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Mar 25, 2018

Pilate, The Haunted One; Part 5, Living the Secular Life or I'm My Own King

Passage: John 19:6-16

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Pilate: The Haunted One

Category: Pilate: The Haunted One

Keywords: allegiance, caesar, king, mended, pilate, pontius pilate, secular, phalarope


Pilate, the Haunted One, Part 5 – Choosing the secular way. As Pilate wonders what to do with Jesus, the chief priests – the guys who should be believers in God – say, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ And with that Pilate gives up. He hands Jesus over and John 19 says, ‘They took him . . .’ Could it be that like Pilate, people have given up on God because God’s people don’t live any differently? So we are haunted by the chief priests’ admission: we have no king but Caesar. How much of the crisis in our country today is the result of Christians caving in to the American Dream instead of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?


There are times in our lives that change us forever.

9/11 was a day like that.

And our world has never been the same since.

You have had days, experiences like that

in your own personal life.

Choices you made that were like a fork in the road,

or like the shutting of a door behind you,

or the burning of a bridge,

and you can’t go back,

and life has never been the same since.

Sometimes those are good things.

I nervous man enters the church

and goes down to a basement meeting,

pulls up a metal folding chair,

sits in the circle with a cup of coffee and says,

Hi, I’m Joe, I’m an alcoholic.

Hi Joe, the group says,

then he says, but I haven’t had a drink for 153 days.

He makes a choice a day at a time,

but he won’t go back.

A good response.


But sometimes the choices we make slam the door

on goodness; those choices do not lead to good.

In the book Too Late The Phalarope, by Alan Paton, Pieter succumbs to temptation and sins,

breaking South African law also by his choices.

He puts his life, his career,

and his whole family in jeopardy.

But he thinks he got away with it.

Until he gets a note at his office.

The three word note simply says, I saw you.

The fear of getting caught

makes him suspicious of those around him:

he suspects a co-worker

who is all of the sudden avoiding him.

But then his co-worker shares with Pieter

a trouble of his own that had embarrassed him.

Pieter then suspects a neighbor

who seems angry with him.

But Pieter finds out the  neighbor is upset at his boss, and not Pieter.

And then a friend stops by and confesses

he played a practical joke on Pieter,

and just laughed at the look on Pieter’s face

when he opened his note, I saw you.

Pieter is relieved.

He did get away with it.

But his relief doesn’t lead him to change his ways. And when Pieter has another bad day,

and the way for him to deal with that

 is to follow temptation,

Alan Paton writes,

And he flung out of the house in misery,

and walked about the town in his anger and the dark, and went again to the vacant ground

and the stinking weed,

and broke the law,

of his own will and choice.

And all could see he was not the same again.


A choice was made.

A road was taken.

A door was closed.

A bridge was burned.

John 19 reads like this as well.

It’s the final scene between Jesus and Pilate

before the crucifixion.

It started with Jesus being brought before Pilate,

but more and more it feels like

Pilate is brought before Jesus.

From the start Pilate wants nothing to do with Jesus,

but he can’t avoid him.

He must do something, respond some way,

make a decision.


Pilate’s story could be ours.

Jesus is introduced to us,

maybe from early childhood,

maybe later, through Sunday School,

or other church ministries,

through loving parents

or even through hard life experiences.

And somewhere, somehow,

the reality of God-with-us is planted

in our hearts, our minds, our souls.

And gradually we learn

it is not Jesus who is brought before us,

but we are brought before Jesus.

And even those who want nothing to do with him

at some point in life,

whether in great joy

or whether in great tragedy or failing,

can’t avoid the Lord God.

He stands at the door and knocks,

will you open it or slam it shut?


What scares us in this story is that it sounds like

the sound of doors slamming shut.

It looks like bridges being burned.

It feels like no one will be able to get back from this,

and humanity is changed forever.


What did we read here?

Fear, questions, and the only sure thing said

is the shout of condemnation:

Crucify him.

This can’t be good.

And somehow we’re part of this.

This story is given us for our benefit.

Pilate’s fears and failings,

the religious leaders hatred and injustice,

are saying something about you and me today.


Pilate tries to stay in control

but in the end he acts only out of fear.

His final words are a question.

If Pilate, with all his power and connections

can’t rightly respond to Jesus, how can I?

