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John 18:33-36

33. Then Pilate went again into the hall, and called Jesus, and said to him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34. Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this from thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35. Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the priests have delivered thee to me: what hast thou done? 36. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have striven that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from hence.

 

33. Then Pilate went again into the hall. It is probable that many things were said on both sides, which the Evangelist passes over; and this conclusion might be readily drawn from the other Evangelists. But John dwells chiefly on a single point, that Pilate made a laborious inquiry whether Christ was justly or unjustly accused. In the presence of the people, who were inflamed with sedition, nothing could be done but in a riotous manner. He therefore goes again into the hall; and, indeed, his intention is to acquit Christ, but Christ himself, in order that he may obey his Father, presents himself to be condemned; and this is the reason why he is so sparing in his replies. Having a judge who was favorable, and who would willingly have lent an ear to him, it was not difficult for him to plead his cause; but he considers for what purpose he came down into the world, and to what he is now called by the Father. Of his own accord, therefore, he refrains from speaking, that he may not escape from death.

Art thou the King of the Jews? It would never have struck Pilate’s mind to put this question about the kingdom, if this charge had not been brought against Christ by the Jews. Now, Pilate takes up what was more offensive than all the rest, that, having disposed of it, he may acquit the prisoner. The tendency of Christ’s answer is to show that there is no ground for that accusation; and thus it contains an indirect refutation; as if he had said, “It is absurd to bring that charge against me, for not even the slightest suspicion of it can fall upon me.”

Pilate appears to have taken amiss that Christ asked him why he suspected him of such a crime; 153153     “De tel crime.” and, therefore, he angrily reproaches him, that all the evil comes from his own nation. “I sit here as a judge,” says he; “it is not foreigners, but your own countrymen, who accuse you. There is no reason, therefore, why you should involve me in your quarrels. You would be allowed by me and by the Romans to live at peace; but you raise disturbances among yourselves, and I am reluctantly compelled to bear a part in them.”

36. My kingdom is not of this world. By these words he acknowledges that he is a king, but, so far as was necessary to prove his innocence, he clears himself of the calumny; for he declares, that there is no disagreement between his kingdom and political government or order; 154154     “Et le goavernement ou ordre politique.” as if he had said, “I am falsely accused, as if I had attempted to produce a disturbance, or to make a revolution in public affairs. I have preached about the kingdom of God; but that is spiritual, and, therefore, you have no right to suspect me of aspiring to kingly power.” This defense was made by Christ before Pilate, but the same doctrine is useful to believers to the end of the world; for if the kingdom of Christ were earthly, it would be frail and changeable, because

the fashion of this world passeth away,
(1 Corinthians 7:31;)

but now, since it is pronounced to be heavenly, this assures us of its perpetuity. Thus, should it happen, that the whole world were overturned, provided that our consciences are always directed to the kingdom of Christ, they will, nevertheless, remain firm, not only amidst shakings and convulsions, but even amidst dreadful ruin and destruction. If we are cruelly treated by wicked men, still our salvation is secured by the kingdom of Christ, which is not subject to the caprice of men. In short, thouglh there are innumerable storms by which the world is continually agitated, the kingdom of Christ, in which we ought to seek tranquillity, is separated from the world.

We are taught, also, what is the nature of this kingdom; for if it made us happy according to the flesh, and brought us riches, luxuries, and all that is desirable for the use of the present life, it would smell of the earth and of the world; but now, though our condition be apparently wretched, still our true happiness remains unimpaired. We learn from it, also, who they are that belong to this kingdom; those who, having been renewed by the Spirit of God, contemplate the heavenly life in holiness and righteousness. Yet it deserves our attention, likewise, that it is not said, that the kingdom of Christ is not in this world; for we know that it has its seat in our hearts, as also Christ says elsewhere, The kingdom of God is within you, (Luke 17:21.) But, strictly speaking, the kingdom of God, while it dwells in us, is a stranger to the world, because its condition is totally different.

My servants would strive. He proves that he did not aim at an earthly kingdom, because no one moves, no one takes arms in his support; for if a private individual lay claim to royal authority, he must gain power by means of seditious men. Nothing of this kind is seen in Christ; and, therefore, it follows that he is not an earthly king.

But here a question arises, Is it not lawful to defend the kingdom of Christ by arms? For when Kings and Princes 155155     “Quand il est commande aux Rois ct Princes.” are commanded to kiss the Son of God, (Psalm 2:10-12) not only are they enjoined to submit to his authority in their private capacity, but also to employ all the power that they possess, in defending the Church and maintaining godliness. I answer, first, they who draw this conclusion, that the doctrine of the Gospel and the pure worship of God ought not to be defended by arms, are unskillful and ignorant reasoners; for Christ argues only from the facts of the case in hand, how frivolous were the calumnies which the Jews had brought against him. Secondly, though godly kings defend the kingdom of Christ by the sword, still it is done in a different manner from that in which worldly kingdoms are wont to be defended; for the kingdom of Christ, being spiritual, must be founded on the doctrine and power of the Spirit. In the same manner, too, its edification is promoted; for neither the laws and edicts of men, nor the punishments inflicted by them, enter into the consciences. Yet this does not hinder princes from accidentally defending the kingdom of Christ; partly, by appointing external discipline, and partly, by lending their protection to the Church against wicked men. It results, however, from the depravity of the world, that the kingdom of Christ is strengthened more by the blood of the martyrs than by the aid of arms.


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