When Julius Caesar died, it was said that he arose to the heavens as a star and was thus deified. His adopted son, Octavian, who would later be more famously known as Caesar Augustus, identified himself as the “divine son.” Therefore, Augustus’s rule was meant to be seen as divinely ordained and empowered; he was the “son of god.” And in the chaotic aftermath of Julius’s assassination, the message was clear — all one had to do was give complete loyalty to Augustus, and in return he promised peace — the PAX ROMANA.
Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus’ birth would be accompanied by the appearance of a star?
Is it any wonder that the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)
Is it any wonder that Jesus would be known as the Son of God?
The apostle Paul writes his letter to the Colossians in a most ironically appropriate place: a Roman prison. And from there, Paul not-so-subtly lets them know that in Christ, a new, different, and subversive kingdom exists. No promise of “pax” from a human king will do, as all human kings and queens, systems and militaries, philosophies and ideals fall short of the glory of God. This is why Paul will urge in chapter 2: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
This is not competition between forces. This is God’s desire to see the people of the world experience shalom, holistic all-around peace, that can only happen in dependence on Christ. This is Paul’s motivation for so strongly emphasizing Christ’s supremacy — the desire that the whole earth would know God’s everlasting peace.
- Have you ever put your trust for “peace” in your life in something that disappointed?
- Where do you place your trust now?
- How does Paul’s undercutting of human authority make you feel (nervous, relieved, angry, confused, etc.)?
- Are there any changes you can make your life, so that you can “continue in your faith, established and firm, and not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col. 1:23)?