Sixth Week of Lent: Encounter Between Two Kingdoms
This reflection is part of a series of Lenten reflections from United Methodist Women members and Women’s Division staff to accompany you to Easter. See other reflections.
Matthew 27:11-55; John 18:36
It was Good Friday. In the wee hours of the day, Jesus stood on trial before Pilate, the Roman governor. The latter asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responded saying, “Yes, it is as you say,” (Matthew 27:11, New International Version); or “You say so,” (New Revised Standard Version).
The priorities of two kingdoms, namely the Reign of God and the powers of the world, clashed in a deadly encounter. The kind of witness Jesus offered to the Reign of God was at odds with the powers of the world.
In John’s narration, Jesus stood before Pilate defining the Reign of God. Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not from this world … my kingdom is not from here.”
The Reign of God where truth and justice reign is an alternative world. Jesus reminds us that the very purpose of his birth was to make known this alternative world.
Pilate, unwittingly, asked the shouting crowd which world they would embrace in Matthew 27:17: “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
Two Jesuses: Jesus Barabbas and Jesus the Messiah – two different worlds.
Crisis often defines people. The crowd opted for Barabbas. Pilate caved in and handed over Jesus to death. Expediency took over his sense of justice.
Reign of God
In Jesus the Christ, the Reign of God still seeks to expose all the powers and forces that diminish the fullness of life in personal and communal lives, and dehumanize existence. In Jesus the Christ, the transforming power of God is open and available to all who would welcome it.
On that Friday, some persons came out on the side of the Reign of God. Sometimes, even unbeknownst to them, they enacted the values of the Reign of God. One such person was Pilate’s wife who pleaded for the life of Jesus. While Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, she sent word to him. Matthew 27:19: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” By her intervention on behalf of an innocent victim, she came out on the side of the Reign of God.
Many women had followed Jesus all the way from Galilee to the outskirts of Jerusalem. These were the women who offered resources to Jesus in his ministry. These women offered themselves first to the Reign of God and resourced it in their daily discipleship with all that they had. Furthermore, these women stood and watched the crucifixion of Jesus till the body was removed. Crucifixion and scourging were punishments reserved for slaves, and not for Roman citizens. These women stayed with Jesus till the end because they knew he was a victim of human terror.
Accompaniment in the midst of rejection and hostility, and being in solidarity with innocent victim are acts of practicing the Reign of God.
These women abandoned security and embraced risk-taking solidarity. They abandoned safety and followed the cross-carrying Jesus. They abandoned fear-ridden expediency and chose risk-taking discipleship.
May we seek the kingdom of God first so that we will emerge on the side of grace.
O, Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, deliver us from evil. Let your kingdom come in and through us. Amen.
*Glory E. Dharmaraj is director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.