“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
Pilate has Jesus flogged, and the soldiers mock Him, pretending to worship Him as King.
Pilate declares Jesus to be not guilty, but the priests shout “Crucify him!”
Pilate says, “You want me to crucify your king?”
“We have no king but Caesar,” the priests shout back.
The priests and other leaders of the Jewish people are forced to choose between two competing claims of kingship- Jesus or Caesar.
Caesar is the might and glory of the Roman Empire. This is worldly power- dominion exercised by a greater power over a lesser power. At that time there was no greater power than Rome.
Jesus represents something entirely different. His kingdom is a voluntary kingdom, based on love not power. His reign is not imposed forcefully.
Battered and bleeding, already weakened by the scourging, Jesus must have looked very insignificant in front of Pilate, the guards and all the trappings of earthly glory.
When the priests rejected Jesus as their king, they were rejecting the Lord. Israel was supposed to be the kingdom where the Lord reigned. From the beginning they had wanted human kings, rejecting the Lord’s invisible kingship.
Now they rejected all forms of divine reign. “We have no king but Caesar” declared that Caesar alone, the rule of Rome, would be their authority.
It was a public repudiation of all that Israel was meant to be. It is no surprise that just 40 year later, the Lord allowed Rome to destroy the Temple and the whole of Jerusalem. Caesar gives and Caesar takes away.
We have to make this sort of decision every day. Who will be the Lord of my life? Will I let Jesus rule, or will I give in to my own sinful desires? Will I stand up as a follower of Jesus and declare that He is the King? Or will I follow the ways of the world, and say “We have no king but Caesar”?
Lord, you are my God, you are my king. Help me to remember this in all the choices I make today. Amen.