The Colosseum Sestertius
A magnificent arena for the Romans
In 72 AD, the Roman emperor Vespasian began building the Colosseum. He chooses as the building site a plot of land that his predecessor Nero had taken after the great fire of Rome in 64. The money for the construction came from Jerusalem. Vespasian’s son Titus had taken Jerusalem in the summer of 70, destroying the Temple. He has the ruins looted.
After Vespasian’s death, his son Titus succeeds him as emperor in 79. Under his reign, the Colosseum is completed: a massive structure to demonstrate the power and greatness of the Roman Empire. Titus had the Colosseum Sestertius minted to mark the opening of the Colosseum in 80 or 81 AD. The inhabitants of the empire worshipped the emperors in a cult similar to a god.
The evangelist Luke probably wrote his Gospel in the 80s of the 1st century. In his description of the birth of Christ, he draws on terms that originate from the Hellenistic-Roman ruler cult. The birth of an heir to the throne as well as a military victory are there called evangelion, good news. The rulers are regarded as saviours, bringers of peace and occasionally also as gods incarnate. In Luke’s Gospel, the true incarnate God is not the emperor, but Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ brings peace on earth. He is the saviour of mankind. The peace he brings is not the absence of war after a bloody subjugation. And his saving act is not to preserve an earthly kingdom by force. He does not come with an army. Nor does he come with splendour.
His birth does not take place in palaces, but in a simple house that simple people have to share with their animals. This true God does not lie in the beds of the rich, but in the manger of the animals. His visitors are not the lords of the world, but the simple people, represented in Luke by the shepherds. This God is there for all. Out of love, he humbles himself in order to exalt people. For he comes into the world to die and rise again for men. This is the true gospel, the good news.