. . . He [Jesus] tells us His kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms. In what way?
First of all, it is not a visible kingdom. It is not an external kingdom. He said Himself that “the kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (Luke 17.20). You can see an earthly kingdom, the kingdom of Great Britain, for instance. It is visible, it is obvious, it has its limits and it can be defined. We know all about it; it can be seen. It cometh with observation, it can be observed and examined. His kingdom is not like that; it is quite different. That is where they went wrong. They would persist in estimating what He said in terms of their visible, external kingdoms and because His did not correspond, they said, “This is no kingdom at all.”
I the same way, His kingdom is not great in an earthly sense. There is no pomp and show with respect to it. He put this very plainly to His own disciples who were muddled on this point: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercised dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon the. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.25-28).
That is the trouble. With an earthly kingdom, there is a great prince on his throne and every one is standing at attention, he remains there, they bring him everything, he does nothing, everything is done for him, they minister unto him. But Jesus says, “My kingdom isn’t like that. And I myself have not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” And just before He went to the cross, beholding the king of glory, the everlasting kind, He took up a towel and He washed their feet and He wiped them with the towel. Is this a king? Is this a kingdom? “It’s all wrong!” they said. “It’s baffling, it’s bewildering.”
They had not listened to what He said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” It does not belong in the same category. You can drop your old way of thinking for this is new in every sense. We can also put it like this: because it is different, there are no armies in this kingdom. He has no great officials. There is no great hierarchy of officers. There is no great pomp and show and ceremony. Alas, my friends, the church herself has forgotten this, at times, has she not? She has become so much like earthly kingdoms, with great pomp and show and her dressing up and all her ceremonies and all her hierarchies. I tell you, it is not in the New Testament.
But, alas, it has come into the church, this very great confusion against which He warns people (and here warns Pilate). He puts it quite simply, He says, “You know, if my kingdom were an earthy kingdom, I wouldn’t be arrested as I am now and the high priest wouldn’t have sent me to you. I would have had soldiers and they would have protected me and defended me against the Jews. And the Jews would never have been allowed to arrest me. But,” he says, “My kingdom is not like these other kingdoms, it doesn’t’ look like them, it’s not like them in any respect.”
His kingdom is unlike earthly kingdoms in that it is not concerned with the types of things that earthly kingdoms are concerned about. Now, this is the very essence of the modern difficulty. The Jews always wanted our Lord to deliver them from the Roman Empire. Before our Lord came into this world, the Roman Empire had conquered Palestine and the Jews; that was why Pilate was there, he was a representative of the Roman Emperor and the Roman power. The Jews, of course, did not like that. They had a nationalistic spirit and they thought that when the great Messiah cam that He would come as a great warrior, form a great army and lead them against the Romans, and, with His power, He would conquer the Romans and dismiss them from the country and then He would elevate the Jews to the highest positions and lead them as a great world conqueror.
When Jesus began to preach and call Himself the Messiah and the King and when He began to say that He was going to found a kingdom, they said, “Now, when are you going to do this?” Their ideas were political and they were military and they were always waiting for Him to speak in that way, but He would not do it. Remember earlier in John 6, they tried to take Him by force to make Him a king and He fled away from them up on top of a mountain!
Do you remember how often they tried to get Him to speak about these things? Do you remember how one afternoon the Herodians and others came to Him and they pulled a coin out of their pockets and they said, “now, we’ve got a question to put to you: Is it lawful to pay a tribute unto Caesar or not?” It was a very clever question. They wanted Him to commit Himself on the political issue. But He saw it and Hew was not to be drawn in. He said, “Let me see that coin.” He took it in His had nans said, “Whose is this image and superscription?” They said, “Caesar’s.” “Very well,” He said, “and at this point He did not begin to give a political oration and say, “It’s a shame we have ever been conquered! It’s time we rose up and delivered ourselves out of this!” He did not suddenly turn into a politician. No, this is what He said: “Very well, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s, whose image is on you. You’re interested in the coin, what about yourself? I’m concerned about you – not coins, but souls! Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.”
Even John the Baptist seems to have stumbled at this point. He sent his two disciples to ask the famous question: “Art Thou He that should come or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11.3). “I thought you were He,” John says, as it were, “but I am beginning to doubt it. You’re spending your time up there in Galilee with just a handful of common people and preaching your sermons and doing your miracles. When are you coming to Jerusalem? When are you going to do the big thing.” But our Lord never spoke politics. He never touched them. He never had anything to say about the contemporary political situation. As He said to His father and mother in Luke 2.49: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Read your four gospels and try to see Him dealing with contemporary political or social events. He never touches them and neither do His apostles. Read through the Act of the Apostles, read the Epistles. You cannot find it there! If He were here today He would not be talking about the problem in South Africa, He would not be dealing with these political questions, and yet we are being told that Christianity comes right into politics and that the tragedy of the world it that the church is not preaching politics! It’s a lie, I say, a travesty of the New Testament gospel!
“But wait a minute,” says someone. “Didn’t your Old Testament prophets deal with these matters?” Of course they did, not because there were politicians but because the nation of Israel was the church at the same time. The nation of Israel was a theocracy. She was the church; she was God’s people and so the prophets spoke to the people of Israel as God’s people. They do not speak to them as they would speak to any other nation, they are not interested in the other nations, they are speaking to God about His own people and the business of Christianity is still to do the same thing. In the first instance, the gospel has nothing to say to man except that he is lost and damned and in need of salvation.