“Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, ‘You are not also one of His disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not!’ One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’ Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed. Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’ Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are you a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all. But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’ Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.”
How have you all been? I had been in Sokcho City and have just returned today. Even though Sokcho City is not that far away from here, I feel as though I had been away to a distant land. If I stay away from the Church even for just a week, I think I will feel as though I were away for several years. But I have had a safe trip and I am now back here in good health. I trust that you have also been doing fine. Perhaps it’s because we have much work ahead of us, but I can see that we are all more energetic than ever.
There is a flu virus going around these days, and so I want you all to take good care of yourselves. But the flu virus is not the only problem facing us, but many economic and political problems are plaguing our country. It’s not just Korea but the entire world is facing numerous problems. Nevertheless, even though the world is in turmoil, we the preachers of the gospel must always be energetic as we are now.
The World Is in Turmoil
It’s said that the Iraqi terrorists will likely expand their activities into Europe. All around the world, there have been more and more terrorist attacks. Recently, a book written by a former official from the Bush administration has become so popular in the United States that it is making news even here in Korea. One of the issues addressed in the book is on terrorism. According to this book, al-Qaeda terrorists had warned the United States of an impending terrorist attack three months before the 9/11 attack. But President Bush ignored al-Qaeda’s warning for three months, and the 9/11 terrorist attack indeed unfolded as was predicted. After the attacks, the only person that concentrated on al-Qaeda was Secretary of State Collin Powell, while everyone else including Bush had their sights set on somewhere else. The administration officials were singularly focused on invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein’s regime. The author of this book lambastes Bush as a man of low intelligence with a two-digit IQ.
Although the United States claims to the whole world that it does not seek war, the bottom line is that the United States started the Iraqi War, and this war has incensed the Islamic world even more. As a result of this world is now in an even greater danger of terrorist attacks. One of the thorniest issues for the Islamic world is the Palestinian issue and the American support of Israel. The Palestinians that Israel attacks are actually very poor, powerless and armed with little else than rifles. That’s why they have come to increasingly rely on terrorist organizations to stand up against Israel and the United States. So in some ways, it is the United States and Israel that have bred the terrorists that they are fighting now. As the United States invaded Iraq and brought destruction to that land, it has led many Iraqis to resent the American occupation and incited even more terrorist attacks.
I told you at the beginning of the sermon that there is a high probability of terrorist attacks occurring in Western Europe. If this happens, it may become difficult to send our books to Europe, and so we need to pray over this issue. Every time we gather together, we have to pray ceaselessly to God to prevent terrorist attacks, protect our literature ministry, and bless our books to save many souls all over the world.
Throughout the world, nationalism is also on a rise. That’s why nations are increasingly standing against other nations and countries against countries. This present age in which we are now living is filled with much sorrowful news of terrorism and war. But the nearing end of the end of the world is not such a bad thing for us, for it would usher in the new heavens and the new earth faster.
Scientists are saying that there is some evidence indicating that water had existed on Mars. Why do you suppose they keep investigating other planets and trying to ascertain whether they have similar environments as the planet earth? It’s because subconsciously, they want to leave this planet earth that is becoming increasingly inhospitable. However, my fellow believers, we should live by faith waiting for the end times as promised by our Lord, rather than looking for a new planet to live on. Just as the Lord promised to give us a new kingdom, on the day our Lord returns, we will indeed enter that kingdom and live there in peace. For us who are living in the harsh reality of the present age, our great hope is the Millennial Kingdom that awaits us, and the new heavens and the new earth that will be opened for us. By this hope our troubled minds are put to rest.
I’ve been informed that the sermon book series on the Gospel of Matthew will be completely translated by the 10th of this month. I’ve also been told that only one sermon needs to be translated before the sermon book series on the Gospel of John is completed. Half the sermons on Galatians were passed on to be translated, while the other half is in my hands. Once the remaining sermons are revised and handed over for translation, they will be published as the first volume on Galatians. I need to work even harder and prepare its second volume. Although I am very busy from all this work, I am very happy for it. So even though I have much work to do, I can do it with a joyful and willing heart.
