Good Friday, the Gospel of John, Fake Peace, and Real Peace

From Peter Leithart, who is brilliant:

...Rome brings final peace and justice to the world.

There was something to that, but in the trial of Jesus we discover the blunt injustice and bald pragmatism on which Roman peace was founded. Three times Pilate declares Jesus innocent: I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him. But the Jews insist that since Jesus has made Himself a king, He threatens the Roman empire, and it’s clear from the agitation of the Jews that Jesus threatens the peace of Israel. If I don’t get rid of Jesus, Pilate reasons, I’m going to have no end of trouble from these Jews. I could lose support in Rome, and I could lose my job. It’s better for one innocent man to die than for me to be faced with enraged Jewish agitators. It’s better that one man die, than for me to lose the perks of being a provincial governor.

This is Roman peace. It is peace founded on the murder of the innocent. It’s a peace designed to protect the interests of those who hold power. It is peace from the barrel of a gun. Augustine recognized that Roman peace is a kind of peace; you can keep most people quiet if you have enough guns. But it is only a shadow of the tranquility of order that is true peace.

For their part, the Jewish leaders realize that Jesus threatens the nation – or, more precisely, their leadership of the nation. “One man must die for the people,” Caiphas said, thinking not of substitutionary atonement but of national survival. If Jesus isn’t stopped, he reasons, then the Roman army will come crashing down on us to destroy the temple and scatter our people.

In the event, we know this is ironic, because the New Testament shows that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus and the apostles is precisely what brings the Roman siege engines to Jerusalem. That irony is already evident in the trial itself. The Jews are given a choice of Jesus or Bar-abbas, Jesus or this other “Son of the Father.” They choose Bar-Abbas, and that choice expresses a political agenda. For Bar-Abbas is not a “robber” but a rebel leader, an insurrectionist, a bandit who uses his banditry to destabilize Rome. We could without much exaggeration call him a terrorist. This is the man the Jews want more than Jesus. This is the path they choose. To save themselves from the Rome, they choose a man who devoted his life to provoking Rome. [...]

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