Summary: The passion narrative of Jesus, His last 2 weeks is full of detail with theology mixed up with history and politics - indeed a third of each gospel is devoted to the passion of Jesus. Every time you read or hear the account something new hits you.
We have no king but Caesar
Today is Passion Sunday, the 1st day of a period of 2 weeks when we focus our thoughts on the arrest, trial, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we know this is a very significant period in the life of Jesus, the climax of His ministry which at first seemed to end in disaster but out of the cloud of doom and despair comes triumph and victory.
So important a message for us that the evangelists devote at least a third of their gospel to the account of the last week of Jesus.
For me the story is fascinating and every time I read or hear the passion narrative from the gospel I learn something new.
The story is so full of detail with twists and turns, theology mixed up with politics and history that as one mystery is answered another question pops up out of the blue.
There is the power struggle between Pilate and Caiaphas.
There is the fickle crowd at one moment proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David on that first Palm Sunday wanting to make Him King.
Then a few days later demanding the death of Jesus.. away with Him, Crucify Him.
We have the denial of Peter that He never knew Jesus let alone followed Him and we have Judas who betrayed Jesus to the mob in the garden of Gethsemane.
The remorse was great indeed Peter broke down and wept bitterly, Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver back at the high priest and went out and hanged himself.
We have the brutality of the priests who struck Jesus, blindfolded Him asking Him to tell them who had struck Him... Prophesy.
We have their mocking as He was dying on the cross, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in 3 days.. Save Yourself.
The brutality of the soldiers who flogged Him, ripping the flesh on His back, then nailing Him to the cross.
All human life is there at its best and at its worst is found in this passion narrative.
But the attitude of the High priest and his cohort has always dumbfounded me, until recently.
The scene is the trial of Jesus before Pilate, Pilate seems to want to let Jesus go free after a flogging, if He survives it.
Jesus dressed in purple and wearing a crown of thorns stands before the hoard and Pilate proclaims: ‘Behold the man’
And they cry out for Jesus’ blood .. Crucify Him
And Pilate responds, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’
And they cry out, ‘We have no king but Caesar’
This response has baffled me for many years until recently.
I thought the shear hypocrisy of the priests – they were so fanatical about their One God religion and quite rightly so, that they now profess their king NOT to be God but Caesar.
There are many recorded incidents when they would of gladly died rather than denounce for one minute that only God can be their King.
And yet here we see the complete reverse, ‘We have no king but Caesar’
To compound everything Caesar was a gentile, a heathen and he represented everything that they hated, the oppressor and someone who claimed to be a god – they surely would never ever claim Caesar as their king?!
And yet here we see this happening in the gospel narrative ... or do we?
In that one verse John 19:15 we have a dilemma but in combining ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ and ‘We have no king but Caesar’
Are they actually saying that they would rather have Caesar as their king than this man and thereby denouncing and deigning both Caesar and Jesus as to their right to kingship ... only God is their king.
KING.. if we denounce Caesar as our king we certainly wouldn’t have this man as our king!
What irony .. We have no king but Caesar.
There has never been a man like the Lord Jesus, John Phillips wrote these words about Jesus that are deeply stirring.
He said, "Jesus never uttered a hasty, unkind, untrue, or frivolous word.
He never entertained an impure thought. His talents never debased for selfish ends. His influence, never bad.
His judgment, never wrong. He never had to apologize for anything that He did or retract a single word He said.
He was never too late or too soon, never upset, never insipid, never shallow or afraid...He had absolute victory from the moment He drew his first breath in that Bethlehem barn until the moment He closed His eyes in death on the cross of Calvary."
If you’re looking for a hero, let me suggest mine. His name is Jesus.