I read through John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion this evening.
I’ve heard the crucifixion story dozens (if not hundreds) of times in my life. I love how particular passages stick out to you when you give them another look.
John 19: 15
15 They cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him! Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
That last phrase really punched me in the gut. “We have no king but Caesar”.
I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t know the history of the Jews inside and out. However, I can’t help but think about the Israelites that had moved into the Promised Land. They had wandered in the desert for an entire generation. They had settled in their new home. They wanted stability. They were tired of getting attacked by enemies. They wanted a king. They wanted military strength. They wanted to be comforted by tangible security.
Log story short (because I don’t actually know the details)… The Israelites pray for a king. God doesn’t want them to have a king. God wants them to trust in the leadership of the High Priest. However, after much persistence He eventually gives into their cries. He gives them a king. Everything pretty much goes downhill from there.
The lesson? God was ultimately the King of the Jews. They should have been trusting God instead of a worldly, human leader.
When I was young I looked at the story of the Jewish rejection of Christ with uncondemning eyes. I figured that the Jews just had a hard time believing that this man who claimed to be the son of God was who he said he was. I figured that they were strong in their beliefs and didn’t much like the idea of changing things up. This passage really breaks down that attitude.
By saying “we have no king but Caesar” the Jews are not only rejecting Christ, but the God that they believed in. Yahweh is their king. Not Caesar. Had they been actually acting with a sense of piety, the appropriate response would have been “We have no king but Yahweh, the God of our father, Abraham”.
For some reason that whole idea was really heavy for me.