When my wife Laurie was pregnant with our first son, Seann, I came up with a term that I think aptly describes something we all experience from time to time. It’s that sensation you get when you’re in a process and the really intense part is about to start and there is nothing you can do but ride it out.
I call it the “neck of the funnel”.
Early on in the pregnancy we were excited and had a lot of “wiggle room”. In other words, the birth wasn’t going to happen for another 9 months! We had lots of time before we had to worry about that oh so intense time. Then, one day, Laurie had labor pains. We were in the “neck of the funnel” where it all narrowed down and we were confined to the reality that the next season was going to be intense and hard: the actual birthing process.
All through life people experience the “neck of the funnel” phenomenon. Getting engaged to be married is like this. Opening a business is like this. Going from diagnosis to surgery is like this. Life is like this because toward the end we approach a season that many dread: the dying process.
I saw something in the Gospel of John that can help us with this intense time I call the “neck of the funnel”.
“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’” (John 18:33)
Pilate wanted Jesus to clarify why the Jews wanted to kill him.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’” (John 18:34)
Imagine the situation. Jews rarely brought another Jew to a Roman leader if they could avoid it. They hated the Romans and hated legitimatising their authority over the Jews by doing something like this. When a Jew did find himself before a Roman leader like Pilate who had the power of life and death over him, he virtually knew it was all over for him. Pilate didn’t care about a Jew. It was nothing for him to command that the person be killed.
So, Jesus is in an intense earthly situation here. He knows that He is going to be crucified and we know from His experience in Gethsemane that the prospect of what was about to happen was stressful for Him as a human.
Yet, Jesus is not quivering before Pilate. His response suggests that He is calm. He is actually clarifying authority. We see an earthly ruler asking Jesus if He had a kingdom on the earth that might challenge Caesar and Jesus’ response is basically, “Is this an issue as far as you are concerned? Or is it just something those guys told you I was?”
“Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me.’” (John 18:35)
Pilate wants an answer. “What have You done?” Jesus’ own countrymen were giving Him to a leader they hated. Something was up and Jesus responds in His way: with the truth.
“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.’” (John 18:36)
Jesus clearly reveals His mind; His viewpoint and this is something that we must see and receive for ourselves. To the Lord the eternal is much more real than is this temporary time we spend on the earth.
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.”
Pilate is an earth bound, lost person and he is assuming that what he knows is reality. He believes that the earthly realm is all there is.
Jesus responds from a heavenly perspective.
Jesus is a heavenly being, at that time, housed in a human physical body for a season and when He responded, in a time that could have been one of GREAT earthly stress: beaten, hungry, sleepless and knowing full well that He would soon BECOME our sin so that we could become God's righteousness in Him, He responds from a heavenly perspective.
He is not in denial; He knows exactly what is happening. It’s just that His true reality is the heavenly perspective.
This is a VERY important thing for us because if we grasp it and just seeing Jesus practicing this standing before Pilate, but for us right where we are, our lives and our responses to life can be gloriously transformed.
Colossians 1:13-14 says this:
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Where is that kingdom? What kind of kingdom is it? It’s a heavenly kingdom.
In John 18:36 Jesus is speaking about His kingdom and what He is talking about is a heavenly kingdom, lived out right there on the earth where He was. That kingdom is available to us now - wherever we are.
“…who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Paul says that we have the mind of Christ. What is that? It is His heavenly perspective. We Christians have been sold a bill of goods that we are to see ourselves solely in terms of what we do and have done; that we are physical first. Performance is stressed as being the source of our value.
No one sets out to do this, but since we are born into the world, the system of law that powers the world saturates us as we grow up. When we are saved, there is a tendency for the body of Christ to adopt this system and “christianize” it. This is why so many sermons, conferences and Christian books stress observable behavior as a way to become godly. The focus of this approach, really, is behavior modification with a spiritual disguise
If that worked we never would have needed Jesus in the first place. We would have simply acted holy and righteous and our performance would have changed us. Many of us have tried this. Have you? How is that working for you? (it’s not!)
