John 18: 28-40. (Following on from John 18: 1-27)
When things get awkward there is a tendency to want to pass the buck.
I am sure when the Oxfam scandal of officials in Haiti buying sex workers erupted that the Government in Britain exploded into a frenzy of passing the buck. Which department should deal with it?
Justice, for crimes had been made, or maybe not been made. This might not have been illegal but it was immoral? Or maybe it was criminal, were some of the helpers demanding sex for charity? If so which judiciary is in charge of that?
Maybe it was safeguarding that should deal with it?
Maybe the charities commission?
Maybe the foreign office?
When things start to go really wrong there is this tendency to find out who has to take responsibility for what has happened, and the more troubling the problem, the greater the need to pass the buck to the right person.
Which brings us onto the big question of the day...who do you think should be responsible for your life?
Now I know you think you know the answer here.
This reminds me of a story about a children's address where the minister was talking about a jungle animal who was hiding in the trees waiting for some prey to go passing by. And the minister described the creature hiding in the tree in great depth. He described the long tail, the whiskers on the face, the stripes on his back. And then the minister asked, ‘Do you know what that creature it was?’
And this five year old child puts her hand up and says, ‘I want to say a tiger but I know the answer is Jesus because the answer is always Jesus.’
Well today's reading is a real cracker of a problem.
If Jesus is king, who is he king of?
And they are all passing the buck.
Judas passes Jesus to Annas, Annas passes Jesus to Caiaphas, Caiaphas passes Jesus on to Pilate, Pilate passes Jesus on to the crowd.
The truth is, the truth always has been and always will be, that Jesus is too awkward to handle.
In the end it was easier just to get rid of him.
Here is the problem.
They are claiming that Jesus said that he was the Messiah, the anointed one, the king. That isn't just a title. In those days kings had total authority in a person’s life. The whole existence of a country was to keep the king as king.
So the king would charge whatever taxes he needed to make sure that the palace and the kingship were kept in the right condition.
The king could conscript anyone to be in his army to protect the country and his kingship.
The king had the power to bless who he wanted to bless and curse who he wanted to curse.
There are examples in the Old Testament of kings killing people they didn’t like and no one could stop them. In one case the king kills someone who wouldn't sell his vineyard to him. The king offers him a fair price, but when the man says that it is his inheritance to his family the king arranges for the man to be tried as a traitor and confiscates his lands.
Equally there are examples of kings giving land to those who gained his favour.
In those days your life was in the hands of the king.
But who is Jesus king of?
No one is giving Jesus lordship over their life.
The disciples, through Peter and Judas, have not claimed Jesus as king.
The religious leaders have not claimed Jesus as king.
The secular leaders have not claimed Jesus as king.
And I can understand that.
Because who wants to let go of all that power, that responsibility?
I don't know about you.
But this is one conflict I am always fighting with.
Who is in charge of my life?
Do I claim Jesus as Lord, or do I not?
This is an internal struggle I am always fighting.
You see I want a Jesus in my life.
I really do, I want Jesus to be part of my life. But that's the problem, I want him to be part of my life, I don't want him to be my life.
I want him to be a safety net, someone to help bail me out when I get things wrong, someone to make my life easier.
There was a previous auxiliary minister in Alva 20 years ago. And she confessed to me that before she came to church on a Sunday she always prayed that God would give her a parking space near the church so that she didn't need to walk far. And that prayer was always answered.
Every week it was the same routine, she would leave the house get into her car, say a wee prayer asking God to give her a parking space near the church, then off she would drive assured that God had answered her prayer, and he did.
That’s the kind of God I want. That’s the kind of Jesus I want.
Like a policeman guiding the traffic and making sure I get to my destination safely.
Just between you and me, isn’t that the kind of Jesus you want?
Because if we are travelling on life's journey, don’t we want a Jesus who guides us on our way and leads us safely to the promised land of heaven?
The only trouble is that that is not the type of Jesus that Jesus wants to be.
The type of Jesus that Jesus wants to be is not the policeman who is guiding the traffic so that we are kept safe. Jesus wants to be the type of policeman who is in the car with us.
Can you imagine that?
That Jesus was in the car beside us, and he’s not one of those great passengers that keeps his mouth shut.
No, not this Jesus.
He’s the type of passenger who makes a running commentary on your driving.
‘Did you see that woman with the flat tyre? Maybe we should stop and see if she needs help?’
Jesus if I stop then I won’t have the space right outside the church that you are keeping for me. I’m sure she is a member of the AA. She’ll be fine.
‘Did you see that drunk? He looks vulnerable to me. Maybe you could give him a lift home?’
Are you kidding me? What if he pueks up in my car? You know how long it would take to clean up the mess?
You know Jesus would be worse than that.
He wouldn't just be making suggestions. He would be telling us off.
‘You shouldn't have been going that fast. That is dangerous driving.’
Look Jesus the road was empty and I’m running late.
‘You keep driving like this and you’ll eventually have a crash.’
I’ve been driving like this all my life and so far I have done pretty well.
You know Jesus would be worse than that.
Jesus might even be telling us not to be driving.
‘I think that you should get out the car and walk. Slow down, smell the flowers, meet the people. You need to live life instead of rushing through life.’
And I don't know about you, but at that point I kick Jesus out the car.
He’s not telling me how I get about. He’s not telling me about what I should be doing.
So Jesus gets out the car.
And off I go on my own.
And then I crash.
And suddenly I know that I am out my depth and who do I go to?
The weird thing is, that even then there is conflict.
I might be asking Jesus into my life but I still want him in under my conditions.
Condition 1. Don't blame me for the crash. It wasn't my fault. It was all those other stupid drivers out there. And don't ask me to help anyone else in the crash. If the crash was their problem, and it must have been because it certainly wasn’t my fault, then they can sort out the damage themselves.
Condition 2. Just get everything back to normal. Don't ask me to change the way I drive so that I don't crash like that again. In fact what I really want is to have everything in such a way that I can just carry on as if nothing has happened.
Here’s the deal.
Well my deal.
The truth is that I don't drive my life very well.
Never have, suppose I never will do.
I have a control problem.
I can’t be in control of much.
All those other drivers out there living their life...I hardly have any control on them.
The there is all those things that are way beyond my understanding;
the things governments do that have an effect on my life,
the way that my health changes without my permission,
all the random things out there that I haven’t the foggiest that they are going to happen.
The truth is that I drive my life blind, I think we all do.
I have this habit when I am driving lost, it is a weird habit, but when I am lost, I drive faster. I think in my head the logic is, if I drive faster then I will get to somewhere eventually that I recognise faster and then I won't be lost. But that never happens, I just get more lost.
I’m presuming that the world thinks the same way as I do because we are living in a very rushed world.
The smart thing to do would be to get out the car and ask someone where I am. And if they know the way I need to go. But I don't do that, I just drive faster, and get more lost.
So here we are.
End of the sermon.
And what have we got.
No one, no one has given Jesus the authority to be king.
They are all passing Jesus onto someone else. They all see Jesus as someone else's problem.
Which brings us back to that five year old child at the start of the sermon, the one who accidentally saw the real truth.
The problem isn't Jesus, the answer is always Jesus.
He wants us to see just how blind we are, and to let him lead us.
Maybe lead us to places that are difficult.
Maybe lead us to places we don't want to go.
Maybe lead us past those places to the place we need to be.
And who knows, maybe when we arrive we will see that this is the place we really wanted to be, needed to be to make our life meaningful.
So what will it be?
This day, as Jesus is passed to us, will we ask him to be king, will we ask him to lead us...or do we pass him on to someone else and continue to drive blind?