Kingdoms are not something we think about much – except when the British royal family has done something gossip-worthy. And even then, our thoughts are less about kings and queens than they are about a peculiar kind of celebrity. The idea of a king with a kingdom just seems anachronistic to a democratically informed mind. The English model is moderated by a parliamentary structure, but there are monarchies in the classic sense in many places in the world – with real kings who take themselves and their duties very seriously. Their word is law – they define and arbitrate justice. They have “say” over people and property.
Pilate was well trained in the classic model. For him, Caesar was Lord and Sovereign – his word was law to the farthest reaches of the empire. You can imagine his confusion, then, when a simple Galilean peasant, accused of treason, stood before him. There was no imperiousness in His stance – but an unmistakable authority rested lightly on his bloodied shoulders. When pressed, He simply acknowledged Pilate’s assessment. Pilate was by equal measure confused and comforted by Jesus’ statement that His kingdom was not of this world. He would probably have been stunned to know that Jesus fully intended to take this world over.
Had Pilate been paying a bit closer attention, he might have gotten a hint of Jesus’ strategy. His kingdom would not be extended by means of force on the part of His followers. Rather, they would extend the Kingdom as He did, by bearing witness to the truth and gathering those who resonate with that truth into a community. In that way, the Kingdom will be extended and expanded.
The goal is to increase the area over which Jesus has “say.” This will be accomplished as Jesus’ followers live and speak in such a way that their spheres of influence are brought, one at a time, bit by bit, under His control – as their individual kingdoms become part of the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ.
As followers of Jesus, we begin by submitting our own spheres of influence to His control – by considering how to live our lives as He would, were He us. It might begin as simply as cleaning up a mess – picking up trash – putting things where they belong. And who knows what faithfulness in those little things might lead to.