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Many people tried to ask themselves these questions; who was Jesus, his role and his mission? But they could not get answers to them. Some people believed Jesus was the Son of God while others believe he was the son of a carpenter- Joseph. These people could not just understand how a virgin woman could give birth to a baby. The Romans did not understand why he preached about the word of god who was unknown to them. They opposed his teachings because they thought that they posed a great danger to the future of the Roman Empire. They wondered on what capacity he preached to the multitudes to repent their sins so that they could be heirs to the kingdom of heaven. In this essay, I will critically look at exactly who was Jesus Christ, his role here on earth and his mission and I’ll try to unravel all these mysteries.
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First, Jesus said that he came to seek and save the sinners but he did not come for the holy ones. Thus, he was only concerned with those who were not yet saved from these eternal miseries.
He also preached that he did not come to seek earthly values but for the kingdom of heaven. He did this by telling people that the sinners will face their punishment of eternal sufferings while the righteous will be the heirs to the kingdom of heaven, which in other words meant eternal happiness.
Jesus preached that he was the truth and the only way through which you could acquire the kingdom of heaven. He tried to convince people to leave their sinful ways and stop valuing earthly belongings for neither of them would let them be the heirs of heavens. He did this by preaching about humbling yourself, helping the needy and being selfless.
The poor people who had nothing to lose warmly embraced the message he conveyed to the multitude. But to the rich who were being challenged by this message felt that the teachings were meant to eliminate them. Thus they started opposing and criticizing these teachings. This is what eventually culminated in to his betrayal and finally the crucification.
In his message, he greatly criticized and attacked some behaviour, which were being practiced by some religious fellows. At one time he complained of people having
made the temple of the lord a market place and he was forced or he felt much obliged to whip them out of the church. Those who benefited from those immoral activities felt that Jesus and his mission were against them so, they resulted to open hostility against him and his teachings as well as all his followers.
Because of the failure of the roman leaders to understand the character of Jesus Christ and his role in the world, the Roman governor -Pilate was easily convinced that Jesus who claimed to be the son of God and his followers or disciples were against him and could soon terminate his kingdom. Thus, the Roman Empire ordered him to be arrested, tortured and then crucified on the cross.
In his preaching, Jesus had already prophesied that one of his disciples would betray him to be crucified and that after the third day; he would rise from his grave and ascend to heaven. This was something that was believed by his followers. What the Romans wanted was to verify whether these claims were true or false. Even one of them said, “Truly this was the son of god.” He said this when the earth shook and lights disappeared when he was dying. Everything that had been prophesied occurred. This is today what forms the basis of Christianity.
The values of Christianity were different from those of the pagan Roman world in that the Romans were brutal and appeared to be uncivilized. This was evident by the way the enslaved prisoners of war and sinners were punished but according to the Christianity they were expected to forgive and treat their neighbors. Also, whereas the Romans joined the combat so that they could earn their living, Jesus preached against these earthly values.
The Romans were of this principal-an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. This maxim was similar to the Law of Moses but was contrary to principle of Christianity, which stated that you should forgive those that do you wrong.
It is evident that there was a difference in values because when a highway robber that was said to have mugged a man was killed. This was an act of revenge.
In the Roman Empire there were two categories or classes of people- upper class and lower class. This was a thing that was perpetuated by the Roman laws. The upper class wanted to preserve their status quo were opposed to the idea of losing earthly belongings, which was being preached by the Christians. In the Christians view, all people were equal in the eyes of God. So, the idea of classes was foreign to them.
There were various reasons why the Romans felt that Christianity threatened them. First it is because they knew that if they accepted Christianity then they would cease being leaders and start following Jesus Christ. Also they were not happy because of the way many people had joined Christianity and thus stopping being royal to the Roman government. They knew that no leader could ever claim to be great if he cannot command a big following.
Thus, they realized that the only way of reversing the situation was by checking the spread of Christianity.
