An Expectation of Vengeance
The basic movie Gladiator is ready in AD 180. Within the opening scene, a Roman normal, Maximus, leads his legionaries to victory over Germanic tribes. On his return, the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, asks Maximus to step in when he dies and make Rome a republic as soon as once more. However when the emperor’s son, Commodus, hears of this plan, he murders his father, proclaims himself emperor, and calls for Maximus’s allegiance. Maximus refuses, escapes Commodus’s males, and heads for residence. He’s been counting the times till he sees his spouse and son once more. However when he will get again residence ultimately, he finds they’ve been crucified by Commodus’s troops.
Exhausted and despairing, Maximus collapses. He’s picked up by slave merchants, who promote him as a gladiator. In a pivotal scene, we watch this man who has misplaced the whole lot win victory earlier than the emperor himself. When Commodus enters the sector and asks his title, Maximus pulls off his helmet and declares, “My title is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, Common of the Felix Legions and constant servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered spouse. And I’ll have my vengeance, on this life or the following.”1
The Jews of Jesus’s day have been ready for a hero who would overthrow the Romans and set up Israel as soon as once more. They’d returned from exile in Babylon. However foreigners nonetheless dominated them, and thru the prophets, God had promised them an empire-conquering King. Let’s check out how the Gospels shine a lightweight on Jesus as this King however how his victory inverted what his fellow countrymen anticipated—and why we twenty-first-century people ought to nonetheless yearn for God’s eternal King.
On this follow-up to Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin shares essential biblical context to assist all readers discover who Jesus actually is and perceive why the Gospels must be taken severely as historic paperwork.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God
When Commodus first asks Maximus, “Why doesn’t the hero reveal himself, and inform us all of your actual title?” Maximus replies, “My title is Gladiator.” Commodus objects. That’s not his title; it’s his function. Likewise, when Jesus is known as Christ, it’s not his title. The Hebrew phrase Messiah means “anointed one” and sprang from the traditional observe by which the kings of Israel have been set aside by having oil smeared on their heads. The phrase Christ comes from the Greek translation of Messiah. For hundreds of years, prophets despatched by God had promised an empire-breaking, Israel-saving, death-defying, eternal King. Simply as Maximus was not simply a gladiator however the final Gladiator, the Gospel authors declare that Jesus isn’t just a king, however the King.
Mark’s Gospel opens with this declare: “The start of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). To us, “the Son of God” sounds at the start like a declare to Jesus’s divinity. Jesus did declare to be God’s eternal Son—who with the Father and the Spirit is the one true God. However Jews of Jesus’s day would have heard Son of God primarily as which means “Christ.” Simply as commander in chief means “president” to Individuals, so Son of God communicated “Christ.” Matthew fronts the declare as effectively: “The ebook of the family tree of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). David was Israel’s archetypal king, and Matthew retells Israel’s historical past by a family tree that goes from Abraham (the daddy of the religion) to David (the best king) to the exile in Babylon (the epic catastrophe) to the approaching of Jesus “who is known as Christ” (Matt. 1:16).
Like a normal directing his archers, Luke takes a extra “look ahead to it” strategy. However when the arrows fly, they arrive in model. An angel seems to Mary to inform her she’ll give delivery to a son. “He shall be nice and shall be known as the Son of the Most Excessive,” the angel explains. “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he’ll reign over the home of Jacob ceaselessly, and of his kingdom there shall be no finish” (Luke 1:32–33).
For Jews of Jesus’s day dwelling below Roman rule, the approaching of God’s long-awaited King meant the whole lot. However for many of us at this time, the thought of Jesus as King might really feel like a supply we didn’t order. We would take pleasure in watching The Crown on Netflix, however none of us longs for a return to royal rule. We all know from the grinding of historical past that when one individual is in cost—whether or not a monarch or a supreme chief below one other title—we’ll doubtless have a tyrant earlier than lengthy. Even programs like communism that supposedly exalt equality can shortly droop into dictatorship. So, we’ve solid democracies to attempt to unfold the facility out. It’s not an ideal system, however we keep it up and hope for one of the best. As Winston Churchill quipped, “Democracy is the worst type of Authorities apart from all these different types which were tried occasionally.”2 So how can we make sense of Jesus’s declare to be the King at this time?
Paradoxically, the very factor that will have dashed the hopes of Jesus’s contemporaries is what ought to give us hope in Jesus as God’s eternal King at this time. In response to the expectations of his fellow countrymen, Jesus’s try to say the kingship was a failure. As an alternative of taking over the throne, Jesus had taken up a cross. As an alternative of taking energy for himself, he’d given all of it up. As an alternative of beating others down in conquest, he’d lifted up essentially the most despised in his society with tender care. As an alternative of the cross being his second of defeat, it represents his biggest victory. By struggling injustice, Jesus got here to roll out justice just like the world has by no means seen earlier than.
As an alternative of the cross being his second of defeat, it represents his biggest victory. By struggling injustice, Jesus got here to roll out justice just like the world has by no means seen earlier than.
Hosanna to the Son of David
In Gladiator, Maximus at first conceals his id. It’s not but time for Commodus to understand who he’s. Likewise, repeatedly within the Gospels, Jesus tells folks to maintain quiet about his declare to be the Christ. However then the day comes for the information to hit the streets. Jesus is on the point of go as much as Jerusalem, and he sends his disciples to borrow a donkey. This looks as if an odd mode of transport for God’s long-awaited King: like driving a minivan into city as a substitute of a Mercedes. However that’s the purpose. Matthew connects this second to a prophecy from Zechariah:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” (Matt. 21:4–5)
Whilst he rides into Jerusalem as King, Jesus comes humbly. However the Jews of Jerusalem get it. They unfold cloaks and palm branches on the highway: the traditional Jewish equal of rolling out a pink carpet. It’s a harmful scene.
In Gladiator, when Maximus ultimately reveals who he’s, the emperor’s guards flip their swords on him. However the crowd within the enviornment forces Commodus to provide the thumbs up signal by shouting, “Stay! Stay! Stay! Stay!” Equally, when Jesus lastly makes a public declare to kingship, the crowds in Jerusalem are shouting the equal of “King! King! King! King!” “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they cry. “Blessed is he who comes within the title of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9). “Hosanna” means “[God,] save, please,” and the “Son of David” marks Jesus out because the Christ: the inheritor of Israel’s biggest king. Jesus’s disciples shout as effectively: “Blessed is the King who comes within the title of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). The Pharisees are horrified: “Trainer,” they demand, “rebuke your disciples.” However Jesus replies with one in every of my favourite strains in all of the Gospels: “I inform you, if these have been silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39–40).
Jesus doesn’t want the crowds to validate his kingship. The gravel on the bottom is able to declare it at this level. The one who made the universe has come to say his kingdom right here on earth, and if the people who he made can’t see what’s occurring, the stones will shout it out. Like Maximus, Jesus survived that day. However as with Maximus, it’s solely a matter of time: these cloaks and shouts and palm branches are marking out his method not simply to coronation however to dying.
When Maximus revealed who he was within the enviornment, he promised Commodus that he would have his vengeance, on this life or the following. If we’re Jesus’s folks, we should battle with Jesus’s weapon of self-sacrificing, power-flipping, unrelenting love. As a result of Jesus will convey justice—on this life and the following.
- Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott (Common Metropolis: CA: DreamWorks Photos, 2000).
- From a speech within the Home of Commons on November 11, 1947. See Irrepressible Churchill: A Treasury of Winston Churchill’s Wit, chosen and compiled by Kay Halle (Cleveland, OH: World, 1966), 279.
This text is customized from Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels by Rebecca McLaughlin.