This month, we remember that the future of earth and humanity hangs in the balance. Jesus Vs Caesar. And Jesus indeed is the one who ends up dead—not Caesar, not Pilate, not the crucifying soldiers. Yet the Christian church has insisted that the cross of Jesus is a victory, not a defeat. How can that be?
Of course, there is the resurrection, which we will celebrate on the 16th. Jesus is sprung from death’s grip and is thereby vindicated. But even before the resurrection, the cross of Jesus is in some mysterious way a victory of God—a victory of the power of God engaged with the power of Caesar (the current exemplar of normal human rule).
What’s interesting is that the gospel struggle is between two totally different kinds of powers, one of which looks more like weakness to us. So where earthly rulers plot to hurt, resist and destroy their enemies, Jesus schemes to love them. Jesus plans to do them good. Jesus prays for them. Jesus reigns through compassion not coercion.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus was assaulted by testing over and over again. People were wondering if Jesus would give up on his commitment to embrace only God’s power that looks more than ever like weakness?
Let’s imagine the scene at the last supper. At the table sits the one who will betray Jesus, but Jesus does not banish him. Jesus serves him. Jesus reminds them he is one who serves and then confers on them his kingdom. And when the temple police come to arrest him by night, Jesus’ disciples want to fight fire with fire and strike with sword. Jesus thunders, “No more of this?” and heals the bloody victim.
Under Caesar’s authority the soldiers mock Jesus, flog him, and nail him to a cross. Under God’s authority, Jesus forgives them. In this life-and-death struggle, one is tempted to say Jesus does not fare well. But the truth is Jesus emerges victorious. Caesar and his agents throw every power they have at Jesus, but they cannot get him to legitimatize their kind of power. Jesus remains faithful to God’s holy power of love to the end. What a great example for us as we are living our faith!
May this Easter remind us that His fidelity gives us hope, saves us and challenges us. Will we decide with Jesus today and the following week to stake our lives on God’s power, or will we bow to Caesar’s power along with just about everyone else?
With today’s politics, a lot of us, if not all, are going through a difficult time. But be assured that Christ is very faithful and is with us. When we look at the way of the cross, we see great examples that Jesus has shown us. And the good news is resurrection and new life is waiting. Let’s take the next steps together by holding on to the power of love, forgiveness and compassion.
Let’s pray, “Loving and merciful God, we have come to follow your son, our savior, Jesus Christ, even when his way leads to Golgotha. Meet us here, O God, and remain with us, or we will stumble off the path. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.”
Pastor Vathanak Heang