Although Jesus shows reluctance in yesterday's reading through his struggle in prayer before his arrest, today finds him resolved to carry this through.
Jesus makes no attempt to soft-sell or excuse what he's done or who he is.
He first appears before the council in Luke 22 and then in chapter 23 he goes before Pilate, the Roman Prefect of the province of Judea.
|Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man") by Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891)|
Although Pilate asks Jesus in all four gospels if he is the "King of the Jews", only Luke adds the charge of opposition of the payment of taxes to Caesar. We may be reminded of the trap laid for Jesus in Luke 20:20-26 where Jesus is asked whether or not it is lawful according to scripture to pay taxes to a Gentile ruler.
Jesus, teaching in the area of the temple, asks for a coin.
When they produce it, he asks them to state whose face is on the coin.
They must have reluctantly said, "Caesar's". Roman coinage often linked Caesar to divinity which would have been idolatrous and not welcomed among law-observant Jews - especially in the region of the temple.
He bids them to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. It could have been perceived that if you live like a Roman, pay your taxes. If you refuse to use Roman coinage, it stands to reason that you would also refuse to pay Roman taxes.
If this was his stance, it certainly might have received the attention of the Roman authorities.
But in Luke's account, Pilate finds no charges against him.
The crowds are the ones who cry out for his death.
It would have been hard for Jews to live in collusion with the Romans. Hard to maintain the Law of God. Hard to keep one's identity intact. Hard to keep from being polluted with unclean practices, ideas and habits.
Did the teachings and ministry of Jesus make some feel guilty for how they had lived? Was it easier to cry out for his death than to look at themselves in the mirror?
Self-examination is never easy. How many of you like to hear yourself on audio?
But as I write these words for this Good Friday, I have to wonder about my own absorption of what is easy rather than to stand for what is compassionate and good and right.
I know that I'm not as resolute as Jesus. What part do I play when I read that Pilate handed Jesus over to the will of the people?