We Have No King But Caesar! – Ouch! (John 19)

large__268319752In the beginning we see the King. God created it all and clearly was ruler of all. But a few pages into the Bible and already the serpent is looking to take God’s place not to mention Adam and Eve looking for more than just tasty fruit. And the King is rejected.

At the exodus we see the King. God rescues His people and though Moses and Aaron are the spokesmen, God clearly is the King. His authority as King is proven with the awful plagues and the awesome parting of the Sea. But the people begin to whine that Moses is taking too long and before you know it, a golden calf is presented for worship. And the King is rejected.

In the early days of Israel, we see the King. Though things are not always rosy as the young nation of Israel becomes established among bigger, nastier, and more powerful peoples, God protects His people through raising up judges to deliver them. But the people of God see how the other nations have a king and so they want one too and go to God’s servant Samuel “and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’.” (1 Samuel 8:6-7 NRSV) And so the King is rejected.

In the presence of the prophets we see the King. The prophets warned the rulers and people when repentance needed to burn, and encouraged when hope needed kindled. Though the people got their wish for human kings, God remained in their lives as the true King showing real concern through the prophets. But the words of the prophets often fell on deaf ears: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NRSV) The prophets were often killed and the King is rejected.

And standing before Pilate, bloodied and bruised with a crown of thorns and a makeshift robe we see the King. What shall be done with Jesus? “Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). What shall I do with your king asks Pilate? The chief priest respond with the most tragic words in all of history: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15)

This is already a dark moment in history with Jesus mocked by Rome and rejected by his own people. But here we see the depth of the darkness that has descended on humanity as the chief priests affirm that the Roman emperor is their real king. “We have no king but Caesar!” These are the chief priests, the very ones who should have been leading the people of God to know that God Himself was the true King of the world and of history. These are the very priests who should have been teaching that this King had promised and covenanted to bless His people, and through His people, to bless the world. And this was the festival of Passover, the very time they were to look back and see God, like a true and benevolent ruler, delivering His people from the enemy at the Exodus. But no, according to the chief priests, Caesar is king, and Caesar’s power will deliver us from the pest called Jesus. And so the King is rejected.

We have dark moments also. We have no king but Caesar when:
Fear controls us.
Emotions overpower us.
Our logical minds overpower us.
Drama, whether our own or not, consumes us.
Situations determine our fate for us.
Addictions ruin us.
Religion enslaves us.
World-views fail us.
The people we want to please, own us.
We try to be king or queen.
And in all this the King is rejected. We demonstrate that have no king but Caesar.

We see the King in the beginning and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people at the Exodus and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people through the judges and He is rejected. We see the King in the presence of the prophets and He is rejected. And we see the King standing before Pilate and the people in a crown of thorns and mock robe. And “He was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NRSV) What happens next?

Easter happens next and the rejected King becomes the welcoming Saviour on the cross. Easter happens and the rejected King takes His place as the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we have seen, so often the King was rejected. Now you get to write a part of the story. By you the King is _________.

photo credit: uckhet via photopin cc

Genesis 1; Creation, Evolution, Or What?

I had promised our Monday Evening Study group a “Shrunk Session” post on the blog for the duration of the course. Since we are on evolution and creation, I thought reposting this post from the past would do the trick for this week – 

This first chapter Genesis is a source of great controversy, so much being said and written on the themes of creation and evolution, and here I am to say and write more. To make my task easier (and the blog shorter) I have decided to form the post based on one question: “If I had a limited amount of time, such as the length of a sermon, er, rather the ideal length of a sermon, to tell my three boys all I can about creation, evolution, and Genesis 1, what would I tell them?” This is an important question as my boys will be facing much promotion of evolution in the education system in the years to come even as their parents nurture them in the Christian faith. Furthermore, the day may come when they go on to further education, travelling further into fields of expertise I have never wandered into, and moving further away from our presence than my wife and I would like. What would a concerned father teach his children in short time on such an important topic that will help them navigate such a secular world with faith intact?

First, approaching things from the educational standpoint, I would tell them that it is important to define what is meant by evolution. If by evolution we mean a belief system, a conviction that things are evolving by chance or some mindless movement with ‘survival of the fittest’ as the dogma, then evolutionary theory is a contradiction to our faith and the education system is biased and in error if it presents such theory as fact. Even if I were not a Christian, I would find the ‘survival of the species’ quirky as we all know that our existence depends not just on our own survival as a species, but on the survival of entire systems.

But do I want to send my children to school with a distrust of science? Absolutely not. Thankfully I don’t need to. If, by evolution we mean a process, well the Christian can hold an open, yet skeptical mind toward it, as any scientist might. Put another way, the Christian will never speak of animals adapting to their environment (as if by chance, magic, or their own will), but could conceivably speak of animals being adapted, or created for their environment, and not necessarily all at once. Many Christians hold to God creating through some process of evolution, and there are many versions of how that might look. I’d want my boys to feel free to hold an open mind to such, while also remembering that the theory of evolution is just that, a theory, and one with many holes in it to boot (go read Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator boys!)

