The New Testament writers never seemed that concerned with who happened to be Caesar at any particular time.
This may not seem like a big deal, but, besides the fact that Caesar had considerable impact on their lives, it’s in stark contrast with the Old Testament writers.
To read the Old Testament is to be very aware of who the various kings are.
My guess is that most people reading this can remember the names of the first three kings of Israel: Saul, David and Solomon.
The rest can be found because they are named. There are lists of the kings of both Judah and Israel, all with some description of their reign, regardless of its length. We know their names.
Three major books of the Old Testament – Samuel, Kings and Chronicles – are all about the kings and their endeavors. They are each so long that they had to be divided into two scrolls.
And it’s not just the Jewish kings we know; many foreign kings are named. Tiglath-pileser, Sennecharib, Nebuchadnezzer, Darius, Cyrus – these and others are not only named but also their actions toward and against Israel are described, sometimes in great detail.
By contrast, without looking it up, who was Caesar during Jesus’ ministry?
If you say Augustus, you’d be wrong. Luke says that Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor, but he died not long after.
So who was it? Who was Caesar when Jesus was crucified? When Paul was converted? To whom was Paul hoping to appeal while imprisoned in Rome?
Don’t know? The book of Revelation is about Roman persecution of Christians, yet scholars aren’t clear under which Caesar such persecution took place. Nero? Domitian?
The Roman emperors are a big presence lurking in the background of the entire history of the New Testament, yet the New Testament writers seem unconcerned.
That’s because the New Testament writers declare that there is only one king that matters, and he is king not only of Israel, but also of the entire creation.
Jesus’ kingdom renders all other kingdoms irrelevant. They are merely earthly kingdoms, while his kingdom is the coming together of heaven and earth, where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And that kingdom has already begun.
Caesars come and Caesars go. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go.
Sometimes those kingdoms are embracing of Christians, sometimes they are indifferent to Christians, sometimes they are merely tolerant of Christians, and sometimes they actively persecute Christians.
In all cases, Christians are called to bear witness that their allegiance is to King Jesus, and their hope for the future comes from their confidence in King Jesus.
Furthermore, that doesn’t change when Caesar changes. A new Caesar brings neither hope nor despair for the future.
A Christian’s hope is not based on any Caesar or any political system – it is based on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Right now, there are a lot of U.S. Christians concerned about who is Caesar.
We’ve just had an election, and I’m seeing and hearing a lot of jubilation and joy over the result by a lot of Christians, and a lot of despair over the result by a lot of other Christians.
If you find yourself enveloped by either, let me suggest that you have placed your hope in the wrong place and the wrong person or persons.
This election captured the attention of everyone – Christian or not, U.S. citizen or not – and it was easy to get sucked into it.
I’m not saying that elections don’t have consequences with regard to a just and righteous land. They obviously do, and we should continue to stand up for and work toward justice, to speak out for those oppressed, ignored and discriminated against.
But we are called to be witnesses to our hope in Jesus and only in Jesus, and to do so regardless of the direction of the country. We are citizens of a different kingdom and follow a different king.
Larry Eubanks is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Frederick, Maryland. A version of this article first appeared on his website and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @EubanksLarry.
Larry Eubanks is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Frederick, Maryland.