Nazareth, the home town of Jesus, was no remote village, but a city overlooking the main highway from Egypt to Syria. Along this road passed the Roman armies as they went about their various duties, including the punitive suppression of this or that revolt. When Jesus talked to His disciples about taking up their cross, He did not use the expression metaphorically as we do nowadays. The cross was too familiar a reality in Palestine in those days to be referred to in any other than a grimly literal way. When Quintilius Varus, governor of Syria, put down a revolt in Judaea in 4 B.C., he crucified two thousand people. And the rising of Judas the Galilaean took place about the time when Jesus, as a boy of twelve, paid His visit to Jerusalem. The whole point of this rising was the burning question. "Is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?" "No!" said Judas and his followers, who developed into a party of the Zealots, "we have no king but God!"- and the popular sympathy was with Judas, although few joined in open revolt. So it was no academic question that was presented to Jesus when this matter of paying tribute was submitted to Him; the dilemma with which He was confronted was a very practical one. If He said that tribute should be paid to Caesar, He would forfeit the people's good will; if He said it should not be paid, He could be denounced to the Roman governor.
- from page 36, The Spreading Flame