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John 18: 33-37 – Christ the King – 34th Sunday, Year B (Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
36 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.
37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

It is the time of the Passion. Jesus has been arrested and the Jewish leaders have asked Pilate to judge Jesus and order him put to death. Pilate now speaks with Jesus. Jesus’ life is in Pilate’s hands. The lives of all the people in the world are in Jesus’ hands – the crucifixion must happen; the figure of Christ on the cross, which has towered over the Gospels, must be realised, the sign of our redemption and the sign of truth.

Pilate must have been bemused by the charges laid against Jesus. From the Imperial Roman perspective, it must seem that what Pilate is being presented with is a strange, internal matter of Jewish theology, and Pilate would have been aware of how rival Jewish groupings disputed in matters of theology and religious practice.

We know that the reason the Jewish Temple authorities wish to kill Jesus is that Jesus has said he is the Son of God, God the Son, that Jesus has come to fulfil God’s promise of ages – that he is Christ the King. We think it probable that the reason the Jews, i.e. the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Temple authorities, wish Pilate to kill Jesus is because Jesus has amassed a great following among the Jews, and so they wish the blame for Jesus’ death to be on the Romans. So it is that the Jewish leaders frame Jesus’ so-called crimes as being political. This way, the claimed offence becomes against Rome, warranting crucifixion rather than stoning for blasphemy.

Throughout his progress through Galilee and environs and toward Jerusalem, Jesus has told people not to reveal that he is the Messiah. Finally, he has entered Jerusalem, on a donkey, as was foretold, and Jesus has allowed a general acclamation to surround him. Jesus has furthermore taught in the Temple, identifying himself more and more closely as God the Son, and with the revelation, the apocalypse, the parousia, the end of days and the advent of the Messianic Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Now he speaks of these matters with Pilate, and clarifies the nature of his Kingdom.

Jesus tells Pilate definitively that he is King. That which has been shown mysteriously and in a veiled way through the parables and teaching discourses is confirmed: Jesus is King, and his Kingdom exists in relation to absolute truth: to know the truth is to know the Kingdom.

Jesus tells Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world. While the Jewish people have expected a Messiah to come to liberate them from occupying powers and, finally, to bring to the Jews a free, self-determining nation state, such as had only been enjoyed briefly in history, Jesus is the Messiah but he has not come to do this. Jesus has come to do far, far more. He is God incarnate. He is love incarnate. Jesus has come to resolve and to transcend history.

This is the Kingdom of God to which we belong. This is what we celebrate as we proclaim Christ the King. The Kingdom is come. We ask that the Kingdom come to us each day. Each day we ask God for the parousia. Each day we acknowledge parousia. Each day Christ the King is with us, come again. Each day we know the truth and we hear Jesus’ voice. Each day, thereby, Jesus is come again.

Today’s Gospel reading of Christ the King precedes the readings of Advent. As we look forward to Advent and to the time when we celebrate the incarnation, the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Christmas, it is fitting that we contemplate the great triumph of Easter, the clinching moment of our salvation history, when Christ dies yet he lives forever. Pilate may ask: What is truth? We know the answer to that question, and it is our truth, Jesus with us, here and now.

‘When Jesus Christ himself appeared as a prisoner before Pilate’s tribunal and was interrogated by him…did he not answer: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth”? It was as if with these words… he was once more confirming what he had said earlier: “You will know the truth, and truth will make you free”. In the course of so many centuries, of so many generations, from the time of the Apostles on, is it not often Jesus Christ himself that has made an appearance at the side of people judged for the sake of truth? And has he not gone to death with people condemned for the sake of truth? Does he ever cease to be the continuous spokesman and advocate for person who lives “in spirit and truth”? (cf. John 4: 23). Just as he does not cease to be it before the Father, he is it also with regard to the history of man.’ Blessed John Paul II.