Throughout this pandemic and even before with many tragedies our world has faced people have asked – where is God in all this – or – why has God allowed this to happen. When we face personal tragedies such as sickness or death we too may have been led to ask – why? Why if God is a loving God does he allow this to happen.
A Jewish Rabbi author, Harold Kushner has written a book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.
The conclusion he came to was that God was either unwilling or unable to help in those situations.
However, there is another conclusion that we consider and it comes in Jesus’ answer to Pilate in our Gospel reading. Pilate was confused by this person in front of him whom he had heard was claimed by many to be “The King of the Jews”. He didn’t look like a King. He was rejected by his own people. His disciples did not fight for him when he was arrested but of frightened. Jesus didn’t live in a palace or have servants but declared himself to be a servant even washing people’s feet. He may have even heard that his dear friend and chief disciple, Peter, had denied even knowing him.
Are you the King of the Jews? Really?
Maybe Jesus doesn’t look like much of a king to you at times. So what was Jesus response? My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. It was a similar response to Peter when Peter did in fact stand up for Jesus at his arrest by drawing his sword and cutting of the ear of one of the soldiers. Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
As Christians we need to understand that we are in a spiritual battle, not a worldly battle. The struggles we are going through, even though they are worldly struggles, they are part of a world that has fallen away from God. A world that we live in but do not belong in. As Paul reminds us – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So as Christians we don’t ask what is God doing – we ask – what has God done. And John, in the Book of Revelation saw exactly that: John was banished to the Isle of Patmos because of his faith in Jesus. He refused to bow down and worship the Emperor and as a result was persecuted. He didn’t ask why. He didn’t see God as either unable or unwilling to help him. But he saw a different perspective when he wrote: To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Just as Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, neither is ours. In fact John says that God has made us a Kingdom.
That’s what St Paul also saw. Again, persecuted because of his faith in Jesus, he did not complain to God about the unfair treatment he got but instead was strengthened in his faith knowing that Jesus would soon return and vindicate him and judge his persecutors. He was reminded, as Jesus said, that his kingdom was not of this world but rather – We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
We are preparing for our home in heaven and that’s what we need to understand in order to make sense of what we are going through now. Peter really struggled with that when Jesus revealed it to him: Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter didn’t understand how Jesus could be the Messiah he just proclaimed him to be and yet this is what is in store for him. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” And then Jesus reveals the difference between the worldly kingdom and the heavenly victory he has won: Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God – the heavenly Kingdom, but merely human concerns or, the worldly Kingdom.”
As Christians we need to remember that we are citizens of Heaven now and that our true home is with Christ who HAS won the battle already. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world because this world is coming to an end.
Jesus’ Kingdom is heaven so it’s not a case of God being unable or unwilling to help but rather God has already defeated this world and prepared our new home in Heaven. That’s what he was explaining to his disciples in John 14: I am going there (Heaven) to prepare a place for you. And I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. St Paul in Colossians reminds us of that fact and to not be distracted by what is happening around us in this world. He reminds us in Chapter 3 – You have been raised with Christ, so set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Our citizenship in Heaven has begun already even if it doesn’t seem it.
Friends the day is coming when Jesus will return. It’s one day closer today than it was yesterday. And when Jesus returns, we will be vindicated as we appear with him in glory. St John also saw that day and that not everyone will see it as a glorious day, in particular those who rejected Jesus and persecuted his followers when he says: Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. Let us stay strong in our faith and not give up. Jesus is coming and he is coming soon. Jesus is the one who is and who was and who is to come. Our world continues to live in fear and concern particularly with the Delta strain of Covid19 But let us remember that while the world remains in fear of Delta – we have the Alpha and the Omega – the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.