Choosing the State Over God

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 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.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. John 19:1-16.

Pilate had to be confused. The Jews have no love for Rome, but here they are declaring their loyalty to Caesar over this other worldly preacher who rubbed them the wrong way. They are even questioning Pilate’s loyalty to Caesar for wanting to release Jesus. They just want Him dead.

This could not have happened in Capernaum, or Bethsaida. These are much smaller towns, where the people were more estranged from their government. Jerusalem was an urban center, where the religious rulers were used to interacting with the occupying force that ruled over them. In the small towns, everyone probaby knew someone Jesus healed. In Jerusalem, it was a disturbing sight to see the multitude calling Him the Son of David. He was a disruption of the political order to which the ministerial class had become accustomed.

If you are seeking first the kingdom of God, and Jesus is your king, you may have to ditch your patriotism at some point. And when you choose your country over your brothers and sisters in Christ, you are casting your ballot with the state over God. This is a time when some self-examination is in order.

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