Geneva United Methodist Church
Monday, May 20, 2019
Make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Pastoral Message

“Beware the Ides of March!” This was the
warning of the soothsayer to Julius Caesar about
his impending murder by Brutus in the play by
William Shakespeare. The “Ides” of a month according to the
Roman calendar is the midpoint based on the cycle of the moon,
usually the 13th, but in March, May, July and October, the Ides are
on the 15th. During a discussion about death after the soothsayer’s
prediction, Julius Caesar says: “Cowards die many times before
their deaths; the valiant ever taste of death but once. Of all the
wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that
men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come
when it will come.” And when Brutus, one of Caesar’s closest and
most trusted friends, stabs him in the back, Caesar says, “Et tu,
Brute! [It is you, Brutus!] Then fall, Caesar.”
 
You are probably wondering why I am talking about Julius Caesar
in the month when Lent and sometimes even Easter itself occur.
Well, I see a lot of connection between the lives and deaths of
Julius Caesar and Jesus. First of all, Judea, Jesus’ homeland, was
conquered while Julius Caesar was ruling in Rome, resulting in
Judea becoming a “client kingdom” of Rome. A “client kingdom”
or “client state” is a land or nation economically, politically and
militarily subordinate to a more powerful land or nation. The
weaker state would usually pay tributes and provide military units,
goods and slaves for the more powerful state. The more powerful
state would also likely appoint or approve the leaders of the
weaker state, such as Herod the Great who was appointed as a
puppet king over Judea by Caesar. Julius Caesar came to power by
the formation of a “Triumvirate” or triple alliance among three
Roman leaders, which eventually resulted in the demise of the
Roman Republic. Jesus, on the other hand, was part of a divine
“Trinity” comprised of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The actions of King Herod and his successor – Herod Antipas, and
two other Caesars – Augustus (Julius’ designated heir) and
Tiberius, shaped much of Jesus’ life, including his Passion and
Crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea appointed
by Tiberius. Both Julius and Jesus were betrayed by men they
believed to be their friends, Julius by Brutus and Jesus by Judas,
which resulted in their deaths. Both Julius and Jesus died very
public deaths – Julius on the steps of the Roman Forum as he was
leaving the Senate, and Jesus on a cross on a hilltop known as
Golgotha or “The Skull” which overlooked the Jewish Temple
after a public trial before Pilate. Jesus died a single valiant death,
but many attempts were made upon the life of Julius during a reign
characterized by fear, intrigue, suspicion, treachery and betrayal.
After the deaths of Jesus and Julius, their friends often denied
knowing the men in order to protect their own lives. And both
men were buried in stone tombs, Jesus in a rough-hewn tomb
borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, and Julius Caesar in the
Temple of Caesar made of polished white marble, the ruins of
which are only a short distance from St. Peter’s Cathedral in
Rome.
 
Although there are many similarities between Jesus Christ and
Julius Caesar, there are even more differences, including the way
they lived their lives, the way they used their power, and what
happened to them after their deaths. Although Julius Caesar lives
on in the sense that he is still remembered, Jesus, on the other
hand, was resurrected from death and continues to live on in
heaven, seated at the right hand of God for all eternity, loved and
remembered always by his followers.
 
I pray that Lent may be for all of us this year a time of
contemplation, spiritual growth, repentance, redemption, and new
life.
 
Blessings, Pastor Randy