The Coronation of the King of the Universe

As I was teaching from the book of John this past weekend, I was blown away by the symbolism and the irony in the final moments before Jesus’ crucifixion.

The Pharisees and chief priest have handed Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor. In this situation, Jesus represents God and all of his purposes in the world, while Pilate represents Caesar. Ironically, Pilate finds nothing that would warrant crucifying the supposed King of the Jews, and while interrogating him, he crowns him King with a crown of thorns and a purple robe. Pilate is baffled that Jesus won’t defend himself and even threatens him, saying that Jesus should speak up because Pilate has the power to kill him or save him. Then Jesus asserts himself, telling Pilate that Pilate would not have any power if it were not for the power that God gave him and holds him responsible for. Jesus says, “You think you have all of the power, but you are really powerless. You wish that ruling with violence and oppression were as simple as you make it out to be, but you don’t realize that a new Kingdom and its King is slipping in right under your nose, quite literally right in front of you. You are the one crowning the new king.”

Pilate gives the Jews one more chance to stop trying to kill this innocent man, but they call for his death all the more. Pilate asks again if they truly want to crucify their king, to which the crowd responds that they have  no king other than Caesar. The Jews have sealed their role in the story as the people who missed their king, even with all of the signs and teachings. Again, just like in the OT, they are convinced that they still need a king other than God, who has led them through thick and thin throughout their history.

Finally Pilate, persuaded by the crowd, enthrones Jesus on the cross as King and even puts a sign over his head, hailing him as King of the Jews. The Jewish leaders are enraged at the sight but can do nothing about it because Pilate refuses to change the sign. Again, the story is reeking with irony as Caesar crowns the son of God as King and proclaims it to the world as he sits on his throne, the cross.

Up to this point, though, his followers still do not understand that this was the natural ending of Jesus teaching of peace, justice, equality, and renewal. Everyone thought the the Messiah would gather his troops, march on Jerusalem, and take it back from the evil empires that made a mockery of the Jews and their God. And yet, Jesus, throughout the gospel of John, has warned and forewarned that this new Kingdom that he was leading into the world was nothing like anyone was expecting. The poor, blind, weak, lame, dead, and marginalized are welcomed, healed, honored, respected. The King is no better than his followers, and the followers are no better than their king. Love is the new rule and it is most powerfully seen, not only in the cross, but in the powerful reversal of power seen in the practice of foot washing. Hierarchy and oppression are thrown out the window, those tools most readily available to the world’s kings and leaders

In the end, God vindicates Jesus in his suffering by raising him from the dead and making him the first of the renewed people of God, a sign of what is to come for all people.

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~ by randallkoehler on January 8, 2018.

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