God, on the other hand, sees us first and foremost as His children being restored to His image and likeness. His is the heavenly perspective and is truth. God is more interested in WHO we are than in HOW we behave. He wants us to live out of the heavenly perspective available to us, which means that we will begin to instinctively see ourselves in terms of Christ in us and ourselves in Christ.
We must be saturated with our identity in Christ. Behavior and performance are to match that. Behavior has never been meant to make the transformation and renewing of our minds happen; HIS power is for that.
As we participate in this by yielding to the Lord we will begin to see our circumstances and ourselves from an eternal spiritual perspective – from the viewpoint of reality. Then, when we find ourselves in stressful earthly circumstances we can handle them with the dignity and presence of mind that Jesus did as He stood before Pilate.
It has been in my mind lately as I have prayed and just meditated on the Lord that God, the great I AM, so often speaks to us in the Word in terms of “we are” and “you are”.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
Paul says, “you are not under law” and “you are under grace”. It’s all over the place in the Word!
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9)
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
There it is in one verse: “we are”....“you are”....“you are”.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Can you see it? The I AM speaks to us and says, “YOU ARE”! An eternal spiritual being is speaking to us in terms of who He has made to be: eternal BEINGS as well. The fact is, since we were saved we have not been mere human doings and we never will be again; we’re eternal spiritual beings who are being restored into the image and likeness of God.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren. We are the many! The process we are in is designed to convince us that, in Christ, we share the image and likeness of Christ lost back when Adam died spiritually.
“…as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We Christians “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10)
In John 18:36 Jesus answered Pilate by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In doing this He is revealing His ability to be on the earth, in an extremely stressful place, and still approach His situation as an eternal spiritual being. We can do so as well. We MUST receive our identities IN Christ if we are to live as He has ordained that we should live.
The power He has for us - is spiritual power. We will never be able to dredge that up from our earthly selves.
The wisdom He has for us - is spiritual wisdom. We will never be able to dredge that up from our earthly selves.
The patience He has for us - is spiritually derived patience. We will never be able to dredge that up from our earthly selves. The list goes on and on.
Let's do this: let's cry out to the Lord to visit us right now and reveal to us more of what He died for us to experience. Let’s ask Him to reveal to us the eternal spiritual beings He died to create. Let’s ask Him to let us see ourselves as He sees us.
Pray with me as I close out this article.
“FATHER GOD! Thank You that although we all had earthly mothers and fathers You knew we would need a superior parent, a forever Father, and that would be You. Thank You that as You are eternal so are we, Your children. Thank You that as You are the I AM, we are the WE ARE.
Teach us to see ourselves like You see us and for those of us who wince at the prospect of that, reveal more of HOW and WHO You are. You love us and You know everything we have done and all the evil we are capable of doing. You love us not in spite of that. You love us having known for always that we would sin and perform poorly at times.
We ask You to teach us who You have made us to be, in Your image and in Your likeness, eternal spiritual beings assigned temporarily to this physical and limited and finite world. As we receive that eternal spiritual identity - spiritual beings, children of an eternal Father, please show us which of our thoughts, feelings, decisions and actions do not match that true and forever identity You gave us as a gift.
Convict us. Work repentance in us. Show us a better way, Your way....our way...in Christ.
Search us, O God and know our hearts. Try us and know our anxieties that come from living as mere humans and not as the eternal spiritual beings You have made us to be. You have made us to be.
See if there are any harmful ways in us. Reveal them to us, these ways that run counter to who we are in Jesus and lead us in the everlasting way…the eternal way…the Jesus way. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Please, oh Father, teach us how to apply this truth to our daily, earthly lives so we can see Your hand working through us in this world and so we can see Your kingdom ebb in rings from us, spreading, taking back the earth.
Thank You for loving us enough to re-create us in YOUR image.
We pray this in the beautiful name of Jesus, the Firstborn of many (and we are some of those many).