Christ’s Realm: the Way of Peace

25 November 2018 – Reign of Christ


John 18:33-37

Pilate’s encounter with Jesus, like virtually all such encounters in this Gospel, illustrates the basic Johannine dualism: the world as it appears and (divine) reality. This dualism is not between the physical and the spiritual per se, but rather between fundamental systems of understanding the structure of reality: the world’s way or God’s way.

Pilate operates within the world system. For him a king is a tyrant, and in Jesus’ case, a usurper. When Jesus says that his kingdom “is not from this world” (v 36), he is claiming that he does indeed have a kingdom, but not a kingdom that can be secured through physical violence.

Jesus’ kingdom is founded in truth, which cannot be defended by violence, for it needs no defense. Those who belong to the truth will recognize it. The chief characteristic of Jesus’ system of truth is love (cf. John 15:9–10). –– L. Edward Phillips

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

rses brings the reader into the heavenly throne room. God (the Ancient of Days or Ancient One, v 9) sits in judgment while a countless multitude (presumably of angelic beings) minister to him. The omitted verses (11– 12) refer to a human ruler (Antiochus IV), a little “horn” on the fourth beast (the Hellenistic Empires), who is judged along with the other empires, all of whom are presented as “beasts.” The passage concludes with the emergence of a ruler who is “like a human being” (literally, “son of man”), whose kingdom “shall never be destroyed.”

The beasts may appear to have human-like features (Dan 7:4, 8), but that is deceptive. Briefly, the passage contrasts the dehumanizing beast-like power of domination and war among the empires of the world with God’s eschatological kingdom, where the ruler is like a genuinely human being (in the best sense) and where all “peoples, nations, and languages” flourish. To the human one, God gives “dominion and glory and kingship” (v 14), though the influence of the beastly kingdoms will continue “for a season and a time” (v 12, not in today’s lesson). –– L. Edward Phillips

Revelation 1:4b-8

Verse 1:4b names God as the one “who is and who was and who is to come,” and as a parallel describes Jesus with a threefold title that implies the past, present, and future: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (v 5). The threefold title of Jesus has a further parallel in his actions toward the faithful, for he is the one who “loves us” (present), “freed us” (past), and “made us to be a kingdom” (implying from now into the future). The point is not to distinguish distinct works in the past, present, and future, but to recognize that in Jesus Christ, the eternal God, the Alpha and the Omega, is fully present. –– L. Edward Phillips

L. Edward Phillips is an associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.

Homily Service 42, no. 4 (2009): 135-146.

David Turnbloom