Monday, September 07, 2015
In John's account of the "trial" of Jesus, we have two moments that I have always read as distinct and separate moments, related only in that they are part of the narrative of Christ's crucifixion. After Pilate has had Jesus whipped and humiliated, he brings out the soon to be condemned and says, "Behold your king!" The crowd says, "Away with him. Crucify him!" Pilate responds with the question, "Shall I crucify your king?" to which they respond: "We have no king but Caesar."
It is clear the Jews here did not completely believe this, as the messiah they were hoping for was one who would overthrow the government they lived under. But for the rulers who wanted Jesus gone, the oppression of the Romans was beneficial. It gave them a common enemy to rally the commoners against (in words, not actions), and yet a structure that allowed them to keep power. So the declaration is merely an attempt to manipulate Pilate into killing Jesus.
But what they have done is swear loyalty to the state (not God). It is not only that they do not see Jesus as God. They also see the state's authority, when it suits their purpose, as greater than God's.
When Jesus is put to death, Pilate has written over the cross "the King of the Jews," which shows the state's power over the Jewish nation. The Jewish authorities complain, and say Pilate should change the phrase to "This man claimed to be the king of the Jews." Maybe they get it finally. Maybe they see that Pilate may have been manipulated to kill a single person, but they have signed an extension on their submission to the ruling power.
Does this sound familiar? In America, some see loyalty to God (or their idea of God) and loyalty to the country (or one's idea of country) as the same thing. Of course, they manipulate the words and the ideas so that loyalty is something that has little to do with godliness or reasonable citizenry. They cherry pick portions of the Constitution to fit their paranoia or thirst for dominion, and, having no real sense of the scriptures they claim guide them, turn those few, misquote phrases into their own scriptures. They are slaves to fear and/or power, and so manipulate the masses with their fake God talk or fake talk of freedom and rights, unaware that they are dragging not only those they rule, but also themselves into deeper bondage.
Lord, save us from thinking our rights supersede your command to love. Help us to seek your peace instead of your power. Demonstrate your strength in our weakness. Amen in Christ.