We Have No King But Caesar

Easter Holy Supper Service

April 21, 2011

First Lesson: JOH 18:12-40

Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. {13} And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. {14} Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. {15} And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. {16} But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. {17} Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” {18} Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. {19} The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. {20} Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. {21} “Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” {22} And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” {23} Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?” {24} Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. {25} Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!” {26} One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” {27} Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed. {28} Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. {29} Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” {30} They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.” {31} Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” {32} that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. {33} Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” {34} Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” {35} Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” {36} Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” {37} Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” {38} Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. {39} “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” {40} Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Second Lesson: JOH 19: 1-30

So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. {2} And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. {3} Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. {4} Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” {5} Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” {6} Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” {7} The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” {8} Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, {9} and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. {10} Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” {11} Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” {12} From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” {13} When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgement seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. {14} Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” {15} But 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!” {16} Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. {17} And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, {18} where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the centre. {19} Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. {20} Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. {21} Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’ “ {22} Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” {23} Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. {24} They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. {25} Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. {26} When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” {27} Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. {28} After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” {29} Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. {30} So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

We Have No King But Caesar

A Holy Supper Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, April 21, 2011

  1. The Easter story in the gospel of John is detailed, powerful, and compelling.
    1. Jesus arrested in Gethsemene by soldiers led there by Judas.
    2. Peter following behind, pretending to be one of the crowd, and denying his friendship with Jesus 3 times.
    3. Pilate arranging to have a sign posted on the cross saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” and refusing to change it to “he said…”
      1. It was posted in the three languages of the Word: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
    4. The story of the Lord’s garments.
      1. The outer garment, which represented the external sense of the Word could be divided among the soldiers, just as we can choose various phrases and quotes as needed to illustrate and support various concepts and teachings.
      2. But the inner garment, woven from one thread without seam (more like knitting or crocheting) represents the internal sense that runs through the whole of the Word from beginning to end, tying every verse and every story to every other in one continuous revelation about the Lord and His glorification.
  2. Tonight, because it is our special goal to reflect on these things particularly as to how they relate to our own spiritual states, we will focus on the very telling statement: “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’” (JOH 19:15)
    1. In the broader context of the unfolding events the answer makes perfect sense.
      1. From the point of view of the chief priests Jesus was turning out to be nothing but trouble. When He entered Jerusalem as a king, the crowds were convinced that His intention was to become an earthly leader to lead them in a confrontation with the Romans.
        1. There are strong indications that the disciples themselves thought so. Why else would they have been carrying swords that night in the garden of Gethsemene? (JOH 18:10)
      2. There are indications in the gospels that not only were the chief priests and the elders unhappy with the disruption Jesus was causing in their church community, but there was a growing, very real fear that the political unrest would attract the attention of the Roman authorities.
        1. Things were bad enough as they were, the last thing they needed was a brutal Pax Romanun crackdown by the Roman legions.
      3. So, the chief priests and the elders sought a solution that would solve both the political and the ecclesiastical problems. Arrange for the Romans to arrest and execute Jesus.
      4. So, in that context, it made sense for them to say, when Pilate asked them if they wanted him to execute their king, “we have no king but Caesar.” On that level they were simply publicly proclaiming their loyalty to the established ruler of their kingdom – a prudent thing to do in those times.
    2. But at the same time, it speaks quite clearly to the heart of the problem for them, and for us, the question of who or what is the most important thing in your life.
      1. (Luke 16:13) “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
      2. (Mat 12:25) But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand
    3. The chief priests, speaking as representatives for the state of the Lord’s church on earth at the time, stated categorically that they “had no king but Caesar.” In this context, “Caesar” as the all powerful leader of an empire that encompassed the civilized word, represents the loves of self and the world, or mammon (See AE 409).
      1. One of the most important messages the Lord came to teach was the importance of turning away from the things of self and the world so that one could turn toward the things of the Lord and heaven.
      2. If one can have only one leader, one king, in their life, should it not be the Lord rather than Caesar?
  3. Tonight, as each one of us approaches the Lord through the sacrament of the Holy Supper, let us remember and reflect upon these simple, yet profound, truths such as that
    1. Because of our natural loves of self and the world, each one of us is inclined to evils of every kind. But because the Lord came into the world, took on a Human body, endured temptations Himself, and conquered hell, with His help we can conquer the hell that exists within ourselves.
    2. Because of the Lord’s love and sacrifice, each one of us has freedom of choice in spiritual things, and we can freely choose to become an angel of heaven and live there with the Lord to eternity.
    3. Through His sacrifice and death on the cross, He sets us free from our slavery under “Caesar” and reigns as the true king in our lives forever.  Amen.

