“Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”
I was reading the Passion story last week in preparation of Good Friday and Resurrection Day, and while reading it I fell upon John 19:15 as if it were glowing brightly upon the page. The nature of those words collided with me in the deepest way. There stood the Maker of the Universe; YHWH in the flesh; the promised Jewish Messiah; and the leaders of the Jewish nation (to whom YHWH had chosen in grace as His special people) betrayed Him. Even more, they proudly confessed their treason by declaring loyalty to pagan Emperor whose home they would not dare enter at the risk of defiling themselves. How hypocritical. How human. They would seek to alienate themselves from Gentiles, and less holier Jews, on the basis of a Law given to them by the God-incarnate they lobbied to murder.
It reminded me of when the Apostle John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Imagine, for a moment, the rejection that Jesus felt in those moments. Jesus was God in flesh, “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities,” and the people He chose for Himself (from the beginning) as a special possession chose a tyrannical counterfeit over the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and, even further, their Deliverer.
Sometimes we feel that God is this transcendent Being who is completely incapable of understanding the troubles and realities we face as humans, but that is the complete opposite of what is true. In the Lord Jesus Christ, God not only saved men but He related to them. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Not only did God come and die for us, but He became us. Is there anyone like Him? Is there any god that compare to our God? Is there another story that can compare to the glorious Gospel? This is what we remember at the Communion table. This is the message we were commanded to bring to the world.
On that particular day it was the Jewish leaders who stood their shouting for Jesus to be killed and replaced by a despicable Caesar, and a condemned criminal, but in reality it was all of us. How many of us would not do the same but for the tremendous grace of the Lord Jesus? It would probably be all of us. How ironic was it when Jesus literally replaced Barabbas (a representative of the worse we have to offer) on the cross? Our only response to God can ever be humility, thanksgiving, and praise because of his Son.
Understanding this, Romans 5:8 has more depth and meaning. These moments were a microcosm of what Christ did for the elect throughout all eternity, that being, “while we were yet sinners” (traitors to the crown) “Christ died for us” anyway. While we betrayed Him, spit on Him, chose false gods over him, and committed all forms of treachery against Him, Christ still died for us.
Can you imagine yourself there in Pilate’s court? Can you see yourself as one of the accusers? I can. If you are already a believer in Christ, aren’t there times where you have metaphorically confessed to having no other king but Caesar (or yourself)? I know I have, and every single time Jesus offers grace.
We make Christianity about so many different things. Whether it’s religious duty, social justice, wellness, or life-purpose; religion has a knack of veering the Church away from the Head. We come into trouble when we attempt to categorize and mold the Church as an answer to all the previously mentioned categories. There is only one answer, and that is Jesus. He is All in All. From Him flows the solution to every problem within and without individuals, and the Church. In Him is the ability to overcome every failure we commit and every failure committed against us.
My pastor preached this Sunday on how the resurrection should affect our lives not only spiritually, but practically. Because of Jesus (because of the Resurrection) we should never doubt God’s faithfulness and our ability to overcome all adversity. Because of the resurrection we should never fear, lose hope, or ever be unforgiving.
Ever more, we should never despise Christians or the Church for past injustices and leave, because our involvement in Christ’s body is not dependent upon the actions of flawed humans but on the action(s) of a perfect God and His perfect Son. We should carry the resurrection upon our shoulders like the very Ark of the Covenant portraying daily the presence and mercy of God to all we encounter. It’s all, and always has been, about Jesus; His perfection, His sacrifice, and His resurrection. When we make it about something else, whether vision or mission or anything else, we have lost our way.
During this season, let’s remember what Jesus has done for the world and, even more so, for us individually; where and what He has saved us from. Let us thank God that while we confessed “No king but Caesar” that Jesus still paid the penalty for our treason and rose from the dead to give us new life.