THE REAL ENEMY

26th Sunday after Pentecost –
FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

“THE REAL ENEMY”

John 18.33-37

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”  35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

Today is CHRIST THE KING Sunday, where the Church universal recognizes the Kingship and Lordship of Jesus Christ over ALL things. It is no light thing to truly understand the Lordship of Jesus. Because, to believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is King and Lord means that you profess to place all things under His rule and dominion. It means that Jesus is lord of your entire life—your family, your spouse, your kids, your friendships, your work, your hobbies, your public life, your private life, your Friday night, your Sunday morning, your saving, your spending, your giving, …everything. That’s a heavy way to start a message time, but our scripture is no light matter. 

Our text is the account of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Jesus is on the verge of being sacrificed—crucified falsely to appease the selfish rule of a crooked Jewish leadership. It’s an extremely tense moment. As Jesus stands before the local Roman governor, a back-and-forth conversation takes place about being a king, having a kingdom, and the definition of truth.

Every time I read this account, I’m blown away at Jesus’ response. There seems to be a thousand things that could be said in this moment, each thing being more helpful than what Jesus says. But like every other experience in–and–around this one, Jesus takes each moment in stride and stays calm. He takes His punches and thinks before He speaks.

It’s amazing that Jesus doesn’t harbor any frustration toward Pilate, the one who holds Jesus’ fate in his hands. Why didn’t Jesus fight back? In SOME way? Why didn’t Jesus have some cool righteous quip to throw into the face of Rome and the crooked religious leadership? Just one little unforgettable one–liner would do the trick. This is His moment to shine. But listen closer to the passage. “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.” The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one. And if it is a spiritual kingdom, then it has spiritual king, with spiritual subjects and citizens. And the spiritual citizens have spiritual lives. And they eat spiritual food, like bread from Heaven and drink living water. And they have spiritual problems and even spiritual enemies.

And right there is where the passage reveals so much. “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” Not of this world. Jesus didn’t have a bone to pick with Pilate. Rome wasn’t the problem. The crooked Jewish leaders weren’t the issue. The issue was the bondage that sin, death, and the devil had on the world. That is the problem that Jesus came to address. The real enemy is a spiritual enemy.

This is what we miss today, as we demonize people groups, political parties, and institutions. We end up fighting each other instead of the devil, the real spiritual enemy. We turn our attention toward worldly things, while ignoring the heavenly things. We cuss and curse, rather than pray and worship. And every time we do these things we show ourselves to be more and more citizens of Earth rather than subjects of Heaven.

But why do we give such credence and attention to things that are only problems on the surface. Jesus is the Great Physician, Who has come to perform surgery that goes much deeper than the skin. He’s getting on the inside and fixing the problem that no one else can see or reach. And because Jesus is king and master, and we are His subjects and followers, whatever burdens the heart of Jesus should burden His people’s. Whatever concerns God concerns us. Whatever Christ has set His eyes toward we should turn and face, head on.

Therefore, our challenge today is to choose wisely. We are to pick our battles and know our real enemy. The devil wants nothing more than for us to spin our wheels and waste our time on things that will distract us from the will of God. If Jesus came to save His people from sin, then we must be focused on salvation and sin. When the angel came to assure Joseph of Jesus’ conception and birth, he said to name Him Jesus which means “God saves,” and tells Joseph that Jesus will save the people from their sins.

And this is what the coming of the Christ Child is all about, is it not? Aren’t we preparing our hearts and minds for the Advent season, the season of preparation? Christmas is coming and deliverance is here! But are we ready? Will we miss the deliverance that God brings in Jesus Christ because we focus on the wrong things? Are we fighting Starbucks because they took “joy” off their Christmas coffee cups? Are we mad at people for saying happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas? OR… are we talking to people about Jesus as we drink coffee in those shops and telling people why your holiday is truly and eternally happy?!

Christ has come to redeem all things but the issue that must be solved first and foremost is a spiritual one. That is why Jesus didn’t lift a finger when He was mocked while on the cross, as people challenged Him to save Himself.

I hope that you will spiritualize your faith and refocus your energy on the real issue. Know the real enemy and fight the devil through faithfulness, Church, prayer, Scripture reading, and fellowship.

We must fight! We must fight for our Church. We must fight for our faith. We must fight for our communities and our schools, for our families, for our precious children and grandchildren. We must fight for every widow and orphan. We must fight for every cold, hungry, cast–out person.

But we must fight this fight the way Christ came to fight, the way Christ has sent us out to fight. We are to fight for these things and fight against many others by winning the spiritual battle. Because without faith and salvation, our communities and schools will be filled with knowledge but be missing a soul. Without faith, our families and children will have support now but no hope of an eternal future or significance. Without faith, our widows and orphans and marginalized people will have roofs over their heads and bread in their stomachs but have no shelter in heaven or bread of life to save their souls.

Do we see the real issue now? Can we see that the issue is a faith issue? That the enemy isn’t flesh and blood but rather vice and sin? Paul says in Ephesians 6.12, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” We are at war, but not with the enemy that we think we’ve been trying to fight.

So, what will do? Will you criticize, demonize, gossip and slander? Or will you pray? Will you grow? Will you put things into perspective and address the real, deeper, spiritual issue? SHARE THE GOSPEL, that Christ has come to give you life and life abundantly. Share the good news that addiction isn’t all there is; that tough times aren’t the end of the story; that there is hope of a future. Fight for Jesus Christ and for His heavenly kingdom. Because it’s that kingdom that is breaking into this earthly place. Heaven will meet Earth in and through Jesus Christ. Let us introduce the world to its rightful Ruler. Amen?!

_____________________

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