“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. (John 19:15).
They didn’t mean what they said. They spoke out of spite. Their answer was shocking. It became a death sentence. “We have no king but Caesar!”
Those words reveal a level of tragedy surpassed only by the cry, “His blood be upon us and our children!” What would King David have said about this traitor-like answer? He and others fought many a battle to keep Israel from needing to bow down to some foreign king. Why would the chief spiritual leaders of Israel now declare allegiance to a heathen king? Because they had rejected their true king—the one who is the King of kings! When the Lord God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be his chosen nation, he provided for all their governing needs personally. It was not a monarchy or a democracy; it was a theocracy. It was a God-ruled nation. The Lord God was the government.
Imagine if he did that for America. There would be no political squabbling. No bad laws would be passed. There would be no corruption in government. His laws for the care of the feeble and the poor would be as fair and good as his laws regarding theft or murder. Always, perfect laws.
Always a perfect plan for war and peace. There would never be another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 for us. The Lord of the Armies in heaven knows in advance what an enemy is planning and what defensive steps need to be taken. He can control every military operation and defend his people against any enemy.
Sometimes, he used fierce weather to defend Israel’s troops. Sometimes, he used rumors to scatter enemy forces. And, ever so often, he sent the Angel of Death to wipe out thousands of Israel’s enemies without one casualty among his people.
When faithfully following the Lord God as their governing king, Israel never lost a battle. They had a perfect ruler. What else could they want? They wanted a human king. They looked around at other nations and envied them. They told the prophet, Samuel, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (I Samuel 8:19).
There is a saying, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” Israel got their earthly king. They got the pomp and ceremony of royalty. They built their palatial quarters. Other nations took note of their prestige. They impressed the Queen of Sheba. But to gain that worldly acclaim, they gave up much. They gave up the Lord, not just as ruler of their nation, but as Lord of their hearts and souls. As years passed, Israeli kings faded and failed. By the time Jesus walked the earth, what was left of Israel had groaned under the fist of Babylonian kings and then under the Emperor of Rome. They hated that. They detested the presence of Roman occupation forces. Some became zealous insurrectionists. One of Jesus’ disciples had belonged to such a group. He was called Simon, but not the Simon Peter; this one was known as Simon the Zealot.
So why this sworn allegiance to Caesar by the chief priests? The answer is a sad one. They hated the Lord God in the person of Jesus more than they hated the Roman king. “We have no king but Caesar!” They would add their voices to the shout, “Hail Caesar!”
Above a cross, Pilate wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” The words were mockery, but the words were true—and some of the people knew it. They understood his kingdom was not of this world. They believed he was the Son of God, the Savior. As he was dying, one of them called out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your
The answer came back, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus has given that assurance to everyone who acknowledges him as LORD, and on the day of their last breath, he keeps that promise without fail. It shouldn’t surprise us. After all, he is, was, and always will be the King of kings.
By grace and through faith, he will always be our King.
We pray: Lord Jesus, to you we offer our prayers of praise and our hymns of celebration. You are the King of Glory. Your reign is everlasting, and your victory absolute. Grant us the privilege of serving in your kingdom as we hail you as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer
WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military.