The Chair and the Desk, 1/8/16

From the desk: “One slogan stands out from the revolutionary dreams of this period. The Fourth Philosophy, Josephus tells us, were ‘zealous’ in their attempts to get rid of Rome because they believed that there should be ‘no king (hegemony despotes) but God’. Nor was this view condoned to a fringe group. Those who rebelled against the census did so on these grounds; the teachers who urged the young men to pull down the eagle held the same view; the revolutionaries of 66-70 were fired by the same thought. ‘The kingdom of god,’ historical and theologically considered, is a slogan whose basic meaning is the hope that Israel’s god is going to rule Israel (and the whole world), and that Caesar, or Herod, or anyone else of their ilk, is not. It means that Torah will be fulfilled at last, that the Temple will be rebuilt and the Land cleansed. It does not necessarily mean a holy anarchy (though there may have been some who wanted that). Rather, it means that Israel’s god will rule her in the way he intends, through properly appointed persons and means. This will certainly mean (from the point of view of the Pharisees, Essenes, and anyone loosely described as Zealots) a change in the high priesthood.” (N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.302)

From the chair: “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.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” (John 19:15-16)

When did these chief priests cross this line–“We have no king but Caesar”? Were they raised this way? Had they schemed in advance? Did they surprise themselves in the heat of the moment? In any case, the loyalty they owed to God they gave to Caesar. Their identity, their hope, their purpose should have all been based in God’s reign, instead they banked on Caesar’s reign, and that commitment drove them to call for Jesus’ execution.

Ethical debates are dominating social media. Presidential campaigns are dominating the news. Who should we commit to? Let us render to Caesar–and parties and thinkers and candidates and authors and pundits–only the things that are Caesar’s. Let us render to God the things that are God’s: Our ultimate loyalty, the right to determine what’s right, our hope, and who we are.

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

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