The Roman Empire was formidable. Its borders extended out from its centre far and wide. A common language facilitated business throughout its empire. The emperor wielded enormous power. The government and army provided the machinery to get things done – either through policy or by brute force. The occupied territory ensured that people obeyed. The Empire was polytheistic: it tolerated religions that were compliant.
Why did the great Empire decline? There were many factors ranging from an overreaching to a limited army because of economic problems. One significant cause stands out as we read about Jesus’ trial. For the Roman Emperor was considered divine.
As the time came for the Passover Feast the Jewish ruling council had a breakfast meeting to give its verdict on Jesus. They considered him to be a blasphemer deserving punishment by death. Pontius Pilate was the prefect (senior Roman official) of Judea. He spoke both to the crowds outside and then privately to Jesus inside. He was not interested in a religious group’s internal disputes but was concerned to maintain public order. Loyalty to the state was everything. The charge that Jesus claimed to be king and so a rival to Caesar was a serious matter. The given title ‘king of the Jews’ had clear political overtone. Pilate was determined to find out whether Jesus constituted a threat to Rome’s power.
Jesus’ reply is instructive: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18v36). Jesus’ kingdom was not tied to a place or a political party. It was described in the scriptures. It was about righteousness peace and joy. It was the basis for community and gave great dignity to each person. Its centre is in heaven which makes its citizens resident aliens or sojourners in this world longing for their heavenly home.
They give their loyalty to the King of heaven, who laid down his life for them, but now is the risen and ascended Lord.
It changes everything: “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18v37-38).
This world is torn apart by discord, greed, and aggression. The fault lines of corruption will simply widen, while the truth will ultimately be victorious. Will you line up behind our great and glorious King, Jesus Christ? By his resurrection he was declared with power to be the Son of God. He is to be worshipped. We invite you to join us for our Easter celebrations.