Twisting the Nation
“Then they began to bring charges against him, saying: ‘We have discovered this one twisting our nation and forbidding us to give taxes to Caesar as well as telling us he is himself a Christ — a king.’”
So why is it that when people want to accuse someone of something or bully another in terms of getting their way, that it is always the money that is threatened. Do people really think that leadership is that shallow? I had a woman come to me once and threaten to stop tithing to the church because she was angry that our churches Session had decided to support a given ministerial need in the community. My response, for better or worse, was to say, “shame on you — shame on you, not because you would give or not give, that is between you and God, but shame on you to think you can use your dollars to manipulate the spiritual leadership of this church.” Perhaps that wasn’t the most gentle way to speak at the given time, but I was convicted at the time that those words were what she most needed to hear. How Pilate must have shook his head when he heard those words — especially in a situation where taxes were coerced by force through a system of “farmers” — essentially money brokers given financial quotas to meet.
The initial charge, though, is that through Jesus’ teaching, he was twisting or perverting the nation of Israel. The term that is being used here is the Greek word diastre/fw (diastrepho), which typically refers to the turning or twisting of moral and spiritual truth. It is the word that the Apostle Paul uses to speak of the perverse generation in which he lived (Philippians 2:15) and the way the Bible describes those false teachers who come in to lead people away from orthodoxy (Acts 20:30) — someone we today would refer to as a heretic. Interestingly, it is the term found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to translate when Elijah is confronted by Ahab as the “troubler of Israel” and Elijah responds by saying that he has not “twisted” — diastre/fw (diastrepho) — Israel, but instead that Ahab was guilty of doing so given that he had left following the Lord and had followed Baals. Surely the same charge could be waged against the Pharisees and Sadducees on this day as they had turned from following the Lord to following the Baal of their own power and security.
Yet, the one thing that is not being twisted is the statement that Jesus is the Christ — a King. Certainly he is a King in a different way than is understood by either the Jewish officials or Pilate — indeed, if they rightly understood Jesus’ kingship they would have bowed before him and pleaded for mercy. Yet, they condemn and condemn themselves in the process. They are casting to the side the promised Messiah to preserve their status and power — how sad fallen human nature is; how wicked we have become, for is that not what even leadership in the church does when they seek to accommodate the world and not to serve Christ.