Caesar vs. Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
- Luke 2:1

Let’s take a look at this Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus was born Gaius Octavius (aka “Octavian”). His family stood high in the Roman ruling class. His great-uncle Julius Caesar had no children, so he adopted Octavian and made him his heir. After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Octavian struggled for power with Antony and Cleopatra, defeating them in 30 BCE. With that victory, Octavian became Rome’s first Emperor and changed his name to Augustus (which meant “the great One, the venerable, or the increaser”).

Caesar Augustus’ rule sparked the 200 year pax Romana, a time of relative peace throughout the empire. He publicly expressed reluctance to rule while privately gathered more and more power unto himself. He refused to allow others to worship him but did more than anyone to amplify the power of the imperial cult. Everyone in the Roman empire knew his name.

Caesar Augustus described his accomplishments: “I found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.”

How different were Augustus and Jesus? Augustus leveraged his adopted status to achieve royalty; for Jesus adoption raised humbling questions about his legitimacy. While Caesar climbed the ranks of power Jesus seemed content to live in obscurity. Augustus kicked off the pax Romana but Jesus prophetically revealed that the peace of Rome came at a tremendous human cost. Caesar rejected the worship of the crowds; Jesus claimed that those who worship him would be remembered forever. Augustus died of old age to the applause of the empire; Jesus died on a cross abandoned by his friends.

Don’t go to Jesus expecting to find a king like Caesar Augustus. He has his own personality, his own priorities, and his own values. The kingdom in which Jesus rules and reigns differs tremendously from the empire of the Caesars.

Christians live in two kingdoms: earthly empires ruled by characters like Caesar and an eternal kingdom ruled by Jesus. And we can easily forget that King Jesus is not another Caesar. He’s not focused on accumulating power; he’s willing to humble himself; he’s not willing to sacrifice the weak and the vulnerable; he will do what he has to for our good, whether or not it’s popular or comfortable.

Take a few moments today to ask Jesus to show you that he’s different from all other kings and to help you to follow him well.

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