Summary: How the chief priests spoke the truth when they said, "we have no king but Caesar." The government is no king to have as Christians.
March 31, 2004 John 19:12-17
“Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Our country was based on the principles of freedom for the people. The symbol of our freedom - the Statue of Liberty - just reopened yesterday for the first time since the 9-11 attacks three years ago. People die trying to enter our country to experience what they call freedom. Yet how “free” are we? You are only allowed to cross the street between two lines of paint on the street. You have to wear seat belts. You can’t build on your own property or put a garage sale sign out with a special permit. Our supposedly “free” country has thousands of laws that make freedom more or less a joke. People have been talking more and more about the freedoms we no longer have in America. It’s this concern over freedom that has many also concerned about the “Patriot Act” and other government measures that have been made to try and curb terrorism in the United States. It makes us wonder, “are we really free”?
When you compare how we live to other countries and to history, you’d have to say that we are definitely more free than other societies. Just look at the Bible. Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar by his own brothers and put into forced labor. The book of Philemon talks about a runaway slave named Onesimus who had come to visit Paul and was converted. Two main periods of the Jews has them in slavery - to Egypt for over 400 years and to the Babylonians for 70 years. During that time the Jews were forced to make bricks for the Egyptians and often beaten and whipped. Even our “free” country has it’s ugly history of slavery. Slave traders forcefully loaded thousands of Africans on ships and forced them into labor in America. Years later America locked up Japanese Americans during World War II. In comparison with what these people had to go through, we’ve got plenty of freedoms.
But in reality, are we really free? Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (Jn 8:34) We aren’t really free even in America. There is no such thing as true freedom, and there won’t be, as long as we live in a sinful world. The whole concept of sin is one of slavery - that’s what sin does. It enslaves. It makes you act selfishly, impulsively, giving you a sense of duty instead of freedom. The whole concept of living in a truly free society is a joke, because we live in a sinful society. There will never be freedom in our country in the truest sense of the word. Yet it’s what we seek - because in our hearts we know that God didn’t create us to live this way - to be constrained by rules and regulations - to have life be such a burden and a “have to” all the time. We yearn to live free from the concerns of money, laws, fear, and duties. We want to enjoy life - to live with “want to’s” instead of “have to’s.”
The whole purpose behind Christianity is to set the sinner free. God promised the Israelites through Isaiah - Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. 3 For this is what the LORD says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” (Is 52:2-3). Paul also told the Galatians - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1) Christ came to release that burden and curse of the law from around your neck and put it around his. That’s what the cross is meant to do - it is meant to get that chain of “have-to” off of your neck. When I look at Christ obey God’s laws - and when I see Christ die - FOR ME - I realize that I don’t have to do those things to get to heaven. Salvation is a gift that God gives me through FAITH - not by works. It frees me. My whole life becomes a want to - I want to serve the Lord for freeing me. I want to die for him since he died for me. I want to tell people about him so they can be free. It’s what Luther wrote about when he wrote to the Pope about the Freedom of the Christian. Instead of enslaving us, John tells us that God - loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father. (Re 1:5-6)