But it’s not just Pilate who fails.

Incredibly, it’s the believers who fail even more.

Jesus rightly says,

‘the one who delivered me over to you, Pilate,

has the greater sin.’

It’s the chief priests who close the door on Jesus:

‘We have no king but Caesar.’

They say, away with him, crucify him.


When Jesus said to Pilate,

“You would have no authority over me at all

unless it had been given you from above.

Therefore he who delivered me over to you

has the greater sin”

Jesus is referring to the religious authorities

because they knew who he was,

they had been entrusted by God with the law,

with the righteousness and justice of God,

and they abused that authority.

They have mishandled the good news.

They have rejected God.


It’s a stunning confession.

You feel the curtain come down after that.

The door slamming shut.

The result?

In a few short words in response John writes:

So he [Pilate] delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus . . .


If Pilate had struggled up to now with Jesus,

what to do with him,

how to absolve this innocent man,

how to make peace here,

when the chief priests says this –

we have no king but Caesar –

well, Pilate gives up.

It’s as if Pilate says, OKAY then, that’s it,

forget it, I tried.

If you who say you believe in God

don’t honor him, why should I?

Take him away.


First the people of God chose Barabbas,

a known criminal, over Jesus, who was innocent. Now, they choose Caesar, over God.

Didn’t they pray every day for Messiah to come? Specifically, Jews would pray,

‘we have no king but God.’

And in the next generation,

the Caesar would destroy Jerusalem.

And so Jesus was despised

and rejected by humankind.

God came to his own,

and his own did not receive him.


Scripture is given us not just to tell historical facts.

The Bible is like a pair of glasses to correct our vision – about God and about ourselves

and about our relationship to God,

to others and creation,

about our purpose and the meaning of our days.


So feel the force of believers saying to Pilate:

we have no king but Caesar.

See Pilate then closing it all down, the end.

And see yourself.


We have no king but Caesar.

We have said this too,

by our choices,

by our behavior,

by our attitudes,

by our silences, too.


John’s verses here from the Holy Spirit

are meant to have you and me as believers

take a deep, honest look at this behavior

in our own heart –

acting as if we have no king but Caesar –

some imminent ruler and desire instead of Jesus.


Caesar stands for the material way,

for the way opposed to Christ’s way

of loving God, neighbor, and church.

Caesar stands for the pressure we each feel

to live a certain, American, secular way:

the wealth of things or pleasures,

my own safety and security instead of yours,

my own will and want instead of

God’s will and Christ’s righteousness.

And if I don’t put me first I’m gonna miss out.

Saying we have no king but Caesar

confesses that tho we have been blessed with

all the promises and blessings of God,

and tho we have been baptized

in the name of the Triune God

so that our identity and life are not our own,

but belong to Christ,

tho we are so blessed,

we choose to be like everybody else,

we are scared to be different for Jesus’ sake.


So watch them take Jesus,

they are taking him to the cross.

And consider how you have stood

with these early believers in God

and shouted the words ‘crucify him!’

by your own admission:

I have no king but Caesar.


Well how do I say that?

In personal acts

that don’t prefer my neighbor’s good

or give God glory.

    You’re alone with your computer

and visit those websites to dabble in pornography,

its okay, I’m not hurting anyone.

I have no king but Caesar,

because these choices are malforming

my heart and mind

to use and objectify others,

and pervert the gift of sexuality.

    Why are your Sunday habits so different

from how you grew up

or how gp and gm practiced their Sabbath day?

Did it just happen?

Did I just follow along with the crowd?

I have no king but Caesar,

because I have chosen other than what is holy,

and prefer the 24/7 material ordering of my days

than the creation order of God.

    Who’s gonna know if you shave that number

just a little bit on your taxes?

It’s mine anyways isn’t it,

and don’t they just waste most of it? . . .

Does it really matter

if I cheat a little on that test, just to get by? . . .

You know what I said is not really a lie,

I just left out a few things,

just to smooth things over, you know . . .

And I have no king but Caesar

because I’m out to get the most I can for myself,

and I do not take my purposeful place

in this society as salt and light in the world.


Getting some ideas yourself?

We have no king but Caesar,

that sound I hear is the door I slammed shut.


