Sermon: “For this Purpose I was Born” (John 18:28–40)
It is easy to become numb to the horrors of the story of the crucifixion. We sing about the power of the cross, talk about the glory of the cross, and even decorate our churches and homes with crosses. Because the church has had two thousand years to process the horrors of the cross, it can be hard to recognize just how seriously we have domesticated the most cruel, barbaric, brutal form of execution ever invented. Furthermore, the Old Testament Scriptures are very clear that dying on the cross was not merely a rotten way to die from a human perspective, but that crucifixion signified God’s curse against the person being executed: “a hanged man [on a tree] is cursed by God” (Deut. 21:23). More than dying, Jesus was tortured; more than tortured, Jesus was cursed. How then can we recognize love, hope, and power in the cross of Jesus?
More than this, it is at this point in the Gospel that John starts to include Jesus’ teaching about his kingdom. While the theme of the kingdom of God permeates the Synoptic Gospels from very early on (cf. Matt. 4:8–10, 17; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:6–8, 43), it is only now, during the story of Jesus’ crucifixion that he begins to teach about the nature of his kingdom (John 18:33–37). Why would a condemned prisoner insist upon his right to rule as king? If he is rejected by the kingdoms of the world and cursed by God himself, how can Jesus even imagine a kingship for himself? The Gospel of John clarifies this paradox powerfully: Jesus can take the curse of the world because his kingship is not of the world.