Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…
I. THE KINGDOM WAS EMPHATICALLY HIS.
1. Nothing arrests our attention more forcibly than the extraordinary claims our Lord asserted for Himself. Commingled with the most lowly humility, there was the quiet assumption of an authority more than regal. How would it have sounded had Aristotle said, "I am the light of the world"? had Socrates said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour"? &c.; had Plato said, "I am the resurrection and the life"? And yet these amazing declarations fall as naturally from the lips of Christ as dew falls upon the grateful flowers. To the Jewish people there was no greater name than that of Moses; but Christ put the crown on the head of Moses when He said, "He wrote of Me." David's memory was a heritage of glory; but Christ reminded the people that while David sat on a thone, He was His subject, and called Him Lord. Solomon was a synonym for all regal splendour; but Christ said, "A greater than Solomon is here." All these astounding claims find their justification in two incontestable facts — first, that they were true; and second, that it was necessary to assert them. Their truth was demonstrated by all subsequent events, and becomes increasingly manifest with the progress of the ages. Their proclamation was necessary to the accomplishment of the great purposes for which He became incarnate. To have withheld any essential fact about Himself would have been, not humility, but treason to the truth itself and hurtful to humanity. It was therefore perfectly in harmony with the great ends of His mission that, with nothing but a retinue of fishermen in His train, and that at the very moment when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own followers, He should have quietly said to them, "I appoint you a kingdom." And the strangest fact in the annals of government is this, that, after the lapse of near two thousand years, it numbers more subjects than ever acknowledged allegiance to any other sovereign.
2. The kingdom was His, too, by appointment and by purchase. He would not receive it from any hand but that of the Highest. When the god of this world offered Him all the kingdoms for a single act of homage, He rebuked the tempter. When the people wished to make Him a king, He resisted, for He had heard the declaration of the Father, "I have set My King upon the holy hill of Zion."
II. THIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, and differs from all others —
1. In its origin. It was not the product of the historic forces then at work in the world, such as give rise to the kingdoms of men. There was nothing in the drift of the times to develop it. There was no existing philosophy, religion, or nation out of which such a kingdom could have emerged. If it could not have come from —
(1) The Greek, worshipping physical and intellectual beauty, much less from —
(2) The Roman, who had now entered upon the darkest period of his intellectual and moral history.
(3) Nor was it the product of dormant forces in the Jewish nation; on the contrary, the principles of the kingdom and the spirit which animated them were diametrically opposed both to the principles and spirit of the Judaism of the time.
2. In its purpose. The design of an earthly kingdom is to secure the temporal interests of its subjects, and the kingdom of Christ incidentally cherishes the temporal interests of man; but its grand aim is to restore the lost image of God in the soul, to found a kingdom which will include what is best in all religions, being larger than any ecclesiastical organization.
3. In its character, as an inward and spiritual kingdom, in contradistinction to all that is outward and material. We invariably associate with the word kingdom the idea of territory; the idea of power, as expressed by fleets and armies; the idea of luxury and state, as displayed in palaces and ceremonies; the idea of a succession to the throne, elective or hereditary. But in the kingdom which is not of this world there are none of these accessories. It is limited by no boundaries; it is cumbered by no pomp or insignia of authority, &c. It is a kingdom in which the subjects do not elect their king, but one in which the King elects His subject. It is not a kingdom in which one king succeeds another, but in which one immortal King reigns through all generations. It is not a kingdom in which there are inequalities of hereditary rank. No coronet could add to the glory of that title, and no wealth could augment the riches of that joint-heir with Jesus Christ.
4. In its foundation, which is —
(1) In the conscience, and so regulates all the movements of the life.
(2) In the intellect. It so illumines the understanding, furnishes new ideas for the imagination, and fills the memory with sweet and sacred treasures.
(3) In the heart, and purifies all of its emotions by the expulsive power of a new affection.
(4) It sets up the kingdom of truth in the soul.
5. In its duration, which is everlasting.
III. But while this kingdom is spiritual and inward, it is not one of secret experiences only; it is one which KINDLES A NEW LIFE AND BECOMES A KINGDOM OF POWER. In the estimation of men of the world this kingdom is an airy, unreal thing. They can understand a kingdom that has a visible king in it, with a palace, &c.; but a spiritual citizenship is an empty, abstract ideal. Nevertheless, it is a kingdom of power, as is proved —
1. By its early triumphs. Its first triumphs were in the land where it originated: under a single sermon thousands of men entered upon a new life. It pervaded Judea, Asia Minor, Europe, that by becoming European it might become universal. It seized upon great cities — Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Athens, Rome.
2. By the individual transformations it effects. The gospel of this kingdom declares its ability to regenerate men. This is a unique claim, setting it in sharp contrast with all other religions. If it can re-create men, then its Divine origin is demonstrated. It was the objection urged by Celsus, that it undertook impossible things, such as "making men over again." The Christian Fathers, in their reply, asserted that the illustrations of the power of Christianity to do this very thing were visible everywhere. Does any candid man believe that there was no radical difference between , Ignatius, , Clement, and , and the educated gentlemen of the pagan civilizations? What would he say of Fenelon contrasted with Mirabeau, Pascal with Voltaire, Henry Martyn with Thomas Paine?Conclusion: It is evident, from what has been said, that —
1. The gospel never loses its power — never grows old. The Cross of Christ is still the world's great magnet.
2. Though the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, that does not imply that we have no relations to any other government than His. The civil power is ordained of God, and we are commanded to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Every good citizen is under obligation to the government whose laws protect him and whose departments are so arranged as to minister to his convenience and advantage in numberless ways. It is greatly to be desired that the relations between the Church and the State should ever be those of mutual respect, goodwill, and confidence. The Church dishonours its own high calling and mistakes its true mission in the world when, by any ecclesiastical legislation, it attempts to interfere with the functions of civil government. And the State transcends its authority, and invades a province over which it has no jurisdiction, when it undertakes to control Church life and order.
3. Though this kingdom is not of this world, it is the kingdom the world most needs. Its restraining, conservative power is needed to secure its greatest temporal interests.
(M. D. Hoge, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.