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The geopolitics of Good Friday
Today, I started my Good Friday by listening to Luke 23 which covers the trial and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus on the Bible app. It struck me how adamant Pilate was at first to spare Christ’s life but, when faced with mounting political pressure… he gave in. Why?
As a Christian, I believe this moment was firmly orchestrated by God for the purpose of humanity’s redemption. But we must realize that God works His divine will through the choices that we make based on our perception of reality. Pilate had no idea that he was an instrument in the hand of God. But he did understand the natural forces of politics, rebellion, and conspiracy that led up to this moment.
As a historian and minister, I love to dig into the background of major moments in world history. Let’s take a quick look at what geopolitical forces conspired to bring about Good Friday.
What happens when the financial system collapses?
In AD 33 the Roman empire was confronted with a financial crisis that would have a global impact. A shortage of cash—largely triggered by political infighting in the Roman Senate, an outbreak of plague, and a strained financial market—resulted in an economic meltdown that is called the Financial Panic of AD 33.
Emperor Tiberius responded with a bailout—some 100 million sesterces lent at 0% interest to business owners and banks. This stimulus was injected into the market, primarily benefitting the elite but ultimately stabilizing the economy.
Sound familiar? Truly, history repeats itself.
But, while the world was grappling with a financial crisis, another event was mark AD 33 as a year unlike any other. On a hill outside Jerusalem, a Man hung suspended between heaven and earth, making a bridge between God and humanity with His body and blood.
These two events may well have been connected.
Why did Pontius Pilate condemn Jesus?
As financial panic spread throughout the Roman empire, Pilate himself faced an unprecedented challenge. He had been appointed by Sejanus, a man who effectively ruled the empire while the emperor Tiberius spent his days in a sort of voluntary exile in the gorgeous island of Capri.
Unfortunately, having power makes you want more power. Sejanus, who had 9,000 members of the Praetorian Guard at his disposal in Rome, was accused of planning a coup against the emperor and was executed before it could be carried out.
What followed was a persecution of Sejanus loyalists. So when a riot ensued in Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders threatened Pilate with an accusation of disloyalty, he had every reason to be concerned.
What does John 19:12 mean?
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.John 19:12
It’s doubtful that Pilate had a direct relationship with Caesar Tiberius so the Jewish leaders weren’t talking about personal friendship. To not be a friend of Caeaser, non amicus Caesaris, was to lose a position of trust normally held by administrative leadership. Pilate’s loyalty was being called into question–and he couldn’t afford to have that happen. Not when he had been appointed by a a man who Caesar had recently executed. Regardless of how Pilate took it, the implications were clear—and so was the decision he had to make.
What does this all mean for us today?
I believe that God orders all things now as He did then. When we read the news online or see it on TV, we often wonder how things are all coming together. As our hearts break with those who’ve lost loved ones in mass shootings, or those who are victims of the ongoing pandemic, let us remember that everything—and I mean everything—plays some part in bringing about God’s perfect kingdom.
Without all the drama in Roman Senate perhaps the crucifixion would never have take place. Without all the drama in our halls of Congress, perhaps the pieces that are necessary for Christ’s return would never happen. But everything is working together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
History and prophecy
One final thought: let those who believe the Gospel remember that we are not here to save this world but to look for the world that is to come. While we may not understand all that’s happening, the wheels of history show us that our decisions result in biblical prophesy coming to pass.
So let us true believers draw comfort from God’s promises and lift up our heads, as we remember the sacrifice of the Son, for our future is bright.