A kingdom not of this world


When we look at the interview between Jesus and Pilate, we are witnesses to the difference between two kingdoms. The difference between the Roman Empire with its Jewish client leaders and the kingdom of God is like night and day. 


Let us understand that no human government compares with the wonderful reign of Christ in the kingdom of God. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at Pontius Pilate and compare Jewish political-religious parties with today’s political parties and finally look at a glimpse of the kingdom of God. 

Who was Pilate 

Who was Pilate? John 18:33-37 shows Pontius Pilatus (his Latin name) to be important during Jesus’ last days. He was a prefect, an early title similar to procurator, lower in rank than king. His job as prefect was primarily military with around 3,000 soldiers under his command. His duties also included tax collection and limited functions of judge. Charges of blasphemy against Jewish law would have held little interest for a Roman military governor, but twisting Jesus’ own words of being king, could have posed a political threat against Rome. Pilate remained unconvinced of the charges and probably saw right through the Jewish plot. When allowing the crucifixion, he insisted that the trumped up charges be posted above the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews”, probably indignant for being manipulated by the Jewish political-religious leaders. 

Republicans, Democrats hypocrites! 

Why is Jesus’ kingdom really not of this world (John 18:33-37)? What many people may not realize is that the criticisms that Jesus made towards such parties as the Pharisees and Scribes, were criticisms of political-religious parties. In the Jewish state there was no separation of church and state as we experience in modern western democracies. The church was the state and the state was the church. So when Jesus said such things as Scribes, Pharisees hypocrites (Matthew 23:13), he would probably have said something similar to Republicans, Democrats hypocrites, if he were on earth today. The more that we compare this world’s politics with the benevolence of the kingdom of God as seen in Israel’s law and in the self-sacrifice of the king of kings, the better we understand why Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. 

A kingdom not of this world 

Jesus’ reign is not of this world (John 18:33-37). What is the difference? Israel could have been a land of mutual assistance and equality. Lending in hard times without interest, no one need be poor (Deuteronomy 15:7–10; Leviticus 25:35–37;Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19–20;Leviticus 25:36–37). They were to celebrate festivals as equals (Exodus 23:10–12;Leviticus 25:1–7, 18–24), land was to be returned to the original owners, debt written off, and slaves released (Leviticus 25). Farmers were to leave some of their crops for the marginalized (Deuteronomy 24:19–21; Leviticus 19:9–10; 23:22; Ruth 2). There was a poor tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22–29). Debt was to be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1–3), slavery to debt fully paid in six years (Exodus 21:2–6;Deuteronomy 15:12–18). No country of this world is like God’s kingdom. 

[Reference: Barrera, Albino. Economic Compulsion And Christian Ethics. n.p.: Cambridge University Press, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 23 Nov. 2012. p. 82] 

Outro/Take Home 

Comparing the kingdoms of this world to the kingdom of God is like night and day. Let’s become true agents of the kingdom of God on earth today so that when Jesus comes he may also say to us, “Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-46).

The end is a beginning


What is going to happen before Jesus’ return? Jesus addressed that question in a prophecy in Mark, where he tells us to be alert. The United Methodist lectionary does not include verses 14-23 but many pastors do and also include other similarly excluded passages, so that over a three year period we can hear the whole counsel of Jesus.


Let us understand the bad end of this age leads to a good beginning for eternity. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at a prophecy that predicted what would happen soon after the cross on up until the second coming and beyond. 

A literal prophecy 

The passage in Mark 13:1-13 prophesied the destruction of the temple and also looks forward to the second coming. Prior to his becoming Emperor, because of the fierceness of the Jewish revolt, Titus ordered Jerusalem and its temple to be demolished in 70 AD. The temple was built by Zerubbabel and Ezra. It was greatly expanded by Herod. However, just like many things dedicated to God, it had become an idol and God is in the habit of destroying idols. Some of the largest stones were 50 feet wide, 25 feet high, and 15 feet deep. They were cut, transported and placed with such precision that no mortar was needed. This prophecy was literally fulfilled, revealing to us that the rest of the prophecy is also to be taken literally. Before Jesus’ return other dramatic events will also occur. 

