“Pilate replied, ‘Am I a Jew? Your people and the chief priests have delivered you to me — what did you do?’ Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my subordinates would strive in order that I not be delivered over to the Jews. But at present, my Kingdom is not from here.”
I want to begin by noting two words in this text that might otherwise be overlooked. The first word is uJphre/thß (huperetes), which refers to an assistant or a subordinate on some level. Typically, the New Testament employs this term to refer to those soldiers serving under some sort of commander. Yet, oftentimes our English Bibles render this as “servants” here, which is not incorrect, but gives the impression that Jesus is referring to the Apostles and the other Disciples who are following in ministry — a group that hardly represents any threat to either the Roman or Jewish authorities. Instead, this likely should be understood in the context of Matthew 26:53 where Jesus, during his arrest, points out to Peter (who has drawn a sword clumsily) that he has the ability to appeal to his Father for 12 legions of angels that would come to his aid. Understood this way, we see the significance of Jesus’ statement here, for this indeed would be the decimation of both the Roman and the Jewish authorities.
The second word to note is the word, nuvn (nun), translated here as “at present.” Many of our translations omit this word as its role is simply to provide a temporal marker. Yet, that omission misses an important piece of theology — Jesus’ kingdom may not have then been part of this world, but it is now and one day it will fully be. After Jesus’ resurrection he ascended to the throne of glory and has had all things in subjection under his feet (Hebrews 1:3; 2:8). He rules as head of his Church (Ephesians 1:22) and though there is much that is still in open rebellion against him today, he is in the process (through the outworking of the Gospel) of putting all things under his subjection (1 Corinthians 15:25-27) so that at one point in the future every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11)!
Oh, Pilate, do you not understand? Oh, Caiaphas, will you not bow your knee? Oh, Herod, where is your kingdom now and how will your beloved Caesar come to your aid? Those men, working behind the murder of our Lord, did not realize the extent of their sin and Pilate the extent of the one whom he would usher to his throne. These men have indeed bowed before Jesus, though under the crushing foot of the power of he who spoke the universe into existence. Where is your kingdom now, you who persecuted our Lord? And you who have embraced the prince of the power of the air even in our day — your joy will be cut off unless you repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and for grace! Here is the judge of the universe being judged by puny men — the irony is staggering…indeed, Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world…at that time. Loved ones, it is now! Beware to whom you bow allegiance!
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness:
Our God reigns, our God reigns!
– Leonard Smith