Leadership Series: Caesar – The Unspoken Actor

Read Luke 2:1-7; Matthew:22:15-22; John 20:12-16; Acts 15:1-12

Remember the Harry Potter book series; and how everyone was afraid to even say the name of Lord Voldermot, and how everything that the faculty and administration at Hogwarts did was in fear and anticipation of what Voldermot would do; and how in the early books, Voldermot never even made an appearance or said anything?

That is basically how we see the role of Caesar in the New Testament.  No one ever sees him or speaks to him, but all of the actions that are taken by others are in fear and anticipation of what he might do.

There are actually three Caesars in the New Testament: Augustus, who orders the census that takes Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem; Tiberius, who is Caesar during Jesus earthly ministry; and Nero, who is the Caesar that St. Paul appeals to.

Each of these has an impact on the Gospels.  Mary and Joseph are in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, and if left to their own devices, never would have left Nazareth, let alone gone to Bethlehem, short of Augustus’s order of a census.

Of the three, Tiberius has the greatest non-impact impact.  Pilate is afraid that the Jews will report him to Caesar, and that he will be removed as governor; so in an effort to keep his power, Pilate relents and sends Jesus to be crucified.

Nero is Paul’s means of release as he argues with the Jews and Roman governors, who are willing to hear him speak, and openly admit that he is innocent, but are unwilling to actually release him.  Ironically, Paul appeals to Nero to save his life, and tradition says that it will be Nero who has Paul killed.

So as you can see, Caesar never says anything, nor is he ever seen in the Gospels; but just the speaking of his name, the threat of what he might do, is enough to influence events.

It is easy to say then that Augustus is the one who gets Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem; and that it is Tiberius who is responsible for Jesus going to the cross; and that Nero is the reason Paul first gets to Rome, and then presumably, ultimately dies in Rome.

But Caesar is not the power behind the throne influencing events, for there is one who is even more powerful then Caesar.

Caesar may be the unspoken actor in the New Testament; but God is the spoken actor who brings Caesar to power so that God, through Caesar, might influence the events.

God orders things for His own purpose, so that at just the right moment, Augustus might order that census that gets Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  And it is God who brings Tiberius to power and inspires fear of Tiberius in the heart of Pilate, so that at the proper time, Jesus might go to the cross.  And it is God who uses Nero and the Roman justice system to get Paul to Rome, so that the Gospel might be spread even further.

Caesar is nothing more than a decoy, for it is God alone who is influencing events for the fulfillment of His own will.

Leaders who rise to power today have the Caesar delusion that it is they who are bringing events to their fulfillment; little do they know that they are mere instruments of the Lord of heaven and earth; put in power for the fulfillment of His purposes.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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