On Good Friday we were talking about the incredible scene in John’s Gospel where Jesus is on trial before Pontius Pilate. Jesus has been brought to Pilate as a potential rebel against the Roman Empire, one who claimed to be ‘King of the Jews’. Of course, he doesn’t look very much like a king – this carpenter rabbi from Nazareth with his ragtag band of followers doesn’t look like much of a threat to the mighty legions of the Roman Empire. But Pilate has to be careful; unlikely-looking figures have started revolutions before, and if the crowds get behind them, things can get messy.
So Pilate questions Jesus, and at one point he gets frustrated because Jesus won’t answer his questions. He says, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” And then Jesus looks at him and says, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11).
Here are the kingdoms of this world going head to head with the kingdom of God. Pilate is the representative of the Roman Empire; he commands the legions and he has the power to kill anyone who gets in his way. And he’s quite prepared to assert that power over Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, has walked all over Galilee and Judea proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand: that God, not Caesar, is the true ruler here. Even now, when he’s on trial for his life, Jesus still maintains that God is in control. Pilate thinks Jesus is on trial in his court, but Jesus thinks Pilate and the whole world are on trial in the court of God. Pilate thinks there are enormous consequences for Jesus if he gives the wrong answers to his questions. Jesus thinks there are enormous consequences for Pilate, and the whole world, if we reject the one God has sent as his anointed King.
Less than a decade after this scene in Jerusalem, another Galilean preacher stood in front of another representative of the Roman Empire, albeit a much more friendly one than Pilate. The Galilean preacher was Simon Peter, and the representative of Rome was the centurion Cornelius, a godly man who had been told by an angel to send for Peter and listen to what he had to say. We read the words Peter spoke to Cornelius and his household in our reading from Acts this morning; let me remind you of a couple of verses:
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation everyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all” (Acts 10:34-36).
Jesus Christ is Lord of all – what a breathtaking claim for Peter to make. How had he come to believe it?
He had come to believe it because of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter and his friends had thought that the mission of Jesus was over on Good Friday. Jesus had obviously been wrong, and Peter had wasted three years of his life following him. But on the third day Jesus triumphed over the greatest enemy any human can face – death itself. If he was Lord over death itself, what could possibly be left outside the scope of his authority? And so Peter and his companions devoted the rest of their lives to spreading the good news that their Jesus, the loving, wise, and sometimes infuriating Master they had followed for three years, was in fact the one who God had anointed as Lord of everything and everyone.
Read the rest here.