Today's Reading: John 19:1-42
I'm in a place with my relationship with God in which themes of kingdom, kingship, lordship, and loyalty have been pretty big for me. These themes have forced me to wrestle with questions of who and what my motivation is: Who/What gets my attention and loyalty? What is motivating/driving me in my life? Who is my king? What is my kingdom?
For that reason, it's these words that hit me the hardest in this read-through (vss 14b-16):
"Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Jesus forces us to choose with who and where our loyalties lie. And I can't help but think that the words of the chief priests are the words that I have proclaimed so often. Perhaps the only exception is that I don't have a literal Caesar; instead, my Caesar is my career, my kids, my preferences and opinions, my personal goal, the car I want, the church I want...In other words, my Caesar is anything that I routinely give more attention and devotion to than God.
This is where today's reading comes to rub me so hard. For whatever reason, I have become extremely aware and sensitive to the various ways that my priorities and values become disordered. The Jews claimed Caesar as their king (in all honesty a certain kind of blasphemy in its own right) over Jesus. Realistically, they didn't really accept Caesar as their king because he wasn't Jewish and was seen as the foreign occupier and oppressor. The Jews didn't want a king, they wanted to be king; they didn't want to submit to anyone's law or rule but their own...and that includes God himself. Likewise, I rarely have any interest in voluntarily submitting and placing myself under any law that I don't create for myself. It's hard to escape the reality that I'm not really any different from those who were rejecting Jesus as their king in exchange for a king of my own making...
Hence the reason why the story of Jesus' crucifixion and death is so important. Faith in the work and efficacy of the crucifixion is what separates those who accept Jesus as king, and those who do not. The crucifixion is the lynchpin. And every day for me is a constant struggle to keep myself under the lordship of Jesus - to resist the desire to reject him and set myself up as king.
Jesus is king!