“Divine Mercy”


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – Dec. 19, 2010

We are all familiar with the teaching that the Lord came into the world in the “fullness of time” (AR 478:2, AC 3398:4).  This is describing the concept that the spiritual state of mankind was descending – becoming more and more evil – and the Lord had to wait until the last possible moment to come into the world.  Why?  Because He was coming to combat evils and falsities and put the hells back in order, and the states of evil and falsity had to be fully developed so that the reordering would also be complete.

Sometimes it can be useful to look at those states of evils and falsity so that we can have some understanding of  what the Lord was up against, and what He actually accomplished by His advent.  Today, however, we want to look at it from another point of view.  Let’s just accept as a given the plain statement of the Word that the world was in a terrible state, and the Lord needed to do something about it.  In His Divine Wisdom, knowing everything about the states of evil present in the world, and everything about how the human rational worked with the human soul, He knew that the one path that would lead to the most people living to eternity in heaven would be to take on the human and live among us as one of us.  It probably wasn’t particularly pleasant for Him to limit Himself in that way, but He was willing to do it because by coming into the world, all who wanted to be saved could be saved through Him.  In other words, the heart of Christmas is an act of Divine Mercy toward the whole human race.

The dictionary definition of “mercy” is “a compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one who is subject to one’s power.”  That’s a good working definition for our purposes, too.  We are both subject to the Lord’s power and offenders (in general – to some degree).  The good news is in the “compassion” and “forbearance” parts.  The Lord knows that the people He created are not perfect, and yet He loves us, cares for us, and guides us anyhow.  That’s how we understand and experience mercy, through His forbearance and compassion.  But Divine mercy is something more.

The Divine mercy is pure mercy towards the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing towards every man, and is never withdrawn from anyone; so that everyone is saved who can be saved.  (HH 522)

The Lord’s mercy is pure mercy – there is nothing selfish or self-serving mixed in.  And He’s not just willing to forgive and forget and let you get on with your life, His mercy is directed toward your eternal salvation.  His mercy is continually drawing each one of us up toward Himself to whatever degree we will allow Him to do so!

There we have the core of it, the important and reassuring teaching that the Lord, from His throne above the heavens, is continually reaching down with compassion and understanding to forgive and forbear and lift us up to eternal life.  This is important to the Christmas story because He did this – and continues to do this – by means of the Human that He took on in the world and which He glorified.

But wait.  We know that heaven is not granted by pure mercy, or grace.  What is our part in all this?  The answer is found in the next part of Heaven and Hell 522 which immediately follows the previous quote.

And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means have been revealed by the Lord, in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. (HH 522)

Here’s where we find out what our part is.  The Lord has revealed “Divine means” in the Word.  These “means” are none other than the revealed truths that teach how a person must live in order to be saved.  Like the Rich Young Ruler who asked the Lord what he had to do to gain eternal life (LUK 18:18-23) the Lord answers simply that all we have to do is follow the commandments.  And to avoid any possible confusion He identifies the Ten Commandments as the basis and then adds the Two Great Commandments.  Again, we read from HH 522:

By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does with all (HH 522).

All this seems so obvious as to be unworthy of comment.  Except.

Except in our Western culture today it’s no longer obvious that the way to get to heaven is to follow the path set out by the Lord in the Word, it’s not longer obvious to people that they should change their own lives to match the Divine means provided in the Word.