Prophecy in the language of grief 

In the language of grief Jesus prophesied about events to happen within 40 years of his death and at the end of this age (Mark 13:1-23). His first warning was against deception by those claiming to be a Messiah figure. The First Jewish-Roman War, also called the Great Revolt, occurred between 66-74 AD. It began with religious tensions, growing poverty and unemployment, high taxes and corruption in the Jewish government. Many came saying that they would save the people from Roman oppression. Thus began an anti-tax revolt which spread to guerrilla warfare and eventually full-scale war. The Jews suffered a disastrous defeat, a terrible tragedy. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 and the last rebels were defeated at Masada in 74. We have similar issues today. Many rise up claiming to be saviors of the nation. There is only one Savior. 

Be on guard 

In Mark 13 a warning is repeated four times. Take heed! Be on guard! Watch out! (vs. 5, 9, 23, 33) Each time it is the same Greek word warning against deception, persecution and the neglect of prayer. In our comfortable western churches we sleep and slumber. We are a complacent community, doing our small bit for God on Sunday and little more. We get distracted by petty church politics and arguments over trivia, yet we must awake! There’s work to be done, our Father’s work! Spiritual warfare is all around us. The world is about to explode and we must get busy with the Lord’s work. Our job is not to worry about such things, which God in his wisdom will allow. Our job is to watch, pray, to be about our Father’s work and endure to the end. 

A time to flee 

Mark 13:1-14 prophesied a time to flee. Living in the modern democracies of the Anglosphere we cannot imagine a time when we might have to flee from our countries. Yet, those who remember the Nazi time in Europe can well imagine it. Jews were among the most severely persecuted at that time. Many saw the handwriting on the wall and fled to freedom leaving everything behind. Others ignored the danger and stayed. Many of them were never heard from again after they ended up in one of Hitler’s concentration camps and died in the Nazi’s terrible “final solution.” Times of persecution are not new. Christians live it today in North Korea, China, in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Will we ever experience it here? Jesus seems to indicate that it will become widespread before his second coming. 

Warning for today 

The “little apocalypse” of Mark 13 predicted the Temple’s destruction. It was a huge complex, five football fields long and three wide. The Temple was the center of national life for Israel. The marble was so white that from a distance it looked like snow. The gold was so magnificent that in the morning sun it was blinding. Yet this beautiful place also contained corruption that caused the nation distress. Part of Jesus’ early popularity was from his political criticisms of Temple leadership. When rebellion began in the 60’s one of the first things they did was to burn the Temple records of debt. There was no middle class, only the rich and the poor. Taxes on the poor were near 50% and tax debt was so high that foreclosure and unemployment were rampant. It’s a dire warning for today. 

What is the church 

The church is the assembly of people called out by God. The church is not the building that we rent or own. Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the Temple in Mark 13:1-23 is a lesson for us today that the building is not that important to God. When the Temple destroys people, it is no use. When the Temple is a center of corruption and bickering, it is no good any more. If a building stands in the way of God’s work, then it is no longer needed. Throughout the Bible the voice of the widow and the orphan cry out for justice. The poor and the alien shout for good news. A building serves no purpose if those voices are not heard. Buildings come and go, but the the assembly of the saints, and its purpose remain. 

Political Jesus 

Jesus was always political, comparing the values of the kingdom of God to the hypocritical leadership of this world. His prophecy in Mark 13:1-23 contains two imperatives: don’t be led astray by false religion and don’t be disturbed by wars. Roman and Jewish politics stunk. The people were oppressed and sinking into poverty. The political-religious leadership misused the Temple. Times would become more and more politically uncomfortable for Christians. Several of those loyal to the kingdom of heaven would be brought to court on trumped up charges and beaten up. Some would even be executed. Political loyalties would divide families and Christians would have to flee their homelands without time to take possessions. All this is preliminary to the good news of Jesus’ coming, to take over the governments of this world and usher in the kingdom of God. 

