by Bob Wickizer

You Get to Choose
Bob Wickizer
Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99:1-6, 19-23; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
22 Pentecost Proper 24

The average faithful Roman at the time of Jesus was required once a year to enter the temple of the invincible sun, SOL INVICTUS, and sprinkle some crude nitrate powder on the eternal flame while swearing allegiance to Caesar as their Lord, as their anointed one (Christos) and as their savior. The word "Caesar" was originally a family name for the ruler Gaius Julius Caesar and his descendents. Eventually the name served as a generic title for later rulers of the empire. As a title of a ruling office, the word "Caesar" found its way into the Germanic form of "Kaiser" and in Russian for "Czar."

As we know from the story of Herod slaughtering the first born at the time of Jesus' birth, many rulers throughout the Roman Empire could be ruthless. The worship of "the divine emperor" Caesar served to hold the far flung Roman Empire together. As peoples in distant lands were conquered they were forced to swear allegiance to Caesar as Lord and Savior. Once a person swore allegiance to Caesar, they received a tattoo on their forehead or their right hand. If this sounds a bit like making the sign of the cross on the forehead with oil at baptism, you may be onto something.

Long before Christians were persecuted and martyred for refusing to swear allegiance to Caesar, conquered peoples were put to death for refusing to swear allegiance to Caesar. Jesus certainly understood the consequence of not swearing allegiance to Caesar at the time the Pharisees tried to entrap him. Jews were the only people that Rome did not force to swear allegiance to Caesar, but they were required to pay taxes like everyone else.

Of all the peoples conquered and ruled by Rome, only the Jews maintained their ability to worship their own God, Yahweh, in their own temple. This unique relationship enabled the Jews to maintain their religi ...

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