The list of examples that would illustrate the problem would be tediously long.  I would simply ask you to reflect on the things you hear and see in the world around you, and ask yourselves how often you find that the church – not just the New Church – is being asked (or pushed into) adjusting its teachings and practices to what the people in the congregation want to do, even when it is contrary to fundamental teachings of the church.  This is particularly evident in issues relating to the relationships between the sexes and marriage, but certainly not limited to them.

Part of the motivation for this is that so many churches are facing declining attendance and are trying to reverse the trend by being trendy.  Ironically, the faster churches leave their fundamental doctrinal base, the faster they lose members.  It’s the churches that have a clear doctrinal – even fundamental – position and stick to it that are holding their membership, and in many cases growing, today.

The problem is that, in spite of what people may instinctively believe, the church doesn’t make the rules, the Lord does.  The church’s job is to present those rules with a clear, compassionate voice so that people can get themselves back on the path that the Lord has laid out for them.  It’s an unfortunate and painful truth that it requires some effort, it requires that we learn from the Word what evil is, identify it in ourselves, and then get rid of it with the Lord’s help.  Here’s a little more from that passage from Heaven and Hell:

But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs  (HH 522).

How many times does the Lord say in the Word that we have to “cease to do evil, learn to do well” (ISA 1:16) and in that order?  It’s even in one of our beloved prophecies of His birth on earth:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good (Isa 7:14-15).

Every human being was created to live forever in heaven.  It is the Lord’s will that we live forever in heaven.  It is the end of His Divine Providence that, no matter what we may choose to do, we will be guided to a lesser evil, a better choice in the hopes that we will prepare ourselves for heaven.  The Divine Mercy exists to allow the Lord to view our failings with compassion and forbearance.  He came to earth and took on the Human form so that we could hear, see, and touch our God and so be led out of our evils.  This is the Lord’s Christmas gift to each one of us.

How do we return that gift?  What can we do that will please the Lord?  Doesn’t it make us happy when people listen to our advice and do what we suggest?  The same thing is true for the Lord.  He will be pleased if we take His advice, and do what He says, and put our lives back into heavenly order, according the means, the Divine truths, that He has provided in His Word.  Amen.

First Lesson: PSA 86

Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; For I am poor and needy. {2} Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! {3} Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long. {4} Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. {5} For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. {6} Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications. {7} In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me. {8} Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works. {9} All nations whom You have made Shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And shall glorify Your name. {10} For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God. {11} Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. {12} I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore. {13} For great is Your mercy toward me, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. {14} O God, the proud have risen against me, And a mob of violent men have sought my life, And have not set You before them. {15} But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. {16} Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your maidservant. {17} Show me a sign for good, That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed, Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.  Amen.

Second Lesson:  AR 478 [2]

First we must say something here about the Lord’s advent and His kingdom’s being foretold in the Word of both Testaments:
In the Word of the Old Testament, in the spiritual sense of the prophetic portion, and also in its natural sense wherever the spiritual sense shines through, the subject is the Lord alone, namely, His advent in the fullness of time, a time when the goodness of charity and the truth of faith would no longer be present in the church, whose state then is called a consummation, a being laid waste, a desolation, and a cutting off. It includes as well His battles with the hells and victories over them, which constitute also the last judgment that He executed, and after that the creation of a new heaven and the establishment of a new church, which are the Lord’s kingdom to come. All of this is found in the Word of the New Testament, too, in the portion called the Gospels, and in particular in the book of Revelation.  Amen.

Third Lesson:  HH 522

But first it will be told what the Divine mercy is. The Divine mercy is pure mercy towards the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing towards every man, and is never withdrawn from anyone; so that everyone is saved who can be saved. And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means have been revealed by the Lord, in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does with all. But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs. So far, therefore, as man abstains from evil, the Lord leads him out of pure mercy by His Divine means, and this from infancy to the end of his life in the world and afterwards to eternity. This is what is meant by the Divine mercy. Hence it is clear that the mercy of the Lord is pure mercy, but not immediate, that is, it does not look to saving all out of mere good pleasure, however they may have lived.  Amen.