The Problem of Two Kings. Two people BOTH want to be boss. And they BOTH want different things. And that’s when the PROBLEM starts.
It’s a problem that begins VERY EARLY IN LIFE. New baby wants food NOW. Mum’s busy. So baby has to wait. Baby doesn’t WANT to wait. And so baby SCREAMS. A problem of two kings.
Or at pre-school. Two best-friends playing together. One wants to play in the sand-pit. The other wants to play dress-ups. Both want their own way. So there’s a fight. A problem of two kings.
Or at school. One boy wants to play cricket, the other wants to play hand-ball. They can’t agree. So one takes his ball, and goes home. A problem of two kings.
And it doesn’t change much when we become s either. We STILL want our own way. We STILL want to be KING. And we STILL come in conflict with people who ALSO want to be KING.
We just get better at DISGUISING it. Because rather than screaming, or taking our ball and going home. We MANIPULATE. We TRICK people into thinking they’re doing what THEY want to do, when they’re really doing what WE want to do.
- Two mums who want playgroup to go in different directions. Different emphases.
- Two dads who want to see their sons’ soccer team play in different ways. Different positions.
- Husband and wife who want different colour schemes for the house. Different tastes.
It’s the problem of two kings. And it’s fundamentally a problem of human re. Of selfishness. And self-centredness.
And it was a problem that was alive and well in the time of Jesus.
Right from the start of Jesus’ public ministry it had been on. Jesus vs the Pharisees – the religious leaders. Jesus teaching and healing with authority. The authority of his heavenly Father. Pointing out the MISTAKES and PROBLEMS with the way the Pharisees were leading. Breaking their traditions. Reinterpreting their understanding of what God required.
And the Pharisees didn’t like it ONE LITTLE BIT. THEY were the ones who knew the Law. Who understood the Jewish religion. THEY’D received the training. THEY had the authority to lead the people. And they didn’t take too kindly to anyone telling them they’d got it wrong. Telling them how to do their job.
A very AUSTRALIAN reaction, really!
And so, almost from the start, they were out to get him. Looking for an opportunity to KILL HIM. It’s the problem of two kings. The Pharisees wanting ONE thing. Jesus proclaiming ANOTHER.
And for three years the action gets hotter. The tension builds. Until they see their chance. And Jesus is arrested in a lonely place, outside the city, away from the people. In the dark of night.
Are you the king of the Jews?
And he’s taken before the High Priest. And then to Pilate, the Roman governor.
He’s the local representative of CAESAR. The Emperor. The supreme earthly authority. The KING. Who didn’t take kindly to revolutionary upstarts mouthing rebellion – claiming to be ANOTHER king. A COMPETING king.
IT’S THE PROBLEM OF TWO KINGS.
And when Pilate questions Jesus. Look at the VERY FIRST QUESTION he asks. Over in v33 of Ch 18.
33 “Are YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS?” NIV
Straight to the heart of the matter. Is this REBELLION we’re talking about? A challenge to Caesar? Or something else?
And Jesus responds, “You’re not completely wrong.” V36
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” NIV
A different SORT of king!
A Hah! Says Pilate, “You ARE a king then!”
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to THE TRUTH. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” NIV
Jesus is the king who’s come from OUTSIDE this world. To testify to the TRUTH. The truth about God and eternity and sin and judgment. In fact, the two ideas GO TOGETHER – BEING king, and PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH.
Jesus DISPLAYS his kingship by TESTIFYING TO THE TRUTH. It’s his declarations of authority and truth that DEMONSTRATE his kingship.
And his citizens follow their king by BELIEVING his words. Trusting his truth. And so only those ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH will listen to their King.
Jesus, the accused, offers his judge the opportunity to FOLLOW him as king. To listen to his words of truth.
And he offers the same TO US. Will YOU follow King Jesus? Will you trust his words of truth?
Rejecting the king
But Pilate will have none of it. He finishes the conversation with an abrupt and dismissive “What is truth?” And marches out to the crowd. Pilate is simply the first in a long line of people REJECTING THE KING.
THE JEWS OUTSIDE THE PALACE want nothing to do with the king EITHER. “No, not him! Give us Barabbas instead” A criminal instead of a king.
Mocking the king
Next, it’s the SOLDIERS’ turn. Into Ch 19. Pilate hopes a good flogging might satisfy the crowd. They whip him. Then they MOCK the king. Rather than a crown of gold, they give him a crown of thorns. They dress him in a robe of kingly purple. But rather than bow in honour, they punch him in the face.
Pilate comes back. He hopes the flogging’s calmed the crowd down. He leads Jesus out again. “This guy’s done nothing wrong! Here he is!” This is your king.
But truth means nothing to the crowd. This is the problem of two kings. Removing the opposition. Getting your own way. And so, v6, the chief priests and officials scream, “Crucify him!”
Pilate is FRUSTRATED. Innocence and the truth are irrelevant to this crowd!
John 19:6: “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” NIV
And when the crowd accuse Jesus of claiming to be THE SON OF GOD, Pilate wants to find out more. Perhaps he really IS seeking THE TRUTH.
He takes Jesus inside again. “Where do you come from?” And when Jesus won’t answer, “Why won’t you answer me? DON’T YOU KNOW I’VE GOT THE POWER TO RELEASE YOU OR KILL YOU?”
The will of God
And it’s here that Jesus CAN’T let the comment go by. Because it’s SO wrong. SO far from TRUTH. V11
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above..” NIV
Pilate thinks HE’s king. The one who’s making the decisions. But the TRUTH is. He’s only there because GOD has PLACED him there.
It’s a mistake COUNTLESS Aussies make every day. “Don’t you know I’ve got the power to do what I want? I’m in control of life. I choose my path. I decide what I want to do, or won’t do.
