From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12)
I certainly would never hold Pontius Pilate up as any kind of a role model, but wouldn’t that be well said of all of us . . . that we are “no friend of Caesar” because we are a true friend of Jesus? I pray this word of encouragement will inspire you to be “no friend of Caesar” because you are ardently pursuing that true friendship with Jesus.
The religious leaders had grown to hate Jesus for a multitude of reasons, primarily because they feared losing their elevated status among the people (John 11:48). When they could stand Him no more, they conspired to have Him put to death. In today’s verse, we see them turning up the heat on the weak-kneed Pilate, threatening him that the consequences of choosing to exonerate Jesus would make Pilate “no friend of Caesar”—in other words, bringing the potentially disastrous disapproval of the Roman emperor down on himself.
Make no mistake; friendship is a choice, and it is a choice we all must make. Scripture warns that if we choose to be friends with Caesar—that is, friends with the world—we are choosing to be an enemy of Jesus.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)
When Scripture speaks of “the world,” it is referring to the sinful systems of this world, which is currently under the dominion of Satan (1 John 5:19), whom God has allowed to hold this position for a season. To be sure, we are in this world because God does not yet desire to take us out of this world . . . which means He still has work for us to do! But we are no longer of this world because of our relationship with Jesus. The believer is not to be drawn into the evil that permeates this world, nor are we to conform to its value system. We have been consecrated (set apart) by God the Father to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, which means we are to make a difference in this world by being different from this world.
This difference starts with our choice of friends. We can either choose to be friends of Caesar—that is, friends of this world and its anti-biblical ideologies—or friends of Christ. But we simply cannot be friends of both. Jesus told His disciples, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).
If we say “Yes” to Caesar, we are automatically saying “No” to Jesus. But when we say “Yes” to Christ, we display a difference in the way we live out our lives . . . through our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires. Because God is changing us from the inside out, our friendship with Jesus will begin to pour out of us in every imaginable way. And when we engage with the world around us—and you can be 100% sure that unbelieving world is watching us to see if our faith is real—they will be given the opportunity to come to know the Savior . . . not through the Bible they could read, but through the Bible they see lived out in us.
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
Let us determine to be no friend of Caesar, but rather to embrace the Lamb of God, that all those whom we encounter may sniff the sweet savor of abundant life through Jesus Christ.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!