is He and He alone.  It is not He and Satan.  It is not He and sin and death.  It is not He and anyone else in heaven above or in earth below.  He is King alone.

As the great prophet Isaiah in chapter 59 [Isaiah 59:16] and again in chapter 63 [Isaiah 63:5], “He sought someone to deliver; and finding none, His own arm brought deliverance.”  All of us sinful creatures, subject to judgment and death; He came to do what we could never do, and to be what we could never, ever be.  He is King alone, in glory and majesty.

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!

Let angels prostrate fall;

Bring forth the royal diadem,

And crown Him Lord of all.

[from “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet]

King Jesus, alone.

A second thing about His kingdom: He says that He is the King of truth, of reality [John 18:37].  That’s an amazing thing!  Truth not in a book, not in word and language, not in creeds and philosophies, but true incarnate, truth living.  He said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  Truth and life are in Him.

When you look at our Lord, how amazingly true is that?  He is absolutely transparent from head to foot.  Everything He did, He did in public; nothing in private.  And when He was in solitude, His disciples were there to observe Him and to write about Him; everything open and public.  You could touch Him. You could see Him.  You could behold Him.  You could walk with Him.  He was incarnate in our very presence [John 1:1, 14].

And God sent Him into this world that thus He might be [John 3:16].  An angel could not rule over us in a kingdom.  An angel has not our nature.  He doesn’t know anything about the trials and the troubles, the sorrows, and the death that we experience.

But He does.  The great Book of Hebrews describes it:

He was made like unto His brethren.

In all things and ways, He was tried as we are, that He might be a sympathetic High Priest interceding for us.

Wherefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that you might find grace and help in time of need.

[Hebrews 2:17, 4:14-16]

He is that kind of a King.  He is that kind of an incarnate Lord.  And we did not need and we do not need another echo of a Seneca or of a Marcus Aurelius, or even of a Socrates or a Plato or an Aristotle.  We need a Savior, we need a great Deliverer.  And Jesus is that to us; the King of our souls, of our lives, of our hearts, who knows all about us and yet loves us and sympathizes with us.

The kingdom of our Savior, in a third place, is open to everybody, to everybody.  The truer and the humbler you are, the more you’ll feel at home with the Lord Jesus—open to everybody.  You will not need a Diogenes’ lantern to find those who worship at His feet.  They will come to the light of our Lord, a kingdom that welcomes anybody and everybody.

I have preached in the illustrious, beautiful church, attended by greater numbers than any other in the Church of England, in London.  The pomp, the ceremony, the elective and the illustrious that were there, I have preached there.

I have also preached in a leper colony in western Africa, in Nigeria; the church made out of mud, the building made out of mud, the pews made out of mud, the pulpit made out of mud, and the pulpit lectern and stand made out of mud, listening to those lepers sing about the Great Physician.

Sweet people, whether it was in that august, illustrious Church of England or whether it was in the mud church in Nigeria, I preached the same gospel, the same Lord.  Anyone is welcome—high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned—the kingdom of our Lord Jesus.  Again, it will find its greatest glory when Jesus comes again.

Lord Jesus, You were born for us, and You died for us, and You bled for us and someday you are coming for us.  Not the least of His saints, will he leave not in the dust of the ground or in this trial or tribulation, Jesus is coming again [Acts 1:11].

And last, His kingdom is forever and ever [Revelation 11:15].  There’ll be no more death, there’ll be no more sorrow, no more crying, and no more sin [Revelation 21:4].  Death will be conquered, and sin will be vanquished [Revelation 21:4], and we’ll live forever at His side, in the glory of our eternal home [John 14:3].

Within a few days of last week, I conducted four funerals.  We live in that kind of a world, by the open grave, and all of us wasted by time and living under the weight of sin.  What a glory and what a triumph, when the Lord lifts us up out of the dust of the grave [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and out of the trial and tribulation of this life [John 16:33], and we are made eternal citizens of the city of God, the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2-3], strangers and pilgrims here, and our home in heaven [Hebrews 11:13-16]. This as Jesus, King Jesus, Lord Jesus, come for us.

In this moment now, we sing a hymn of appeal.  If there is a family here to put life with us, we welcome you with all of our hearts.  If there’s a couple here to dedicate home and ministry and service to Jesus, a thousand times welcome.  If there is one somebody here to accept Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:9-10], that Roman road is so plain and so simple.  “I recognize, Lord, that as a sinner I face the judgment of death [Romans 6:3].  And Lord, You died for me that I might have eternal life [Romans 3:23]. And I accept Your love and grace in my heart [Romans 5:8], in my house and home, and in my life, and in keeping with the great commandment, I confess You openly and publically as my Savior” [Romans 10:9].  You come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.