ut cognoscatis quia in eo nullam causam invenio et purpureum vestimentum et dicit eis ecce homo
Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. And he saith to them: Behold the Man
Ioannes 19:5 (Biblia Sacra Vulgata)
Ecce Homo, “Behold the Man”, Pontius Pilate had derided Jesus who had proclaimed himself the King of Jews and the Son of God. The Jews could have a king. David and Solomon had come before. The Jews, forever in anticipation of a deliverer from their exile, could reconcile with Jesus being the Son of God, the much awaited Messiah. Yet, he had become at once treasonous and heretical.
The politics of the crucifixion of The Christ has shaped the history of the West since. ‘Was it the Jews or the Romans who were responsible for the murder of the Son of God?’ has been the religious tension about one who was neither, having transcended the identity of both the Jews and the Romans. That enlightenment can be heard in his words in his answer to Pilate that Pilate had no power over him unless that power was handed to him from above, reflecting on the arbitrariness of human judgment. Jesus had, therefore, held those who had handed him over to the Romans, his fellow Jews, of greater guilt for arrogating the power of the God unto themselves for they had no way to know if indeed Jesus was The Christ except to wait for it to be borne out by the course of events. Instead they had decided that he was not, as skeptical Jews, neither believing nor unbelieving (John 19:10-11, NRSVA Bible).
Pilate then defers to the judgment of the people of Judea, to a system of plebiscite in the Roman principality, to a system of deciding the fate of other human beings which is not unknown to Rome. His fellow Jews vote to crucify him and save Barabbas, not because they believe that Jesus is dangerous as the Temple did, but because they believe Jesus is naive. That the militant resistance of Barabbas to Roman authority is a better a course of action. They conceal their contempt for the Romans by calling Jesus a traitor to Rome, conceding their allegiance to the Roman emperor (John 19:13-16, NRSVA Bible), knowing full well that the return of a king does not amount to heresy in their faith.
The radical reinterpretation of the Jewish faith by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, NRSVA Bible) while favoring him with the people, pits him against both the Temple and the rebels. The corrupt Temple coopts Rome to retain Jewish religious autonomy while staying a Roman principality and the rebels do not see love and forgiveness of the oppressor as the answer to the Jewish condition. The enlightened man sees corruption in both the Temple and Rome, seeing them not as fellow Jews and Romans but as fellow human beings who know no better (Luke 23:34, KJV).
The miracle of Jesus to attain peace requires love, forgiveness and compassion in the face of injustice, oppression and evil. It requires repentance for one’s own sins to sin no more. It requires appealing to goodness in the heart. It requires change in human nature for the better and the good. Jesus is about moral suasion, about following the Law of Moses as it is. He is about anger against relative morality, immorality and the hypocrisy in the self-righteousness of the Children of Abraham and of people at large.
Righteousness (dharma) and contentment (Buddha) were indeed the core of enlightenment ideas that had preceded Jesus for nearly a millennium, if only it were that easy in human affairs, as true as that is. Human judgment is necessary in humility and in cognizance of the human condition of fellow human beings. Human beings cannot do away with condemnation and judgement of each other for it is an aspect of human nature. Then how can human beings live together in justice, love, happiness and peace when the perfection of the noble cannot exist without the imperfection of the ignoble in human nature? And especially, when without such a perfection for perpetual reciprocity of goodness among human beings there cannot be eternal peace.
The Holy Roman Empire after 1000 years of darkness and Medieval stasis, not after one millennium of peace, could only rejuvenate and be reborn because of the confluence of the message of Jesus and the metaphysical rationality of the Greeks and the Romans, for how are fallible human beings to reconcile the perfection of absolute goodness (eternal survival) with quotidian human existence?
The notion of social justice (not the natural law) in the teachings of Jesus, especially ideas about the redistribution of wealth in a world of finite resources and that plentitude would follow goodness toward fellow human beings as a matter of God’s creation are indeed naive for this is not the natural order of things. Violence and corruption are just as naive if not myopic for the inevitable end would be sooner from violence begetting violence than the later end from goodness begetting goodness because at some point the plentitude, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, will all gradually dry out into deprivation, dearth, famine, human destruction and death in ways that are beyond human control and the best of human behaviors.
On balance, in the Dionysian tug of war between self-destructive impulses in human nature and the more constructive goodness toward fellow Man and nature, organizing human societies in a manner that incentivizes good behaviors improves the chances of the species to survive longer in harmony with its natural earthly habitat. This is where human condemnation and judgment come in, almost as a matter of instinct of the human organism’s God-given desire to perpetuate its own survival until it no longer can, morphing and fading into the celestial dance of the cosmos that is not human, eventually and inevitably as one with God.
Only in death could Jesus become one with The Christ and can the Hebrew exile end. Christianity is the return of Judaism to its core values, its resurrection, just as The Buddha, 300 years before Jesus, had returned imperial Hinduism to its moorings.
Eternal peace only belongs to God (Ishwar, YHWH, The Christ, Allah) who is beyond good and evil, for we are but Men, in flesh and blood.
Ecce Homo. Behold the Man, made in both good and evil ― by our instinct to survive.