If a compare and contrast is underway, one glaring contrast between Jesus and the Caesar can be found in verses previously quoted from the third chapter of John. There it is said that the covenant God of Israel “gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (3:16b-17). Caesar, the man entitled with “son of god,” was looked to as the one who dragged the world from darkness to light. With this, the parallel between John and the Augustus inscription becomes increasingly obvious.
Yes, it was Caesar Augustus who was said to have brought order out of the chaos. It was Caesar Augustus that was said to be responsible for the life and vitality of the world, with this spread throughout the world via the pax Romana (Roman peace). It is Caesar Augustus who is referred to as the “Savior” of the world. Ironically, though war would be almost endless, Augustus is credited with putting an end to war. It is worth nothing that, though death continues, Jesus is credited with putting an end to death.
For Ceasar of course, the end of war was accomplished by crushing his enemies through massive warfare. Furthermore, it is said that Caesar Augustus is the fulfillment of all hopes and in him the world has “good news.” How did this son of god “save” the world? How did he bring the world into new life? It could be argued that he did so through the instrument of death.
He, his predecessors, and those that would follows and take up his mantle, slaughtered millions so as to usher in an era of “peace” and to give their version of life to the world. Effectively, in order to give the world life and vitality through the establishment of the Roman empire, the world experienced an almost unprecedented level of condemnation. The other Son of God, however, is said to bring eternal life and peace and light, which will be accomplished and effected through His worldwide kingdom.
As the Gospel of John informs its readers, through Jesus the world will be saved, but this salvation will not come about through the world-condemning instrument of war and its power of death. Ultimately, this salvation will come about through the laying down of His own life and going willfully into death in an act of self-sacrificial love---making Himself subject to that which was (and still is) the Caesar’s only true power.
Returning to the issue at hand then, Martha can be heard speaking to Jesus and saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will grant you” (John 11:21-22). In calling Jesus “Lord,” and doing so in the context of what is increasingly looking to be a “parousia” of Jesus, Martha has conferred upon Him one of the titles that was then accorded to and reserved for the Caesar. Much like that which would have been experienced by the emperor when he would visit subjects within his realm, the one that has come out to greet Jesus makes it a point to honor the world’s ruler and to make comment upon His power.