After Being Interrogated, Jesus Was Taken to the Palace of Pilate the Roman Governor
Today’s Scripture passage comes from John 18:25-45. In Israel at that time the office of the High Priest was rotated once a year, and in that year Caiaphas was the High Priest. Jesus was first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and from there He was taken to Caiaphas. The people of Israel put a great deal of emphasis on various festivities, not to mention the Sabbath Day. As a matter of fact, Jesus was arrested and interrogated just when such a feast was at hand, at the very night before the Passover Day after He had the Last Supper with His disciples.
After being interrogated at Caiaphas’ residence, Jesus was once again taken to the Praetorium, the palace of Governor Pilate. To keep the statutes of the Passover, the Jews did not enter the Praetorium, and so Pilate came out and asked them, “What accusations do you bring against this Man? What crime has He committed that you have brought Him to me?” The people of Israel then said, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have brought Him to you. He is a sinner, an extremely evil Man. He is a violent Man who has committed many sins.” Pilate then asked the Jews again, “Then you take Him and judge Him yourselves.” The Jews then said to Pilate, “We have no authority to put anyone to death.” They had brought Jesus to Pilate to put Him to death.
Pilate then entered the Praetorium again and then asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Since Pilate was the Roman Governor sent to rule over the colony, there was only one crime for which he could put Jesus to death: The only crime punishable to death was revolting against Rome and its emperor. If Jesus had claimed Himself to be the King of the Jews and incited the people of Israel to revolt, then his execution was justified. That’s why Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33) If Jesus said yes, then Pilate could just sentence Him to death without listening any further. Since there could be no two rulers in one country, if Jesus said that He was the King, this would have been a proper ground for Pilate to put Him to death according to the Roman laws.
Jesus then said to Pilate, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me?” (John 18:34) Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me. What have you done?” Since Jesus was accused of claiming to be the King of the Jews, Pilate intended to judge Him on this accusation and sentence Him to death. But Jesus asked Pilate, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me?”
What Jesus said here was not a clear answer to Pilate’s question. Instead, Jesus asked Pilate in return, “I did not say that I was the King of the Jews, and so is it not the people of Israel or you who are saying this?” Jesus did not fall into the cunning trap of Pilate. So Pilate said, “I am not a Jew. But your own people have delivered you to me. What is it that you have done for these people to bring accusations against you?”
Jesus Is the King of His Own Kingdom
Jesus had raised the dead, healed the sick and helped the poor. So on account of this, countless people were following Him. Many of these people wanted to take Jesus and literally make Him the King of Israel. But Jesus had absolutely no intention for this. He had helped people only out of His compassion. For the sake of a mother wailing over her dead child, He had put His hands on the casket and raised the child back to life, and He had healed the sick as they wished. All those who saw such miracles praised Jesus and follow Him around, and their number was very large.
To the chief priests and the Pharisees, the fact that Jesus had so many followers was a sore sight in their eyes. They thought that they themselves deserved to be so popular, and yet Jesus was stealing there thunder. So they came to agree that there was only way to put Jesus to death: Since many people were trying to crown Jesus as the King, they decided to frame Him by accusing Him of calling Himself the King of Israel. It is on account of this accusation that Jesus was put to death, and that is why a sign saying “the King of the Jews” was put on the Cross when He was crucified. The Bible says that this sign was written in both Greek and Hebrew.
This is not an entirely wrong sign, for Jesus was indeed the spiritual King of the Jews. Not only for those who believe in Him, but also for the entire universe; the King of kings is none other than Jesus.
As Pilate interrogated Him, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). “Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are you a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice’” (John 18:37).
As Pilate continued to interrogate Him on this accusation, Jesus spoke of something fundamental: “The kingdom you speak of is this tributary kingdom that belongs to the Roman Empire, but the Kingdom that I speak of is an entirely different kingdom. My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, my servants would have fought to prevent me from being delivered to the Jews. No, My Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus then answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” In other words, Jesus told Pilate that He was not a king of this world, but the King of His own Kingdom.
Jesus would be eventually crucified. Regardless of how He put it, He said that He was the King, and so He was found guilty of sedition. As there is a saying that goes, “All roads lead to Rome,” the Roman Emperor was the ruler over all the known world at that time. Although Jesus said that He was the King of His Kingdom rather than a king of this world, this was still enough for the Romans to consider it an insult to their emperor. But Jesus was speaking of spiritual things and faith, not anything secular. Nevertheless, to placate the Jews, Pilate still extracted Jesus’ confession saying that He was the King and then sentenced Him to death.