But what does the Bible teach about evolution? Approaching things from the faith standpoint, I’d tell my boys to read Genesis 1 for the purpose for which it was written, for theology. There are two primary ways of reading Genesis 1. You can visualise God as writing up the account of creation as an observer to what He had done, so basically an end-of-week report. Or you can visualise God writing up the account in a creative way so as to condense an incredible amount of information, most of which most people in most times and places could not comprehend (including ours methinks) into something that expresses what is most important for us to know, so basically a poem. And let us keep in mind that the most important thing to know is not ‘how it all came about’, but rather ‘to whom is our worship due’.

Now someone is going to say “but if Genesis 1 is more poem than report, then it is not historical and shakes our faith in Biblical truth”. On this thought let me share a poem I wrote:

In the beginning, my wife and I were single and didn’t know each other. Now my heart was formless and empty, but I met a girl.

And I said, “wow she’s cute” – the first day.

And she said . . . well, nothing, because she didn’t notice me – the second day.

I bought pens I didn’t need (she worked in a stationary store) – the third day.

And I said, “wanna go out?” and she gave me her number – the fourth day.

I picked her up, she fell for me – the fifth day.

We were married – the sixth day.

We now have three boys, a dog, two geckos and a house – the seventh day – and hardly a day of rest since!

This is a poem (though I confess it may not be a good one – I’m no poet), but the historical facts are clear. And the historical facts really happened though not in six literal days – but you likely figured that out. We sometimes think we either get historical truth or poetry, but sometimes in the Bible we get historical truth through poetry. And we should not forget that in the Bible we also often get historical truth through historical account and so shouldn’t go treating everything as poetry, the Scriptures are wonderfully convoluted! Which brings me back to the point of reading Genesis 1 for theology: no matter your take on Genesis 1, your theology will end up being the same. Whether you believe everything was created in six literal days, or that there was a long complex process that has been (thankfully!) condensed creatively for us, you end up learning the same truths about God, you end up with the same theology. This is why Genesis 1 exists, to teach us theology. To teach us that there is one God who is the Creator God, and who is a God of order, not chaos, and who is powerful, who exists outside of creation, and on and on we can go (sort of like my sermons).

As I think about my boys being nurtured with a faith in the Creator, a faith which they learn at home and through the church family, and what they will learn about scientific discoveries and theories at school, I hope they have open and active minds that will be able grow in all kinds of knowledge, but especially in their knowledge of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Far more important to me than whether they turn out to believe God created everything in six literal days, or through some sort of long drawn out process (that may or may not resemble today’s idea of what evolution looks like), is that they know they are loved by their father who watched their birth, and their Heavenly Father who presided over the birth of all that is.

What is Truth? Jesus Before Pilate. Or is it Pilate Before Jesus?

“What is truth?” Famously asked by Pilate and now frequently asked some two thousand years later, this is a question of utmost importance. When it comes to religion, today the prevailing attitudes tend to either be relativistic or apathetic. That is, truth is what you want it to be if you want it at all! When Pilate asks “what is truth?” he himself fluffs off truth as being unimportant. As Jesus stands before him with a crowd of angry religious leaders looking for a death sentence, truth is whatever will work. Keeping the religious leaders in their place is important, so taking on the case of Jesus rather than simply calling for a swift sentence will work. Truth is that Pilate rules in these parts. Keeping the people happy is important, so allowing a prisoner free during the festival will work. Truth is, Roman occupation is good for you. Keeping rebellion down is important so the power of crucifixion will work. Truth is, Rome holds the power of life and death, and Pilate holds such power over Jesus. Or does he?

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear:fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5 NRSV)

Who really has the power over death here, Pilate or Jesus? What is truth? What is really true here?

And so we live our lives according to what works. Being busy works. Toys and distractions work. Money and possessions work. Entertainment works. And it all works so well that apathy and relativism can seem satisfying enough in religious matters. And we get to the end of life without stopping to ask: “what is truth? What is really true?”

We were shaken from apathy and relativism toward truth when Type 1 diabetes entered our family. Each finger poke is a reality check. Each drop of blood holds truth. When the blood sugar goes low, dangerously so sometimes, you don’t respond with a fluffy statement like Pilate’s “what is truth?” No. You recognize that your child needs sugar. There is no room for relativism or apathy toward the truth. The blood speaks truth, you hear the truth and you follow through with a decision. Love demands that you grab something sweet. The blood of Jesus Christ holds truth. It speaks of God’s love, God’s grace. He takes your place under judgement. He gives you His righteousness and His Spirit. Have you heard the truth and followed through with a decision? Have you grabbed hold of something sweet?

So which is it? Is Pilate the one with power over life and death, or is it Jesus? Jesus stands before Pilate awaiting his decision. And he stands before you now awaiting yours.