These teachings of loving your neighbor, helping the sick and the needy ones were totally different from those of the roman pagans who were insensitive to the needs of others. Thus, they saw this as a challenge that would bring a revolution to their empire if it was let to prosper.
According to Romans, private affairs were not encouraged whereas the Christians led life of privacy. They refused to mix with others freely. Romans being inhuman saw this.
The roman pagans were also threatened because Christians were against the idea of worshipping gods. Christians believed only in one God thus, they refused to bow down to the roman gods.
Christianity came with the birth of Jesus Christ. Despite the resistance that it met in the Roman Empire, it spread and eventually brought the pagan empire down. The teachings of Christ crashed with those of the Romans. For example, Christians believed in eternal life, no value for earthly kingdom, humbleness and forgiving those who do wrong to us. All these were contrary to those of the Romans who believed that there was nothing like eternal life. To them there was nothing like forgiving and they wanted to preserve their status quo. Jesus was believed to have come to save the sinners, a sentiment that was not shared by the Romans. His teachings which were greatly embraced by the poor did not amuse the rich who felt that they would lose their properties thus they misled The Roman Governor –Pontius Pilate to order for his arrest and crucification on the cross. After the death of Christ death, Christianity as a religion became stronger but it was on the verge of dying when Apostle Paul came to its rescue. Initially Paul was called Saul because he used to persecute Christians but later he stopped this. Paul believed that the kingdom of heaven belonged to those who needed it and that there would be a judgment day when sinners and the righteous would be judged.
According to Zambus Inc, The foundations of western civilization in the ancient world, a diary 164, Seneca tries to describe the gladiatorial shows that were held in the Roman Empire. The gladiators at first they were either criminals or prisoners of war. Later, even free men started to participate because of poverty. These freemen sought for formal training in public institutions like schools.
In his diary, Seneca talks of how he chanced to go to the arena to relax his mind when he witnessed a dangerous game where murder was the ultimate goal. Men wore no fighting costumes and every blow was leveled on a bare body. He says that the Roman society was brutal. Men were made to face wild animals like lions and bears, at noon they were made to face their fellow men and spectators really derived joy from these games. The result of every game was death of humans.
Seneca also gives an eye account of how men shouted at a man who was said to be a robber who used to mug people on the highways. People wanted him to be punished by death. They were saying that if he killed people, he too should be killed. He likened these shows to a market where people exchanged vengeance for vengeance as if they were commodities. People wanted no other form of entertainment apart from watching men die. After one game was over they begged for other men to be put in the death chamber- arena, they only dreamt of seeing blood shed. According to Seneca, this was how the Roman society was. They were used to this kind of life.
In the foundations of western civilization in the ancient world- Christians in the Roman Empire, Zambus inc, letter Pliny the Younger who was a governor to the Roman Empire was writing to the emperor Trajan to notify him of his policies and to seek for some advice concerning the Christian who denounced them.
Zambus Inc166, Pliny describes to Trajan the process he follows in making his decisions. He says that if a victim is said to have denounced him, he first of all tries to establish whether he is a Christian or not. If the victim confesses it, he repeats the question again threatening him by death. If the victim still insists that he/she is not ready to change his stand then, he ordered him/her to be executed or killed.
He also says than even Roman citizens who became Christians also faced the same punishment. This letter, which was sent to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, was much appreciated by Trajan who positively recommended the punishment. He goes ahead to thank him for being innovative –inventing new laws. Trajan does this by telling Pliny that it is hard to have fixed standards at all times.
Trajan emphasizes that if they are found guilty, they must be punished but if they denounce Christianity and prove it then, on the grounds of repentance they should be should be pardoned or excused
Trajan also emphasized that no information whatsoever would be accepted if it had no accusers name attached to it. Such information should not be acted upon.
In conclusion we have seen how the Romans lived, behaved and treated their fellow Christians. They tried very hard to suppress Christianity but finally they were defeated. The Romans were totally inhuman to Christians. During their reign most Christians were persecuted but this did not deter them from moving on.
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