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!” (John 19:15)
Serving The Wrong King
Among the Jewish hierarchy, the chief priests were a powerful lobby of the high priests proper, the ex-high priests, and members of privileged families from which high priests were drawn. As members of the Temple worship, the chief priests represented the elite among the spiritual leaders of Israel. They were law scholars and devoted adherents to the word of God. If anyone understood the importance of Hebrew law, the chief priests would fill that role. The conflict between Jesus and the chief priests was born from the spirit of envy that developed over the years of man’s corruption of the office of the chief priests. Religion had become stale, formal, and filled with the pride of those in power. The chief priests served only by name as they had long abandoned the righteous principles of the law.
The chief priests aligned with the Pharisees, elders, and religious leaders to kill Jesus. There was nothing more important to the Jewish leadership than the death of the man from Nazareth. They would stop at nothing to get their way. After a few appearances before the Sanhedrin and the High Priests, Jesus was brought before the Roman court of law under Pilate. The Romans allowed the Jews to stone their brethren, but public execution like crucifixion had to come from the Romans. Succeeding in bringing Jesus before the Romans, they had to convince the governor that Jesus was worthy of death.
Pilate tried to free Jesus, admitting the innocence of the man they charged with treason. The chief priests (and others) stirred up the crowd to demand the crucifixion of Jesus. The crowd was creating a small riot demanding that Pilate deliver Jesus to be crucified. When Pilate asked if they wanted him to crucify their king, the chief priests made a startling statement. They shouted that they had no king but Caesar. It was a great ploy to use against Pilate forcing his hand to crucify Jesus. At the same time, the chief priests denied their loyalty to the kingdom of God. The setting was faithful to the character of the religious leaders. They gave up their faith to force Pilate to kill their adversary.
Shouting that they had no king, but Caesar allowed them to destroy the man they hated, but in 70 AD, the king they gave their allegiance to (Caesar) destroyed them. How ironic that the plea of the chief priests became their prophetic end. They refused to acknowledge Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, giving up their faith in God as their king to receive a temporal and pagan king. In defiance, they gave up all hope of a Messiah. When the heart abandons truth, all that remains are the remnants of a lost promise. The madness of their hatred for Jesus led them to destroy their faith in God.
Caesar comes in all forms. Men reject the kingdom of God for wealth, power, glory, pleasure, fame, and the pursuit of the doctrine of me only. They shout as the chief priests that they have no king but what they desire and want. There is no time for God. Life is too full to waste energy on faith, truth, and the gospel. There is no need for the church. Religion is ridiculed. The Bible is laughed at. Any image of God is removed. Nothing changes from generation to generation. Men still cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him. We have no king but ourselves.” Jesus died. God raised Him from the dead. The Jewish nation ended in 70 AD. Jesus still reigns and rules. He is still King. Caesar has long been forgotten. Which king will you serve? Who is your king?