The end is a beginning 

When we read bad-news passages like Mark 13:1-13 we may be tempted to think that it is the end of us. But it is not. It is the end of the bad news and the beginning of the good news. It is the prelude to the kingdom of God finally becoming reality on earth as it is in heaven. Often times when an enemy is about to lose, he goes all out in an insane last ditch effort to win, like Hitler’s Battle of the Bulge in World War 2. The enemy of humanity, Satan will also attack us in a last ditch effort. That is the biggest battle before Christ returns. His offensive will involve deception, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, kangaroo courts, murder and betrayal. But that’s only the bad end before the good beginning. 


Let us not be overly concerned about world events, but watch in prayer and look to God for salvation.

All in for God


In a world of non-commitment or partial commitment to God can a Christian go all in for God? 


I want us to understand that our relationship with God involves our all. 

Sermon Plan 

We will discuss two kinds of Christian, the monetized church, those who sacrifice, honoring military heroes because it is Veteran’s Day, and we will discuss going all in for God. 

2 kinds of Christian 

Mark 12:38-44 reminds us of two kinds of Christian, takers who love power and wealth versus the givers. The description is a stark contrast. On the one hand are those who love fancy clothes, public acclaim, position and long verbose prayers, all the while exploiting the helpless. The contrast on that side includes the rich who give what seems to be generously but is a miserly percentage of what they could give. Both of these groups are contrasted with a poor and needy woman who gave extravagantly. A western pope once compared such giving from our abundance with giving of our substance. Giving a tiny part of our surplus wealth, even large amounts which would not be missed is puny compared to the woman who gave lavishly what she could not afford. To what would God compare our giving? 

The monetized church 

It seems that everything today is “monetized,” filled with annoying in your face advertisements. From the latest versions of software, to social media and news videos, we cannot escape the ubiquitous money-grubbing advertising. Even within the church there are those who have fallen prey to the false Gospel of Mammon. Just like certain ancient teachers of God’s law, some are not satisfied with the offering plate. In Mark 12:38-44 we find an ancient kind of the monetized church, those who devoured widows houses. Shamelessly cheating people out of property in the name of religion is nothing new. It is just one example of many ways to use religion as a scam for personal gain, to monetize the church. Jesus contrasted this greed amongst believers with those who are in it to follow Jesus’ own example by giving not taking. 

Those who sacrifice 

Why does a soldier do it, sacrifice his life in a faraway country for a complete stranger? That’s what Sergeant Dennis Weichel did in early 2012. A little Afghan girl ran into the road directly in front of a 16 ton truck and he ran to her rescue, saving her life, but sacrificing his own. He was run down and later died of his injuries. Soldiers are not given the moral choice between a just war and an unjust one. That’s for politicians to decide, but men like Dennis remind us of the morality of self-sacrifice regardless of politics. Christians are called to a life of sacrifice, something that even the ugly politics of church cannot erase. In heaven some names will rise above those with status or wealth. They are the names of those who sacrifice (Mark 12:38-44). 

Power and wealth 

Twin deceptions of power and wealth are central to the story in Mark 12:38-44. America has a low incidence of illegal corruption, but a high incidence of legal corruption like campaign contributions and lobbying. It is far worse in China, where crony capitalism goes hand-in-hand with party membership. In America, “Wall Street’s done a fabulous job of making the world safe for Wall Street.”* Powerful and wealthy people are usually more immoral than the average person because power and wealth corrupt. The problem of all our economies is to have a form of capitalism that creates wealth for all rather than for just a few. When the poor cry in pain, the wealthy often ignore them, but when the rich are asked to sacrifice they cry persecution. True Christians follow the example of the widow rather than the wealthy and powerful. 

*Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats, Penguin Group, 2012, p. 219 

Sgt Mjr John Henry Quick 

During the Spanish American War, Americans and Cubans fought together against the Spanish. During the 1898 battle for Guantanamo Bay, gunfire from the USS Dolphin had been misdirected and was landing on Americans. West Virginia Marine Sergeant Major John Quick found a large blue polka-dot cloth, tied it to a stick and without thought of his own life, climbed to the top of a ridge to signal the ship. He gave no regard to the shells and bullets flying all around him, but calmly faced the ship and did not stop until his message was complete. The ship answered and he returned to his place on the firing line. For his bravery he received the medal of honor, one of less than 100 West Virginians to do so. His is the name of one honored for sacrifice (Mark 12:38-44). 

All in for God 

“All in” is a poker term of total commitment. Can Christians go all in with very faulty churches? As a jaded Christian who has have been offended, disappointed and deeply hurt by church leadership, I was once pleasantly surprised to hear a theology professor openly admit that he and other church leaders are the modern equivalent of the Pharisees. Rather than run away from the church, I have also come to the conclusion that this shows Jesus’ remarkable grace, in that he chooses to work through such a faulty instrument as the church and even calls it his special treasure and his bride. In Mark 12:38-44 Jesus revealed some of the dirty underbelly of the Jewish church and a remarkable woman who, rather than walk away, focused on God behind the scenes and went “all in” with her offering. 


There are two kinds of Christian, those in it for power and wealth and those who give their all in self-sacrifice. Which kind are we?

Sh'ma Yisrael


What is the first commandment? It is an open secret of blessings to millions. 


I want us to understand the love of God. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at the Sh’ma Yisrael, legislated love and the importance of loving God. 

Sh'ma Yisrael 

What is the first commandment, not the first of the Ten Commandments, but the first? Perhaps the most important prayer in any Jewish prayer book is theSh’ma Yisrael. It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The beginning of that prayer was quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:28-34 as the first commandment. “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai echad.” “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one.” It contains the most basic theology about God, that he is one, not two Gods, not three Gods, not a pantheon but one God. The Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19 confirms this in the single name of the three in perfect unity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but one God. It is not necessary to understand what humans cannot, but we are commanded to love God. 

Legislating love 

I am disgusted. New Windows 8applications are filled with nuisance advertising. Monetizing is the new business model. It’s software with built-in spam. But Microsoft is not alone. We can’t even watch YouTube videos or Internet news stories without wading through mandatory time-wasting advertisements. Selfish business models are making life miserable, but we can’t legislate love can we? Well, God did. He mandated that we love him and our neighbor. Unrighteous capitalism is driven by greed and causes destruction from within as our tragic human history proves. Righteous capitalism builds a nation. It uses as a business model love of God and love of neighbor (Mark 12:28-34).Windows 8 is only the latest example of a selfish business model. There is no human law legislating love, but there is a higher law which does. God commands that we love. 

Venice, case study in greed 

Venice is a case study in greed. Once an affluent, open economy, the rich destroyed it through greed. Venice lost its wealth. America was formed to escape the restrictive social classes of Europe, but now ours are more restrictive than theirs. The poor and middle class cannot afford the educational costs that guarantee top jobs. The wealthy claim that too many people are dependent upon the government for help, when they have been dependent upon government for unfair tax breaks and government bailouts. Just like in Venice, todays wealthy are destroying the system and the freedom that gave them their riches. More and more of us work as poorly paid serfs to the greedy. National salvation is found in Jesus and his command to love. Righteous capitalism uses as a business model love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). 

Corporate greed 

Boycotting one particular company is naive when there is evil on all sides. All companies sin to some degree. One of the evils of corporate business is greed. “Corporate pork is a truly bipartisan dish” as both sides of politics are guilty of favoritism via tax perks, trade protection and government subsidies. Businesses build protective moats around their corporate castles, not to benefit the consumer, but to favor themselves. Microsoft has been sued by governments and Apple tried to force us to buy its inferior map application. Big businesses only give lip service to a free market while they try to monopolize markets and bully competitors. Most lobbying in Washington is to protect existing businesses and not to promote a truly free and open market. Righteous corporations use a business model of love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). 