It’s easy for us to do this

and not even lose sleep over it,

because we live in this age:

people have convinced themselves

that we have no king but Caesar,

meaning we don’t answer to God,

meaning all our problems will be solved

by political muscle,

all our behavior will be solved by civil laws,

justice is a question for the courts,

not my love or righteous activity,

and the good life is defined

by health and freedom and pleasure.

But when God is not king,

life doesn’t get better

just look at the depression,

the loneliness, the suicide,

the racial inequality,

the sexual confusion abounding now.


Could it be that like Pilate,

people have given up on God

because God’s people aren’t any different ?


So we are haunted by the chief priests’ admission:

we have no king but Caesar.

How much of the crisis in our country today

is the result of Christians

caving in to the American Dream

instead of seeking first the kingdom of God

and his righteousness?


Forgive us, O Lord.

Yet that is why Jesus gave his life.

The more astounding thing here

is that God’s will, will be done.

Jesus speaks of it:

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above,” he says to Pilate

and to us.

And it is God’s will that Jesus take up this cross.

The last we see of Jesus here is him being led

to be crucified,

for God so loved the world, that he gave

his one and only Son . . .


So this is not the end of the story:

Jesus will be king on the cross,

he is our hope and salvation.

All this happened, John records,

on . . . “the day of preparation for the Passover;

it was about the sixth hour.”

His point is not the exact time of the trial’s end,

it was about, he says . . . no exact time.

His point is this is when the passover lamb is

slaughtered for the feast.

Jesus is the lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world.


Matthew West’s song ‘Mended’ imagines

what this means for us:

You see your worst mistake

But I see the price I paid

There’s nothing you could ever do

To lose what grace has won

So hold on, it’s not the end

This is where love’s work begins

When you see broken beyond repair

I see healing beyond belief

When you see too far gone

I see one step away from home

You see nothing but damaged goods

I see something good in the making

I’m not finished yet

When you see wounded, I see mended . . .


Confess his kingship instead

over your life and lifestyle.

How can we respond?

How about we each examine our allegiances.

If I confess Jesus is my leader, my ruler,

above even my country,

what might that look like?

If he is our allegiance

can we see how history would change?

What if Christians would say

I will not go to war against other Christians . . .

what would have happened to the civil war?

Couldn’t we have solved that conflict and

injustice without all the bloodshed on top of it?

what would have happened in Ireland?

in Rwanda?

What if today Christians would say

I will not slander or libel other Christians

or speak falsely about them?

Of course, we should not slander or libel anybody,

but starting here can’t we shine a light?

How might that confront the political divide

in our land today?


Another response of gratitude for Christ’s cross

is to identify our passions and desires,

and pray that the Spirit make these holy

so we may find our true passion in

the peace God gives,

instead of believing the lies of Satan

that tempt us to find a false peace

in selfish wants and fleshly thrills.

What are you passionate about?

And how is that different from anybody else?

How is that different for Jesus’ sake?


And then one more thing on this Palm Sunday:

when Jesus comes riding in on a colt,

what is he revealing about God’s grace?

Zech. 9:9–10 -

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey . . .  

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.


from CT:

Jesus’ choice of Zechariah 9:9–10, says

that his coming means

God’s plan of bringing blessing to the nations

will occur in and through his reign.

This reign will be known for peace

between Jews and Gentiles and blessings for all.

Palm Sunday isn’t just about humility;

it also about the expansive kingdom of the Son.


God has called the divided peoples of the earth (black, white, Latino, Asian, Arab)

to peace and reconciliation.

This is the application of the good news in Christ

to the reality of life in our day.

We must long to be reconciled to our brother

or we miss what Palm Sunday teaches.

We gather in circles around the presence of Christ

celebrating the Lord’s Supper,

to also say here is grace and truth

when neighbors and peoples gather

in the peace of Christ and to make peace

that the world can neither give nor take away.


I thought I never said,

I have no king but Caesar.

But now I know I have.

And I repent,

because Jesus is the true king,

and I lay my life before his throne.

So how will I,

how will my family

how will we together as church

choose to show a different life and lifestyle,

to honor and praise and glorify the Lord God,

in order to say we have no king but the Triune God?


For tho they took Jesus . . .

in his love and power he graciously takes us

to be his very own.