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Caesar and Jesus (Malcolm Guite)

Posted by: | Posted on: April 16, 2013

In the little poem ‘Contrasts’ I read earlier, I drew a contrast between the Gods and Goddesses of classical antiquity – the lofty Olympians – and the humility of the one true God. I want to bring that down to earth, and talk about the contrast between the ruler who is named in the Christmas story, Caesar, and the Prince of Peace, who was born, in the Christmas story.

Caesar held a census so that he could tax the people. Caesar decreed from afar that everyone should up sticks and move at his convenience, so that he could exact something from them – he was enrolling the world, so that he could take from the margins, and enrich the center – in Rome.

Meanwhile, even as this decree of a census is given out, another king – the king of kings – wants all the world to be enrolled. Why? He knows all things as God; His knowledge is always the knowledge of the great creator, looking down on creation. But now He gets the inside knowledge of hearts that hurt – the knowledge of what it is to be ‘in the dark’. You might say it’s one thing to write Hamlet, quite another to be Hamlet.

In contrast to Caesar, who stays in the centre and expect us to move for him, Jesus came to us and to come to know us. This wasn’t registering in the sense of an outer registration, but God became human so that He could register with Himself all the things that we can feel in the flesh. Caesar registered to exact; Jesus to share, and to give…