Rome was one of the great world empires in world history. They established their power by a theory known as Pax Romana…”Roman Peace.” it started about the time of Caesar Augustus becoming the Roman emperor in 27 B.C. and ending around the demise of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD. During this time the empire greatly expanded reaching a maximum of up to 70 million people – a third of the world’s population. There were wonderful accomplishments in architecture, the arts and sciences. A part of their mastery was conquering a foreign people and then letting them self rule under their authority. As long as the people submitted they lived in peace.
One of the ways they accomplished this was ruling with violence. If anyone resisted the government, spoke out against it or in any way were perceived to be a threat, they were dealt with. Severely. The Romans were very good at torture so as to make an example of those they deemed to be problematic. They became experts at execution and one of their favorite modes of execution was crucifixion. Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment where the victims were nailed to a crossbeam and left to hang, sometimes for days, until they died, often by asphyxiation. The death was often slow and painful, excruciating, which actually means “out of crucifixion.” To the Romans, Jesus was a threat.
Pax Romana was the exact opposite of the peace that Jesus gives. On the cross we see the peace of Jesus in His words of reconciliation and love. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The way of Jesus is the way of love. The way of Jesus is through invitation and openness, not violence and retaliation. The way of Jesus is peace through relationship not a false peace through iron fisted rule. The Scripture clearly tells us that the merciful, patient, kind, gentle, forgiving, loving nature of God is fully revealed and expressed in His Son Jesus. The way of Jesus is the way of Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.
There is a temptation to live through Pax Romana. Every nation seeking self preservation practices Pax Romana on one level or another. The more aggressive the country, the deeper they delve into a philosophy of violence, authoritarianism, threatening and punishment. The greater the desire for self preservation and self glory the more the movement towards Pax Romana. Military build up. Nationalism. More violence. More death.
Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Pax Romana or Shalom.
Good Friday shows us God chooses Shalom.