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.

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