How should one frame this issue of Jesus offering tribute to His enemy? Jesus does not say “You take the bodies, I only want the souls.” Jesus did not experience merely a spiritual, soul-ish Resurrection, nor will those that stand in the union of trusting allegiance to Him, calling Him Lord. Jesus did not say to His enemy, “You take this world (the creation), we’re just going to heaven.” No, with man’s fall came the fall of all of the covenant God’s good creation and the flood of death and corruption into the world. The Creator God’s promise is to redeem all of His creation, defeating death in its entirety and ending corruption. Indeed, the creation is described as groaning for this redemption to occur, as it was subjected to futility through no fault of its own, and hopes for a resurrection like that which will come upon the Creator God’s children (Romans 8:20-21).
The Resurrection is taken to be the sign and the promise that the enemy exacts no tribute whatsoever from Jesus. If there was to be no physical resurrection and no restoration of the creation---if believers are just waiting to be whisked away into heaven so that they can watch the world be destroyed---then they can know that a tribute (sign of subservience to His enemy) was exacted from Jesus, that death was not truly defeated, and that they have no true reason to hope in Him.
As believers continue to see their King Jesus through the Psalmist’s description of the anointed, supported, and strengthened one referred to as “David, My Servant,” they read that “a violent oppressor will not be able to humiliate him” (89:22b). Death, of course, is the greatest of all oppressors. It is and has been the constant, stalking, baneful enemy of man from the time of the fall. It has crowded in upon his thoughts, and in some way, covered the majority of his waking moments.
For Jesus, as a man, death stood in the same role. When the Gospels are read, the reader finds that death surrounded Jesus on a regular basis. Not only did it surround Him because people were constantly coming to Him for healing from maladies that were often productive of death, and not only did He raise people from the dead, but quite often, the Gospel stories reveal that his own life was threatened, with reports of there being a relatively consistent existence of plans, from nearly the beginning of His ministry, to silence Him through assassination. Sometimes, these plans were well thought out and deliberated, and sometimes, such as that which occurred in Nazareth, they seem to be a spur-of-the-moment thing.
When death finally caught up with Him and had Jesus in its grasp, not only was it going to be an oppressor, but it was going to be a violent oppressor. Jesus was going to experience the full weight of death’s might as He underwent the scourging and the cross, which represented the pinnacle of man’s corrupted creativity, as it was one of the most torturous and painful means of death ever devised.
The cross, along with its attendant punishments, was designed to not only induce the utmost of painful deaths, but also to humiliate, and to demonstrate the shamed victim’s utter powerlessness against the nearly omnipotent power of Rome. This is that which Jesus underwent. To all appearances, it seemed that He was made to succumb to the same fate as all that had been sent down the path of the cross, sharing in its shame and its humiliation, violently oppressed by death at the hands of Rome.