Jesus said, “I have come to this earth to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate then said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) He then went out to the Jews and said to them, “I have not found any fault with Him at all. This Man did not revolt to overthrow the Roman rule, and so He is innocent. You have a custom that I should release one prisoner at the Passover, and I think it is appropriate that this Man should be released.” Pilate said this because he felt that Jesus was innocent even after interrogating Him. Since Jesus was not trying to make Himself an earthly king, but He said that His Kingdom was elsewhere, not of this world, Pilate thought that His action was a matter of faith and spirituality, and so he wanted to release Him. Pilate then suggested to the Jews to release Jesus. But instead of Jesus, the Jews asked Pilate to release Barabbas, the robber of robbers and a real evildoer. In the end, according to their wishes, Jesus suffered death on the Cross while Barabbas, an evil man was released.
The gist of today’s Scripture passage is the following: Jesus has His own Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, and He is its King. Just as the Lord said that those who believe in this Truth hear His Word, we are now indeed listening to the Word of God and we also believe in this Word. Therefore, we are the people of our Lord Jesus Christ the King.
Jesus Came to This Earth to Testify the Truth
The Lord said that He came to this earth for the sake of the Truth, and to bear witness of the Truth to us. Pilate did not realize what Jesus meant by this, and so he asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) In contrast to Pilate who was only interested in earthly affairs, Jesus was speaking about the things of Heaven rather than the things of this temporal world.
We must understand and believe in what Jesus said exactly as it is. Jesus came to this earth to save people and make them God’s people by testifying the Truth to them. We must all grasp clearly that Jesus came to this earth to do the righteous work of making us, mere creatures, His very own people and children, and to thus bear witness of the greatest Truth of all. Jesus Christ came to testify the Truth of salvation. He came to save us from sin and make us His people forever. The real Truth testified by Jesus is what makes it possible for us to become God’s people, and our status is elevated by this Truth. There is only one thing that is absolutely right: It is that Jesus has saved us from sin through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Jesus came to bear witness to this Truth, and He is the One who has saved us by this Truth.
As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), this Truth has indeed saved us. None other than this is what all of us must know. That God has made us His people by blotting out all our sins—this is the Truth. Truth is something that is not false but real and genuine. The most righteous Truth of all truths is the gospel of the water and the Spirit through which the Lord has saved us. All of us must realize this.
Pilate asked Jesus what the Truth was. Born into this world as sinners, we could not help but perish for our sins, but the Lord became our true Savior. Jesus has given us real life and true salvation through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. So it was a foolish question for Pilate to ask what the Truth was. Even though he heard Jesus speaking to him personally, he did not grasp the Truth. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). The Kingdom of the Lord indeed exists apart from this visible world.
People today live without giving much thought to why they were born, and for what they are living for, where they are going, and what the end result of their lives will be. But all of us, who were born in the likeness of God’s image, must realize what the real Truth is. What is really right? What should we believe in? What is the purpose of life? What is our relationship with Jesus? We should be thinking about these things.
As the colonial governor of Israel, Pilate was a man of great status. But despite this, Pilate did not know what was right and what was wrong. Even though he met Jesus in person and heard His Word, he still failed to understand Him to the end. The Bible says that those who are of God understand the Word of the Lord exactly as it is. Those who really recognize God believe in Him and follow Him—that is, those who want to follow the real Truth, the real life, the real righteousness and the real love—are able to understand what the Lord said. What about you and me then? By believing in the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit, we have become those who can understand everything the Lord said. That is because this Truth has brought us the everlasting life and the true remission of all our sins.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, the world is turning even more chaotic as terrorist attacks strike Europe and nationalists rise up throughout the world. But there is absolutely no need for us to be fearful, for we have the assurance that when the end of this world comes, the Lord our King will take us His people to the Kingdom of Heaven without fail.
Of course, there will still be some issues that concern us. I am concerned that it may become more difficult to spread the gospel because of this pending chaos. Can the gospel continue to be spread when the world is thrown into turmoil? What if our missionary work is interrupted? It’s true that we have such concerns. But even in these worries, we still wait for the Lord’s return in prayer and faith. When that time comes, I am sure that the Lord will take us to His Kingdom and make us happy and prosperous. Do you also have this kind of faith? If so, then you have no need to be too depressed over the sordid affairs of the world.