And yet the reality is/ they’re no more in control of what happens to them/ than Pilate was of THESE events.
Because, the truth is that EVERYTHING that’s going to happen in the next three days will happen EXACTLY because God wills it. The whips, the mockery, the betrayal, the nails, the pain, the d.eath, the resurrection. All part of God’s plan. For God’s king.
That’s part of the truth Jesus comes proclaiming.
Declaration of Independence
But the crowd sees it very differently. When Pilate AGAIN takes Jesus out to them, trying to set him free. Look at what they say. V12.
John 19:12: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” NIV
Pilate tries one more time.
“Here is your KING,”
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
A damning confession from their own mouths. It’s their declaration of independence. “JESUS IS NO KING OF OURS.” We like things OUR way.
It’s the problem of two kings.
You’ll hear the same declaration echoes through Sydney this morning. “We have no king. Take Jesus away. We want nothing to do with him. We’ll take the public holidays. Just don’t talk to us about Jesus!”
(pause) So Pilate finally gives up, and hands him over to be crucified.
d.eath of the king
And even as Jesus dies, the THEME OF KINGSHIP CONTINUES. The soldiers crucified Jesus, with two others, one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
And Pilate had a sign placed above Jesus’ head. “Jesus of Nazareth: The King of the Jews”. Nice big letters. So everyone could read it. In Aramaic and Latin and Greek. All the translations.
And the message wasn’t lost on the chief priests either. “Don’t write ‘the king of the Jews’. Write “he SAID he was the king of Jews”
The chief priests didn’t want this DECLARATION OF TRUTH.
Did Pilate really THINK this? Or was he just making a POLITICAL statement? Quashing any HINT of rebellion?
“You Jews! Don’t even THINK about a revolution! Look at what happens to those who dare to claim kingship! Here he is! Your king!”
We don’t really know. But the irony is/ WHATEVER Pilate’s motives. The sign proclaimed THE TRUTH. This WAS Israel’s king. Enthroned. According to the plan of God.
The cross, that symbol of shame and weakness and pain and suffering. Was actually God’s means of bringing VICTORY and SUCCESS and DELIVERANCE and SALVATION for his king. The king from HEAVEN. The TRUE king.
And to show that it’s all according to God’s will, we recognise THE PROPHECY that’s fulfilled.
- The soldiers gamble for Jesus’ cloak – according to Scripture.
- And then Jesus calls out for a drink “I’m thirsty” –according to Scripture.
And with a final burst of strength, he calls out “It is finished”. And then, he bows his head, and gives up the ghost.
It is finished! Or is it?
It’s finished! Or is it?
Many people have taken those words to mean that Jesus died a failure. A disappointed revolutionary.
But we forget the clues when we take that line. We forget/ that everything happened by God’s WILL, and according to his PLAN.
And we forget that he was a different SORT of king. Bringing in a different SORT of kingdom. A kingdom from beyond this world.
So there’s no reason to expect that, from an earthly point of view, that d.eath is defeat. That would be the end of any EARTHLY kingship.
Rather, we should assume that what’s FINISHED is God’s plan. The plan to bring in this HEAVENLY kingdom.
Jesus knew what was going on. All the way along, Jesus knew where this chapter would finish. Mark’s gospel records Jesus’ words about his kingship, and about his kingdom. Mark 10 v43. Here’s what my kingdom’s like.
Mark 10:43-45: … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For EVEN THE SON OF MAN DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE, AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.” NIV
The kingship of Jesus is about SERVING. In particular that he give his life as A RANSOM. A SACRIFICE. A payment in substitute.
And so, when Jesus’ DIES. When he GIVES UP HIS Spirit. That’s what’s FINISHED. The action of PROVIDING A RANSOM.
(PAUSE) Perhaps what’s NOT clear. Is who’s being held ransom. Who needs to be RELEASED. And the answer is/ we ALL do.
And the reason is to do with THE PROBLEM OF TWO KINGS. You see, every one of us WANTS to be KING. We want the world to revolve around US, rather than anyone else. INCLUDING Jesus.
We want to be masters of our own destinies. To make our OWN decisions. Control our OWN fate.
We don’t want to be told what to do by anyone. At any time.
(pause) But the reality is/ God has made JESUS the King of the Universe. He’s the one who DESERVES to be obeyed. Who’s earned the RIGHT to make the rules.
And when we insist on having OUR way. Doing OUR thing. We shake our fists at Jesus. And declare our independence. It’s the problem of two kings.
(pause) And it’s a problem whether we do it DELIBERATELY or not.
Most people don’t CONSCIOUSLY reject Jesus’ claim to be king. They just don’t even THINK about him. Which, in God’s books, is just as bad.
And God promises that one day he’s going to PUNISH that sort of rebellion. He’ll give us what we DESERVE. Exactly what we’ve done to Jesus in THIS life. If we reject God’s Son NOW, then he’ll reject US in the FUTURE.
Which is bad news for ALL OF US. Because that’s what we’re all destined for. That’s the fate we need ransoming from. Rescuing.
God’s incredible plan behind the events of Easter. Was that the d.eath we all deserved to die for our rebellion. Would be suffered by Jesus instead. HE would take the punishment in our place. Give his life as a ransom for many.
And that all we need to do is to ACCEPT the offer of ransom.
The gift is offered to us. To be saved from d.eath. And all we need to do/ is to recognise our rebellion. To confess it. Turn from it. And to let Jesus be king instead.
And that’s all a Christian is. Someone who’s handed over the keys of their life to Jesus. And let HIM drive instead. Who’s hopped off the throne of their own life. And let Jesus sit up there instead.
And that’s an INCREDIBLE life. When we let the King be king. And when we live a life of trust and love and obedience and gratitude to him. When Jesus solves the problem of two kings.