A Fragment of a New Testament Parable
(A recovered fragment of a undiscovered NT Gospel. It was found in between the Cotton Patch just by the swamp next to my Duck Blind on the North End of the Dead Sea.)
Jesus and disciples were travelling between Jericho and Swan Quarter. Judas, the fastidious one of the group, had booked reservations on the last ferry of the afternoon. They hoped to reach Ocracoke by dark. Somewhere near Engelhard, James and John asked Jesus a question.
“Teacher, we heard from some travelers the other day that a new Caesar had been elected by the Senate in Rome.” This was true. Two days before when they passed through Greenville, they ate lunch in a Greek restaurant. Socrates Aristotle Davis, the man running the place, said Caesar Augustus was dead and his son Tiberius was the new Caesar. This has caused no small amount of consternation within the Jesus Movement. (Jesus wasn’t sure whether the disciples honestly thought his last name was ‘movement, Christ, or of Nazareth’. He prefered to be called ‘Jesus’.)
What would Caesar’s death mean for them or Jesus’ ministry? Would they have to stop what they’re doing? New Caesars could be strange and unpredictable. Nobody liked it much when a new Caesar was chosen.
“So what are we going to do, Jesus?” asked Thomas. “About what,” Jesus wondered, “be late for the boat?”
“This new Caesar,” said Matthew. Jesus knew exactly what they meant. He enjoyed the repartee. Their contextual befuddlement made the best fodder for theological growth.
“Oh,” Jesus said. “You’re wondering what this new Caesar will have to do with you being a member of our movement.” There was head nodding all around.
Jesus kept walking. “Oh, that’s an easy one. It doesn’t matter who Caesar is, who’s on Caesar’s coins, who’s in Rome, or who they appoint as Governors.”
This blew Peter’s fragile mind. “What? You mean to tell me that it doesn’t matter to your followers who Caesar is; who sits in the Senate on the Capitoline Hill in downtown Rome, in charge of the most powerful army in the world, and has money with his face on it that proclaims himself to be the ‘Son of God’?”
“Where were you Peter when I talked about my kingdom not being of this world?” asked Jesus. “Did you miss the whole idea that I’m the son of God? Maybe you were just nodding and pretended to understand or said you believed it but found it all hard to stomach.” Jesus was serious. The Rabbi was starting to think most people were acting like they understood what he said. To the other 11, it seemed like he was asking them to take his ideas at face value, not just pleasant thoughts for an evolving cosmos.
Jesus wasn’t through speaking. “Our self-identity isn’t rooted in the symbols, ideas, and trappings of power which define the world; i.e. Rome. We’re defined by our story, the story of God’s story being retold time and time again in the lives of the people God created. God is working and doing miracles and bringing new life; despite the revolving door of Pharaohs, Babylonian Emperors, Jewish Kings, or Roman Caesars. We’ll keep telling God’s story, no matter who sits on the Emperor’s throne in Rome.”