In the days of Jesus, Jerusalem was filled with division. The separate groups, like the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the Lawyers, the Essenes were vying for position and rule. They also vied against Herod, and against the Samaritans. They were also divided against Rome.
This was about position, self-preservation and covetousness. It was mimetic, each one wanting what the others had, and plotting how they could obtain it. They couched their desires in religious justification. We can see this clearly in how they tried to deal with Jesus.
Jesus was a threat to them all. If his kingdom of care for others came in, it threatened to take away the unfair advantage they had built up over others. John described the rise of the popularity of Jesus through the miracles he performed, especially through the miracle of the loaves, the man born blind who was healed and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Great numbers of people believed.
Dealing with the threat of Jesus was the one thing that could unite all the factions, and give the leaders a consolidated power over Jerusalem and its wealth.
The way the leaders came against Jesus followed the usual scapegoating strategy. They used faith and a sense of righteousness, godliness or morality against him. They claimed he had broken the sabbath, while this wasn’t true. The sabbath was about freeing people from economic slavery, the kind Pharaoh kept the people in. Jesus freed people on the sabbath.
They said that if they didn’t deal with Jesus, the Romans would come and take away the temple and the nation. This “sanctified” anything they may do to Jesus to prevent it. It gave them a patriotic and a holy reason to act. They would be “saving the temple and saving God’s holy people, Israel.” But they weren’t truly concerned for these things. They cared about their positions and the riches these positions gave to them. This repeats itself in our own time. We come against the “enemies of God,” in an end-times kind of battle, when our true aim is nationalism and economic control.
Jesus was also a safe person to scapegoat. He didn’t have high connections, with powerful people who could act on his behalf. He didn’t have an army on his side. He was weak and vulnerable, a perfect person to scapegoat. They could kill him and his followers would scatter, just like they did to other people who had threatened them.
They called their violence holy. This was their blindness. Their violence was actually self-serving, led by a satanic principle of rivalry. When Jesus challenged them about this point, they refused to accept it.
John traces the mimetic desire in Jerusalem from the beginning of his Gospel. At first, they wanted to make Jesus king. This was for the same reason that Israel of old wanted a king: someone to go before them in battle, to mimic the nation around them, to take control over the riches. This is the kind of kingdom satan offered Jesus in the temptation.
But Jesus replied in John 3, that instead of being king, he had come to be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness. This meant to be crucified. He wouldn’t do the scapegoating, but he would be the non-violent scapegoat. In saying this, Jesus lost his early following.
If Jesus wouldn’t give them the riches they fought for, then they could still make use of him. They would use him to consolidate their power over the people. They would kill him to “save the people from God’s curse.” They would blame him for the rivalrous divisions in Jerusalem, diverting attention from their own unjust rule.
Jesus perceived their plans. In John eight he said they were going to kill him. They denied it. When we gang up against someone, we also deny our ill intent and claim to be acting righteously. We claim to be saving the church, but we don’t save the true church this way. We are really saving our own position. Jesus said they didn’t care for the weak as a true shepherd, but were self-serving. (John 10) Jesus said their form of government was satanic and it brought the leaders themselves into slavery.
They were serving the satanic impulses of rivalry. They said they were children of Abraham and were free. They meant they were free in the sense that they still had the temple and nationhood under Herod. Rome had not overcome them fully.
Jesus claimed they were in bondage to mimetic desire. They desired the honour of man and the positions and wealth it gave them. They desired to be the greatest among the people. This brought them into bondage, to a continual cycle of scapegoating and murder of others.
So long as they were led by the wrong kind of desire, they would be caught in the snare of satanic violence. They had to exchange their desire, for a desire to please God, not because God has this need, but because God directs us to love our neighbour. This alone frees our heart from self. Freeing our heart from self, frees us from violence, which frees us from satanic control.
The Pharisees denied their slavery to satan, but immediately the proof of what Jesus said was there.
They tried to trap him with the question about the woman caught in adultery. It was a scapegoating snare, to give them an excuse to act violently, not just against the woman, but also against Jesus, by showing that Jesus was against the law, and therefore accursed by God, and punishable by death.
They couldn’t free themselves from this satanic slavery, so long as their desire was to be exalted among their colleagues. This desire enslaves us into a life of offering our neighbour on the altar of our progress.
We see their scapegoating again with the man who was born blind. He was cast out of the community, considered unclean due to his physical condition. This was routine in their religious culture. Human religion was actually a mask for the process of eliminating others. It ritualised the process of the expulsion and murder of the weak.
Even Christianity can be used in this way. It can be used to alienate and cast away others. Religion can become our covering for building a wall around our community that excludes others. The kingdom of God comes to reverse this process, to lead us to include and heal the weak and sinner.
Religion in Jesus’ time was the routine of excluding the poor, the sick, the sinner, the foreigner, the woman and the unbeliever. The prayers and worship of the people cleansed them in their acts of separation, and thus active or passive violence, against others. Religion was the legitimisation of their murder and self-service. The gospel of Christ came to eliminate our religious myths, by exposing them, and showing us the real value of other people we scapegoat.
Father of Lies
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) This shows the principle that has held civilizations in bondage since the very beginning. It also shows the satanic nature of our religions, when we use them to hide and sanctify this killing process. God worked with us in our religions, but at the right time he sent Christ to expose the lie imbedded in sacrifice and renew our lives towards his real kingdom of peace.
From the beginning, murder has been the satanic way of organising our leadership. This began with Cain. The lie is that there is some self-justifying, some righteous or holy cause, for this kind of leadership. This was the lie satan told the Pharisees. This was the lie Jesus was pointing out. This is the lie he backs violence up with today. The cross of Christ reveals satan to be father of all who tell this lie of violence.
