On March 15 of 44 BC, Julius Caesar wasn’t feeling well. He had an important meeting with the Senators of Rome, who had bestowed on him his ever-increasing powers of state. Only recently they had made him Dictator for Life, and he owed it to them to join them as they met.
His doctors urged him to reschedule once he was feeling better. Likewise, his wife, Calpurnia, begged him to remain at home. She had been having strange dreams of late and was concerned for his safety. However, his close friend, Brutus, had come by to escort him to the meeting and quickly shamed Caesar into setting aside any misgivings he may have felt.
Brutus led Caesar to the Senators, who promptly surrounded Caesar and began to stab him with daggers they had hidden in their togas. Caesar tried to defend himself, but was quickly overcome by the sixty-plus people involved in the plot. He received twenty-three wounds and quickly bled to death.
It is said that when he saw that Brutus was amongst those who assaulted him, Caesar simply covered his head with his toga and accepted his fate. The famous last words, “Et tu, Brute?” was merely a literary device popularized by Shakespeare to communicate the grief and despair Caesar felt at this betrayal.
Caesar’s fatal mistake was that he had been too successful. As he proceeded from victory to victory, his titles began to accumulate and his popularity to grow. His personal brand was becoming a threat to the traditional power brokers, the Senators. They recognized that if something weren’t done quickly, what little power they had left would soon evaporate.
Killing Caesar seemed the obvious solution. Naturally, they persuaded themselves that they were acting for the “greater good” of Rome, not for any personal benefit. They were, after all, doing only what was necessary to bring an end to tyranny and to restore freedom to the republic—all noble causes to be sure.
- Was Caesar the first person to be killed by jealous rivals? Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel? Can you think of other examples?
- Why are humans so quick to lash out at anyone who overshadows them in any way? Is this a good quality or part of our fallen sin nature?
- Is killing someone the only way that people try to “take down” a rival? What about gossip or trying to destroy someone’s reputation? Are these God-honoring behaviors?
- What is God’s formula for becoming “first?” Does a “servant of all” try to put people in their place or jealously attack rivals?
What is God’s formula for becoming “first?”
In today’s lesson in John 11:45-57, the Jewish leaders clearly felt the threat of Jesus’ growing popularity. They knew if something weren’t done quickly, what little power and sway they still held would soon be gone.
In the grand tradition of their Roman overlords, they choose assassination as the best possible solution. And, as is typical of assassins, they justified their decision by insisting it served the greater good. Jesus, like so many before and after Him, had become an inconvenient person for the powers that be.
- Were the Jewish leaders really thinking about the greater good or their own petty interests?
- As opposed to Caesar, who was defenseless against his attackers, did Jesus have to succumb to death? Was his life taken from Him, or did He willingly give it up? Did His rivals realize this unique fact?
- If Christ was “laying down His life,” who was ultimately in charge of the situation, God or man? Isn’t it interesting that God can use even our worst impulses for His greater purposes?
Historically, man has not stopped at killing inconvenient individuals, but has sought to destroy entire groups of people that are inconvenient. The Nazi’s killed Jews, Gypsies, invalids, and numerous other groups of people. The Chinese under Mao killed anyone with an education. Pol Pot wiped out twenty-five percent of Cambodia’s entire population. And the list goes on and on.
- Who are the inconvenient people our society has decided it is okay to kill today? Unborn babies? The old or infirm? What would God have us do instead?
- Who are the inconvenient groups in our society that we have decided that it is okay to stigmatize today? Illegal aliens? Muslims? What would God have us do instead?
- Who are the inconvenient people for the church to minister to today? Atheists? Radical Feminists? Drug addicts? Porn addicts? Homosexuals?
- Does the church view these groups as enemies to be defeated or as prisoners to be set free? Is the church attacking these groups or engaging them with Christ’s love? Which should it be doing?
- Who are the inconvenient people in your life? An irritating neighbor, co-worker, or in-law? Someone with mental illness, chronic sin, or simply an annoying personality? How will you respond to them?
Will you lash out in anger or reach out in love?
From the dawn of time, it has been human nature to crush those we view as rivals or with whom we disagree. Christ came to show us a better way. His way involves serving rather than being served, giving rather than taking, and laying down our lives instead of taking the lives or reputations of others. It is neither an easy path to follow nor a natural one, but it is the way to which He has called us and the course for which He’ll equip us if we’re willing to walk in it.
NOTE: This post is adapted from my Life’s Big Questions Series, which encourages readers to examine all of life’s questions in the light of Scripture.
Whether used for personal devotions, as family discussion guides, or in a study group, this series provides an invaluable resource for enhancing your spiritual walk.