Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. John 18:36-37
Pastor Ed Dobson at one time had access to the highest places of power in the U.S., including the White House, and was a national Christian figure. But today he lives a physically limited life as a result of the incurable neurological condition ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His devoted wife, Lorna, helps him dress and prepares him smoothies to eat—a far cry from the soccer star he was while growing up in Northern Ireland.
Long before Dobson contracted ALS, he had moved dramatically away from the understanding of faith he had when he was an executive with The Moral Majority in the 1980s. In his book Blinded by Might, Ed describes how he came to realize that the world can only be changed by the gospel of Jesus, not the political methods of boycotts, power alliances, and voter mobilization.
Power is seductive, and when people have power and influence—even as spiritual leaders—they can have a hard time remembering the radically different posture of King Jesus.
On the day Jesus was face to face with Pontius Pilate in the governor’s palace with its massive stone walls within which voices would echo, Pilate asked him straightforwardly: “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus’ reply was: “My kingdom is not of this world…. my kingdom is from another place.” That ought to have been self-evident. Jesus had no army and he stopped the attempts of his followers to defend him. On the other hand, Jesus told Pilate that, at a command, he could have thousands of angels at his defense.
In a matter of hours, the crucifixion of Jesus would begin. Rome and the religious authorities would have their empty victory. But in an invisible clash of kingdoms, God in Christ was defeating death and sin and Satan.
After his time in political activism, Ed Dobson pastored a 5,000-member church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today he ministers to people one at a time. With his characteristic honesty, Ed speaks about his spiritual struggles and doubts, but everyone who knows him sees the triumph of Jesus in the weakness of the flesh.
PONDER: How might the power of King Jesus help you on the day when weakness seems to be winning?
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• ED’S STORY •
Over the years, I have talked with all sorts of people who have ALS. I talk with at least one individual every week. It might not seem as fancy as preaching to five thousand people, but it is powerful. When I look into their eyes, it’s as if I am looking into their souls. Even when I’m talking on the phone, it’s as if they are right there in the room with me. We are both broken. We both have a limited time on earth. We both know that dying is in our future. We both know that our muscles will continue to decline. It’s like we’re on common ground. It’s not a pastor up on the platform teaching truths to the congregation seated beneath him. It is one broken person talking to another broken person. And there is power in that.
Excerpt from Ed Dobson, Seeing Through the Fog, p. 47.
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The Jews were looking for a Messiah who, with political and military strength, would overthrow the Romans. When Jesus proved not to be this kind of king, they wanted him dead. But they did not have the power to do this on their own, so they handed Jesus over to Pilate. As Pilate questions him, Jesus explains that his is not an earthly kingdom. The true kingdom of God is about love and service, not power.
Read John 18:28-40. Who does Pilate think Jesus is? How does Jesus describe his kingdom? What does it mean for Jesus to be the king in your life?