The Truth Is Attained by Believing in the Righteousness of God and His Love
As the Lord said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), we must indeed become such people. You and I were actually evildoers just like Barabbas. Born with twelve sins, we had committed sin every day. Yet despite this, the Lord has saved such people like us.
Turn to the first half of today’s Scripture passage. It describes how Peter denied Jesus. When Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the High Priest, Peter had followed Him from behind. Someone then recognized Peter and asked him, “Aren’t you also one of Jesus’ disciples?” Peter denied this, saying that he did not know Jesus. He was then asked for the second time, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with His followers?” “I have nothing to do with Jesus,” answered Peter.
Jesus is the Savior of such insufficient human beings. Knowing that Peter would do this, Jesus had washed his feet by saying to him, “You will deny me three times before the rooster crows.” When Jesus wanted to wash Peter’s feet, he had declined at first, saying to Him, “How can a teacher wash his disciples’ feet? I can’t let you do this.” But Jesus told him forcefully, “Unless I wash your feet, you have nothing to do with me.” Jesus knew all about what Peter would do. He knew very well that Peter would deny Him later on when facing difficulties. And just as Jesus had said, Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
All human beings are alike when looking at their acts. We were all like Barabbas. All of us were sinners. If people were judged by God every time they sinned, they would have had no choice but to be cursed and crucified like Barabbas a long time ago. However, the Lord said that those who are of the Truth hear His voice, and that He has saved such people. Therefore, it is right for you and me to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit through which the Lord has truly saved all human beings from sin and made them God’s people.
The Truth is in the righteousness of God and in His love as well. To know and believe that God truly loves us all, and that He has therefore blotted out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, is to know and believe in the Truth. However, people do not realize this and keep asking what the Truth is, just like Pilate. They ask, “What is the way? Where is the road to Heaven? Where is the way to be washed from sin? Where is the path of virtuous living? What should we believe to really have proper faith?” My fellow believers, the Truth is that God sent His Son Jesus to this earth out of His love for us and that He has remitted away our sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. To believe in this Truth is to receive the true love, the real everlasting life, the real life, the true remission of sin, and the true blessing. That God has blotted out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit out of His love for us, that He has made us His people and blessed us, that He has allowed us to live forever not just in this world but in the next world to come, and that He has prepared a kingdom for us to live—this power of God and His love constitute the real Truth.
My fellow believers, our lives do not just end in this world. It is written, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Indeed, in not so distant future, all of us will die once and stand before the judgment throne of God. Do you also accept this? For those who are still young, it may be difficult to really appreciate that time will pass by and this day will come soon, but that day is surely coming to everyone. Today is March 24, but soon it will be April and everything will come alive with the arrival of the spring. But just when we think that the spring is here, it won’t be long before the summer comes, then the fall, and then the winter. Time indeed flies by in the blink of an eye; half a year will pass by in no time like this.
Let Us Labor for the Gospel
It is a blessing for us to labor for the Lord, for now is the time when we can still spread the gospel. Do you also agree with me?
Before, we could not help but ask about what the Truth was, but now we have met the Savior Lord who is the Truth. And we now know and believe that none other than this Truth is the love of God; that the gospel has blotted out all our sins, and that Jesus has fulfilled the Truth. Jesus indeed came to this earth, saved us through the water and the Spirit, and testified to us that this salvation is the Truth. It is to bear witness of this Truth that Jesus came to this earth. And we have realized this Truth and we all believe in it.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Truth? Do you believe that Jesus has blotted out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit? If so, then you have truly found the Truth. To give us our true salvation, the Lord came to this earth, was baptized, died on the Cross, and rose up from the dead in three days. It is such a wonderful and joyous event that it makes us grateful beyond words.
We must realize this true salvation and believe in it. By being baptized, Jesus took upon all our sins, and in order to be crucified, He allowed Himself to be arrested and taken to the palace of Pilate. You should realize here that it’s not because Jesus was somehow powerless that He was arrested, but He allowed this to happen in order to save us. You and I must grasp clearly that after being crucified to death, Jesus rose up from the dead and He has given us true salvation. Now, we must wholeheartedly believe in the salvation the Lord has fulfilled.
By this faith, we give all thanks and glory to our God for His infinite love. We thank Him for saving us. We give Him thanks from the depth of our hearts. Halleluiah!