Mutiny! With Caesar Augustus dead and Tiberius Caesar not yet in full control, the Roman legions were in revolt. They were encamped in Germany, far from home, and old resentments were boiling. Why were their centurions so cruel? Why were their wages so small? Why weren't they allowed to retire after serving honorably in twenty campaigns?
Ambassadors from the Roman Senate were sent to try to reason with the angry troops. The soldiers seized them, however, and threatened them with death. At this point their great general, Germanicus, tried to shame his troops into submission. "What have you not dared," he asked, "what have you not profaned during these days? You have outraged the privileges due even to an enemy, the sanctity of ambassador, the law of nations." Nowhere else in the empire were "centurion murdered, tribunes driven away, ambassadors imprisoned, camps and rivers stained with blood."
These events, recorded in the Annals of Tacitus, took place when Saul of Tarsus was a teenager in a Roman colony. He surely had such events in mind when he later called himself "an ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:20). An ambassador might be rejected or expelled, but never put in chains! That would be more than merely an injustice to the man; that would be an outrage against his King.
The Greek word presbyteuo (press bit CHOO oh) means "I serve as ambassador." All those who proclaim the gospel can share this title. "God has committed to us the message of reconciliation," Paul wrote. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20).
Like Paul, we who present the appeal of our King may face rejection, persecution and even imprisonment. But it is not about us - it is about our King and the gospel of the Kingdom. May we therefore find the ways to get our hearers to see beyond us and to recognize our words as the message of our King!