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

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.