This Easter, I’ll be preaching from John’s account of the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is full of artistry, pathos and deep meaning.
One thing that struck me about the arrest and trial recorded in Jn 18 is the theme of kingship and authority. This is the charge that is brought against Jesus in v. 33, skilfully delayed in being revealed to heighten the tension - that he is king of the Jews.
To which the answer is, ‘yes … and no’.
Yes, because Jesus is the great “I am”, the Son of God who will drink the cup of God’s wrath as his great act of kingship, saving his people as a good king does.
But at the same time, no, because as Jesus puts it, his kingdom is not of this world.
And what’s crucial is that we hold the ‘Yes’ and the ‘No’ in proper tension.
In 1997, Stephen Jay Gould who was an agnostic / atheist paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, wrote a famous essay entitled ‘Nonoverlapping magesteria’, which argued that it was silly for science to claim that it disproved religion - or vice versa - since they dealt with two entirely separate - nonoverlapping - areas of human inquiry, or magesteria. In some ways it is a tempting position, and was certainly designed to end the so-called war between science and religion.
It can perhaps be equally tempting to think that Jesus’ kingdom and the kingdom of this world are ‘nonoverlapping magesteria’. That is, that the reign of Jesus is a reign in the heart - over the spiritual parts of life, for example my character, family life and church life - but that it has nothing to do with the kingdoms of this world - the state and government, the workplace, the local community and its flourishing.
But that would be a big mistake!
No, when Jesus says that he is Lord and king, that means he has staked his claim over everything, public and private life. He has done so by dying and rising in the flesh, as we celebrate this Easter. And our task as his disciples is to live out what that means in every part of life, personal, family, church and world.
May God be pleased to fulfil his purpose in and through us.