Follow the leader, part 3
Now that we understand the human propensity to deify great people, and we understand the context of Jesus’ ministry within a civilization in which the Emperor was called a son of God (which is the way people referred to the Caesars), we can see how Jesus went from being an enlightened, mystical Rabbi preaching connectedness, to the one and only literal Son of God. I do not think his earliest followers believed this the way many Christians do today, just as most citizens of the Roman Empire didn’t think Julius or Augustus were literally descendants of Venus. But proclaiming Jesus Son of God over and about the Roman Emperor? That would have been an incredible act of courage—and sedition.
There is power in understanding Jesus as Son of God, but it is not the power that has now become “traditional” in the United States. Originally, this was a political statement. It’s quite probable, based on both biblical and extra-biblical sources, that Jesus resisted this label. He may have known it would bring the wrath of the Empire crashing down on him, crushing his fledgling peace movement. The Romans provided tremendous resources to their conquered territories. However, the price for this progress was undying, unwavering, unquestioning loyalty to Rome. For Jesus, and most of his Jewish brothers and sisters, this was an impossible, even reprehensible request. To show loyalty to anyone other than God was to negate the entire Jewish religion.
Jesus’ understanding of humans and their relationship to each other was based on the extremely ancient Judaic idea that everything belongs to God—especially us. Since we have no intrinsic right to any of the planet’s resources, then our duty as people of faith is to be equitable to one another—to be good people, the way God is good to us. An empire in control of the world’s resources, that traded in human beings and kept peace through threat of violence was an affront to Jesus’ core values.
Since he was a peaceful activist, Jesus resisted the call of many people to start an armed resistance movement. These factions already existed all around Judea. Jesus was likely smart enough to realize an armed revolt against the Roman Empire never worked. So instead, he reminded his people—and continues to remind us, that our duty is only to God, who is not on a golden throne in heaven, but is actively part of our very being. Jesus as the son of God reminds us that it is our duty to resist the systemic evils of empire in all its forms. More importantly though, Jesus as the son of God is the example for all of us of our awakened, enlightened state. Jesus, son of God shows us what true humanity looks like when we get over ourselves and remember what we are truly made of—the very stuff of God, lying dormant within, just waiting to be sparked back to life.
Prayer: Show me the world through new eyes. Awaken my inner Christ, so that, like Jesus, I too will become an instrument of love and peace in this tortured world of sleeping souls. Amen.