We had been together the better part of three years when Jesus started talking about the end. It wasn’t like he pulled us together for “The Talk”, it just became a part of what he was saying.
He told us he would be betrayed, but he didn’t mention who would do the betraying. It was plain from his conversation that he truly believed that his life would end at the hands of the Romans. Just like his cousin John. The Zealot always nodded and smirked when Jesus brought it up as if to say, “See, I told you so.” The weird thing was that the Romans had no interest in Jesus. I wondered if they even knew he existed, except that one time we were approached by a Roman officer by the name of Cornelius.
Actually, it wasn’t Cornelius who approached us but some of the Jewish elders came on his behalf. They told Jesus that one of Cornelius’ favourite slaves was sick and they were afraid he’d die. Apparently, the Roman had heard the stories of Jesus and his healings and was convinced that he was their only hope.
“Typical Roman” Judas sniped, “Always looking for us to do something for them. What did he threaten you with, to make you do his bidding?”
“Nothing, Cornelius might be a Roman, but he’s one of the good ones. He’s a God-fearer, he’s been fair to our people and even helped build our small synagogue. If anyone deserves your help, it’s him.”
That was the thing, everybody thought they deserved something.
Jesus looked at the men and said, “Fine, let’s go.”
We’d been walking for a while, and the elders told us it wouldn’t be much further when we were intercepted by three men who said they were friends of the officer.”
“Cornelius doesn’t want to be a bother and take up too much of your time, and he knows how it might look if you are seen going into his house.
“The Jews are looking for anything they can use against you and being able to say you’re a collaborator would fit right in with their plans.”
I was a little confused, “So, he doesn’t want Jesus to heal his slave?”
Turning to Jesus they said, “Yes, but he wanted you to know that you don’t have to come. He told us that all you have to do is say the word, and the man will be healed. His exact words were ‘Jesus has the authority, just as I have authority. When I want one of my men to do this or do that, all I have to do is say so, and it is done. All Jesus has to do is speak the words of healing, and it will be done.”
“That pretty well sums it up,” Jesus replied, “If Cornelius truly believes that, then his slave will be healed.”
The only other time that I can remember the topic of Rome coming up was once when some of the teachers of the law were trying to trick Jesus into saying something they could use against him.
One afternoon, while Jesus was teaching someone, shouted from the crowd, “Jesus, what do you think about the taxes that we have to pay? Should we be giving our money to Caesar?”
Wow, I’d be willing to wager that every person in the crowd had wondered that very thing at one time or another, but I wasn’t sure how Jesus could answer it. To say yes would alienate the nationalists in the crowd. And even those who weren’t radical in their feelings about Rome resented the taxes they had to pay. People would call him a collaborator and a traitor.
However, if he said that taxes shouldn’t be paid, and the Romans found out, Jesus would be called a traitor to the Empire. And that wouldn’t end well.
He let the question just sit there for a minute, he was so good at that and then he said, “Toss me a coin.” From out of the crowd someone threw him a denarius. Jesus caught it in the air and turned it around in his hands as if he’d never seen one before.
Finally, he spoke, “Whose picture is this? Who is this man?”
Everyone knew the answer, they looked at that picture every day of life.
“You know who it is Jesus, it’s Caesar.”
“That wasn’t so hard, was it? All you have to do then is give to Caesar what is his and give to God what is his.”
And then he tossed the coin back to the man who had given it to him.
So, when you thought about it, what would Rome have against Jesus? But he was insistent.
“It’s going to begin with the religious leaders and the High Priest,” Jesus said, “Eventually they are going to have enough, but under Rome, they’ve lost their authority. If they kill me, they’ll have to answer for it, to someone. So, all they have to do is convince Rome to kill me. If the crowd turns on them, they can point their finger at the evil Empire, but if the crowd stands with them, they can take the credit. It doesn’t matter, I’ll be dead. But only for a while, after three days in the tomb, my Father will give me back my life.”
That was it, I grabbed Jesus’ cloak and pulled him away from the others. “You have to stop that crazy talk, it’s not helping.”
Jesus pivoted and looked right at me, “Get away from me Satan.”
“Satan? What did I do to deserve that?”
“Peter, you are only seeing things from a human perspective. Satan wants me to give up, to take the easy way out, and he’s willing to use you, if necessary, to speak his words. But you’re not his, focus on me and my Kingdom.”