King over Sin John,18, 33-37
Dear community, today is the last Sunday in the church year. Also called Christ-King-Day. And in this context, we have heard the second reading from the Gospel of John: “Are you a king?” Asks Pilate and Jesus replies to a counter question: “Yes, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world.”
Today’s sermon deals with this question of Pilate and the rather nebulous answer of Jesus. What does the “king be” that Jesus affirms, and what does it mean that this kingship is “out of this world”?
I think that reading really takes us into thinking about who Jesus is. Therefore, the text fits really well at the end of the church year, if you would like to ask again: And? Now in the end? What is this all about? Who is Jesus?
That is a key question and today I would like to limit myself to the kingship that is addressed in the reading. For kingship is only a partial aspect and not everything. Many of us know the song stanza: “Oh, Jesus is everything to us, king, priest and prophet.”
Today Jesus is the king as king.
Now one might think long and hard about what or who a king is, but let us simply replace the word king with the word ruler. And rulers maybe again in the sense that someone has power. The power to decide one way or the other.
Pilate was a kind of king. He could decide what happens to Jesus. Or let’s say it differently: He finally decided that Jesus was released for crucifixion. The Bible portrays Pilate as a fickle, hesitant man. A thoroughly secular king. One who is subject to the laws of the world, the various powers, and who makes his decision in this game of forces. If we gather together all the various reports of Pilate that we find in the Bible, then Pilate is anything but sovereign. When Pilate addresses his power to Jesus, Jesus says, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” Or the Jews say, “If you release him, they mean Jesusthen , you are not a friend of the Emperor because the one who pretends to be a king opposes the Emperor. ”
In contrast, Jesus presents himself as a sovereign king. A king who is not afraid in face of death, or perhaps even worse, in the face of the impending ordeal.
And I think Jesus makes a very convincing argument as to why his kingship is not of this world. He says, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants or my people would have fought for me.”
That’s how we know it. That’s how our world works. A kingship in this world is fighting another kingship here on earth. All wars that were fought and all wars that are presently fought, reflect this conflict or reflect this behavior.
But it is not like that with Jesus.
What distinguishes the kingdom that Jesus speaks of? What is Jesus king about?
I believe that this text, which John has given us here, refers to a dominion that was already visible during the ministry of Jesus, but which fully reveals its all-encompassing fulfillment only in the light of the resurrection: Jesus is king or ruler over sin.
Our Christian confessions have always emphasized this sinlessness of Jesus. In Jesus we meet a man who is without sin. Who was without sin and remained without sin. A man over whom sin could exercise no power. The king. The king over sin. Jesus broke the power of sin. He made clear who the king is.
What comes for us as today’s followers of Jesus is, that this power of sin has been broken for us as well.
Of course that’s a statement of faith. And of course you have to listen carefully, because the power of sin has been broken, that does not mean a sinless life. The power of sin was broken by Jesus, meaning that sin has no permanent, no life-destroying power over us. In other words, we were redeemed. Redeemed from Jesus.
What does that mean for our lives? Well, I think it can mean many things.
It may mean that I can turn back to God at any time. If we say sin means distance from God, then I can turn back to God any time, every hour and every minute.
I do not think that’s so unimportant or insignificant as we might think. Because one effect of sin is often or let´s say sometimes, a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience that tells us you should do more, you ought to do it more often, you should be more intimate, or you should pray longer.
The problem is, that changes little or nothing.
But it can make a difference if I really know that God loves me so much, that I can turn back to Him anytime. The power of sin is broken by the fact that God does not give me a sermon on what might have been, but that he is glad that I just succeeded in repenting.
The picture of the lost son coming home is always a great help to me. The father rushes towards his son. The power of sin wants to persuade us that we can not easily turn back to God.
Because we are unworthy. Because it is not that easy. Because there should be some compensation. I do not believe that. I believe that it would make a difference if we take it serious, that Jesus has broken the power of sin so that we can turn back to God anytime. Every hour and every minute.
What else can it mean that the power of sin has been broken?
Well, it can mean that I learn to think differently or that other things become important to me in my life. Can not sin also mean that we often do things that do us no good and don´t encourage meaningful life, but rather the opposite? A lot of examples can be found very quickly. Starting from how we treat our fellow human beings, the urge to present ourselves, the ruthlessness and arrogance that we display – there are many examples of where we do things we shouldn´t do. Now, if Jesus has broken the power of sin, it can mean freedom for us as well. Perhaps it will be possible to actually think of freedom as a possibility or to discover freedom as a force, not to be discouraged.
The power of sin says: You can not do that anyway. You will never become more loving.
Jesus says: Why not? Stay with me and trust my ways. My power is mighty in the weak.
And a last picture on what it can mean that the power of sin has been broken: Being redeemed from Jesus means that everything has already been done.
That, too, is, I think, only superficially easy to understand. Especially in our Western world, which thinks in minutes. But Christian faith is not a power religion. No, Christian faith is a love religion. Everything is already done. Done by God. And God is almighty, that means God is beyond our power. So it’s less about what we do, sometimes it´s more about what we involve into. This is a secret we humans often can not handle so easily, but Christian faith is not something we do or something we could do, but something that God gives. If we can let it happen.
So thats it. A terribly boring sermon. Nothing new under the sun. Everything anyway clear and well known. Unfortunately, sometimes, when we try to remember, we rediscover what it means for Jesus to break the power of sin. That Jesus is king. King over sin.
But if Amen means approval and today everything was boring but known anyway, then at least I deserve a strong amen today, right?