So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" . . . Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." John 18:33-34 & 36 (ESV)
Here is a conversation going on between two "kings." Pilate, the ruler over a small region of the Roman Empire, is threatened by the existence of other kings. His understanding of reality is based on very limited knowledge. He thinks according to the definitions of the alienated world. On the other hand is the King of all realms of reality offering this sad figure a chance to become a part of the kingdom of God:"Do you say this of your own accord...?" Even as Pilate is stuck in his own political crucible, Jesus offers him a chance to enter a new world of existence. Later many Roman officials who would make that choice, but Pilate missed the queue.
There is still great confusion about which kingdom rules. We get caught up so easily in the struggle of political power that we dismiss the eternal and unshakable kingdom that actually rules. The issue is not what happens in Pilate's quarters, for there is a hand that is guiding even in the secret rooms of those who make decisions for nations. The issue is what one does with the King. Just because he is not visible does not mean he should be dismissed as irrelevant.
Pilate demonstrates the common attitude toward Jesus and his rule. Once he is assured that Jesus is not talking about a physical kingdom, he is not at all threatened by him. After all, just "religion" does not even register on the scale of importance compared to political power. Pilate is even borderline sympathetic towards Jesus. But sympathy is not what the King demands. For years now political parties in the United States have been sympathetic toward evangelical opinions, yet many of us now feel abandoned because we see that the kingdoms of this world system are built on using people to get agendas through. We should not be surprised, but we should learn.
Jesus did not say that his kingdom was not interested in this world. He said it did not originate in this world. It operates on knowledge that this world's system doesn't have. It rules by a power the world's system cannot reproduce. It will continue to operate until the knowledge of the glory of God covers the whole earth. It cannot be stopped and will not be ignored. Jesus defined has kingdom in terms of truth, and that truth is embodied in him. Those who reject him or refuse to submit to him will never know the truth that liberates. They do not have the Spirit of Truth to guide them nor the love of God to empower them. They have no chance to fulfill their mission on earth.
On the other hand, Jesus offers his kingdom to all who, like little children, will trust him as their own king. Empowered to live their own lives under the order of the kingdom of truth, they demonstrate liberty in every sphere they touch. Earthly governments will be affected, as well as business, education, et al., but this kingdom's subjects will not confuse the source of real power. They are citizens of the kingdom that neither Rome nor Hell can conquer.
Lift up your heads, you children of God! Neither Pilate nor any of his successors can do anything to you apart from your Father's permission. If the day looks dark, get ready. Dawn is coming. You will see Jesus reign and the enemy bow.