Knowing and loving God 

One of life’s great secrets is learning to love God (Mark 12:28-34). Who is God? He is the great spirit, personal, living in eternity and unchanging. He is good, holy, righteous, loving, just, faithful, benevolent, gracious, merciful and persistent. God is also very near at every moment, yet at the same time high above us in every respect. He is one God, but also Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a mystery which we call the Trinity, that is beyond our human understanding. God is also creator of everything and continues as provider of all things. His rulership is loving and he provides through prayer, as we ask, yet always what is best, making special provision through miracles. Knowing about him makes more sense to obey the greatest commandment: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. 

Do we love God 

The great neglected commands are to love God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). Do we love God if we don’t accept his weekly invitation? Let’s not forsake the assembling together as the manner of some is. Do we love God if we ignore him in daily prayer? Pray without ceasing. Do we love God if he gets only a few dollars in the offering plate? Where our treasure is that’s where our hearts are. Do we love God if we fail to support those faulty human beings that he has placed in office? Esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake. Do we love God if we fail to show interest in his opinions on things as revealed in the Holy Scriptures? Study the Scriptures because they testify about Jesus, the way to eternal life. Do we love God? 

Loving God with all our hearts 

How do we love God with all our hearts (Mark 12:28-34)? It is a two-way street. We have our part. We are to seek him wholeheartedly (Deuteronomy 4:29-31). Joshua 22:5 explains that it involves walking in his ways, keeping his commands and holding fast to him. The first few of the Ten Commandments are specific principles of showing love to God: have no other Gods, no graven images, not taking his name in vain and taking a specific day to rest and assemble to worship him. God directs our hearts into this love (2 Thessalonians 3:5) and the Holy Spirit pours the love of God out in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We also show love to God in how we love the least of the brethren, so have we done for Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46). 

Loving God with all our souls 

Why ought we to love God with all our souls (Mark 12:28-34)? The word translated as soul here is psyche which can also refer to the life of a person. What good is it if we gain the whole world and lose our souls? What can we give in exchange for our souls (Matthew 16:26)? If we love things more than God, we are lost souls. If we find our lives, we lose them. If we lose our lives for Jesus’ sake, we find them (Matthew 10:39). The Magnificat is so named because Mary sang, my soul magnifies the Lord. Do our lives magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46)? Why would we not want to love the one who is the shepherd and overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)? He provides everything that we need. 

Loving God with our minds 

How do we respond to those who hate God and teach that belief in him is only for people with weak minds? They call Christians stupid for believing in the most obvious of all forensic evidence, that what exists demands an intelligent creator. King David challenged that kind of thinking by writing lyrics about morally deficient fools who say in their hearts that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Some Christians seem to encourage the idea that believers are brainless by fostering a blind acceptance of their beliefs as if intellectualism and worship are incompatible. But that contradicts what Jesus taught us (Mark 12:28-34) to love God with our minds, from a Greek word meaning thorough reasoning, using our intellect. Belief in God is not for simple fools, but for those who love him with their minds. 

Loving God with all our strength 

When an emergency happens we can exhibit super-human strength, what science calls hysterical strength or adrenaline strength. Mothers lift cars to rescue children and warriors go berserk to accomplish heroic feats in battle. Using all our strength also makes us very tired very quickly. Can we love God with all our strength (Mark 12:28-34)? But what happens when our strength fails? Paul encouraged the Ephesians and through them us, to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). We may be weak, but if we remain in God’s city we will be strong (Isaiah 26:1-2). The Lord is our strength and song and salvation (Exodus 15:1-2). God is our strength and power (2 Samuel 22:33). Let us not be discouraged because God will strengthen us even when enemies attack us for serving him (Isaiah 41:10). 


The first commandment is to love God. As his sheep, which are loved by him even when we don’t love him, how can we not love him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength! What are you going to do this week to show God love?