Title: The Kingdom Rose with Him
Text: Mark 16:2-8
The King on Trial
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
The last hurdle for the Jewish leaders, the one standing between them and victory over Jesus was the very man whose job it was to keep order and peace in the region, the man who represented the Roman Emperor. His name was Pilate, and in order for the Jewish authorities to silence Jesus, they needed his permission.
Look, let’s be honest; if Jesus wasn’t such a high-profile figure, they would just have killed Him, but Jesus was too well known by this time. No, they had to be legal and proper.
You would expect Pilate to be eager to do away with Jesus after the way He came into town, and don’t think for a moment that Pilate didn’t know all about that, certainly the Jewish leaders would have expected him to be a pushover, yet we can easily see from these verses that Pilate didn’t want any part of this.
The most amazing thing about this entire story, at least for me, is that Pilate examined the accused, after hearing the charge and found Him innocent of being a threat to Rome. Remember, it would be Pilate’s neck if Jesus was turned loose and then raised a rebellion against Rome, and Pilate found Him innocent.
Maybe he thought Jesus was just a nut. Surely, he knew that a nut who can stir a crowd is the most dangerous threat of all to the peace. Maybe he just thought that this was another religious squabble in the Jewish camp; they were famous for their squabbles, but the people had welcomed Him as their King only a few days before.
Whatever Pilate’s private thoughts might have been, he clearly didn’t see Jesus as a threat. If He were some kind of king, He had persuaded Pilate that His Kingdom wasn’t a worldly one that could possibly threaten Roman government. Isn’t that interesting in contrast to the views of the Jewish leadership, who saw Jesus as a threat in this world on so many levels? Again, please bear in mind that these were the very people who either knew, or with reasonable diligence, they should have known exactly who and what Jesus was.
For Pilate, the situation was becoming dire, for he feared that these crazy Jews would riot if he let Jesus go, so in the end Jesus was sent to the cross. We could say here that the fate of Jesus was sealed, but in reality, the power behind all of these political games was the one whose fate had been sealed.
Kingdom on a Cross
Jesus was the very embodiment of the Kingdom of God; we know that for certain. Everywhere He went He preached the Kingdom, healed the sick, made the lame walk, restored sight to the blind and chased out demons: The Kingdom is all about making us whole again. Yet because of the perfidy of Men and the cunning and conniving of the Evil One, Pilate sent Him off to be crucified; the Kingdom was nailed to a cross.
He bore our sins on that cross; our sins put Him on that cross. He was still Jesus, though. Jesus was the embodiment of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom was nailed to the cross along with Jesus… It’s almost too much to comprehend.
As the hour approached, the skies had begun to darken. The taunts of the Jewish leaders that had begun when Jesus was nailed to cross, had died down; many people had gone home thinking the spectacle was pretty much over; there was a sense of unease among those who had remained. Jesus quoted the 22md Psalm near the end, and again there was a buzz in the crowd that remained; was He calling for Elijah to save Him?
But Jesus did not need saving, He was the Savior!
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon when Jesus gave up His spirit. At that exact moment, a priest at the very pinnacle of the Temple blew his horn, a blast that could be heard throughout the city, signaling that the time had come for the day’s sacrifice. Little did he realize that the last and final sacrifice prescribed by the Law of Moses was taking place that very moment at Golgotha.
At the moment of His death, God springs back into action; there is an earthquake, and although the people at Golgotha didn’t know it yet, the veil in the Temple that barred entry into the Most Holy Place, the barrier that had separated all of humanity from God’s presence, had been torn open, for no longer was Mankind to be kept away from God.
In stark contrast to the ridicule of the Jewish leaders who should have known better, pagan Roman soldiers shame them by calling out that Jesus was indeed the Son of God!
Jesus died on that cross; the embodiment of the Kingdom was dead. They put Him into a tomb: Rest in peace.
He did not rest, nor did the Kingdom of which He was the embodiment.
I would imagine that His disciples and those other faithful ones who had followed to the end were also in a state of confusion: How could this be happening? But Jesus had told them all about it before it happened, didn’t He? Didn’t He tell them that He was going to die, several times in fact? Didn’t He tell them He would rise again on the third day? Why yes, He had told them about this.
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
And the Kingdom rose with Him.
And because of what happened on that cross, the Kingdom would soon inhabit His followers and spread across the globe; it still is doing that, and it is even within us today.
Many want to argue about this still, many Christians want to argue and say the Kingdom will come some other time.
“How could the Kingdom of God be here now,” they say, “this world is so full of evil.”
This world is full of evil, I suppose, and it always has been, but didn’t Jesus say that His Kingdom was not of this world? Yes, He did say that, and when He rode into Jerusalem on that great day long ago, His Kingdom wasn’t of this world. When He preached the Kingdom and healed and restored and chased away demons, His Kingdom wasn’t of this world. The people of His day wanted a Messiah who would deal with their enemies and improve their lives “under the sun,” but that isn’t the kind of Messiah that Jesus is… and so they turned against Him.
The Eastern Orthodox, I’d say, have more of a sense of the being risen up with Christ than does the Western church as a consequence of observing the Feast of the Pentecost a few days after the Feast of the Ascension — two events that conclude the 40 days of Pascha, or Easter. (A kind of reverse Lent.) In the days and first weeks after the stone is rolled away, the faithful have little idea what to make of the news. All of that, of course, changes.
That’s a very interesting way of seeing things and I’m glad you shared it. Thank you!