It’s Better They Die
The rulers used the law to condemn others, which brought unity and cohesion to their own group and plans. Their sense of righteousness in condemning others, gave them a legitimacy to rule. It strengthened their position.
Those cast out paid the price for the leaders’ positions and enrichment. The ones cast out held the receipts of payment for the unity of the city, which God will honour in the resurrection. “The last shall be first.” Satan comes in the guise of religious purification, but the agenda is really to “kill, steal and destroy.” (John 10:10) Now this act of purification, this act of killing and sacrifice for the good of the group, for the good of the civilization, would turn against Jesus the Christ.
“As the High Priest put it, killing him would ensure the salvation of their people. “Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish?” (John 11:50
In other words, it is always better for the weak person to die, than for us to lose what we have. It’s better that the weak perish on the oceans as refugees, than they come here and spoil our nation. It’s better that others perish in our international arms trade, than we scale down our arms industries and the profits from sale. It’s better that farmers in poor countries suffer, than we allow their products to be sold in our country. It’s better… it’s better…
This is how our nations work. The High Priest put his finger on the button, “It’s better an innocent die for our wellbeing.” This is how things worked since the beginning, the hidden principle of our pagan myths, now exposed in the gospel of Christ. This exposure works as leaven, renewing our treatment of the weak, turning us from violence to nurture the outcast.
People Became One
John eighteen and nineteen trace out the mimetic murder of Jesus. Starting and from Judas and then moving to the false trial, which was necessary to kill an innocent victim. They showed Peter being drawn away by the memetic gravitational pull of the crowd. They showed the mimetic force building in the crowd, that finally called out in unity, “Give us Barabbas.” They showed the unity of the leaders of Jerusalem, which had previously been divided in complete rivalry. They show Pilate handing over a man he knew to be innocent. They showed that the killing was public, like a stoning.
The whole crowd cried out, “Crucify him.”
In every case above, people were giving up an innocent man for the sake of their own agenda or safety. Clearly, just like with any scapegoat, Jesus died for the people. They killed him to save their own careers and backsides. The act brought unity to the crowd and once again strengthened the leadership of the people, both the Jewish and the Roman leaders.
All were forced to succumb to the mimetic control of the crowd. Even a great governor of Rome had no choice but to yield. Only Jesus was free from this satanic mask. Only he was free from the guilt, whether active or passive, of condemning the innocent. This is how Jesus took our sin. He bore our guilt of condemning an innocent man, without retaliating, without joining in the violence.
And this act of Jesus showed us another way. He forgave us. He showed this is how we deal with rivalry. We conquer rivalry with reconciling actions. He showed us to bring in the innocent and the outcasts, not to accuse and kill them. When our civilizations have this new non-pagan heart, our world becomes like the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God ousting the kingdom of satan.
Those who study ancient pagan myths show that all the myths depict a guilty person dying, later becoming divinised in the mythology, due to the miracle of reconciliation among the people. Many scholars agreed with this and added that Christianity was just another myth, just like all the others.
They claim that Christianity is just one more myth of a guilty victim, whose death brings a sense of reconciliation to the people’s lives and so Jesus has been divinised, just like the past gods.
But Girard disagrees, and this is what led him to Christ. After studying the pagan myths, Girard finally turned to scripture. What he saw in the scripture was the complete opposite of the myths. The bible exposed the innocence of the victim. And the death of Jesus was the same. It exposed the guilt of the community and the innocence of the victim. It did the opposite of all the pagan myths. It revealed our human violence, by showing our guilt in victimizing the scapegoat.
Before Christ, we got away with our demonic form of leadership. But this didn’t work with Christ.
This is part of what Paul meant by Jesus’ death “making the powers of this world naked, putting them on a public display.” We could scapegoat others, and blame them for our sin, but with Jesus this didn’t work. He didn’t have any sin.
Nobody accused Jesus of sin. None of his disciples did. The Roman governor said he was innocent.
The biblical account consistently revealed his innocence. This makes the bible unlike any of the pagan myths. The resurrection proved his innocence. God overturned the false trial of Jesus, by raising Christ from the dead. This revealed the real motives behind our pagan scapegoating. Only an innocent victim could reveal our heart. The innocent victim had to be God in the flesh, as no one else is innocent enough. No one else could reveal our paganism.
The death of Christ revealed the innocence of the victim. This transforms our civilizations.
Wilberforce saw the innocence of the salve. This had never been seen by our pagan cultures before.
This is a complete opening of our eyes, which completely transforms our way of treating others.
In the early church, the weak and vulnerable, would have a protection and a voice equal to others.
To kill a weak person was to kill Christ again. This transformed their style of leadership. They served the weak, the outcast and the sinner, bringing a new kingdom to light in their lives.
The process by which Jesus was killed is repeated every time we use “righteousness” as an excuse to isolate and harm others; every time we use “righteousness” as an excuse not to serve those of other races, faiths, or political persuasions; every time we use righteous anger as an excuse to hate, to act in active and passive violence, and fail to be our neighbour’s keeper; every time we blame the homeless for their plight and leave them outside.
Every time we use our “righteousness” as an excuse not to serve the person on the road to Jericho, or not accept someone different to us as our neighbour; every time we reject a sinner; every time we fail to reach out to refugees; every time we fail to bring justice to the poor and foreigner; every time we fail to speak for those afflicted by war; every time we fight people in the name of Jesus; every “righteous cause” by which we fail to love our neighbour as our self, is crucifying Jesus again.
An event that influenced me as a youth, happened when a group ganged up against a weak boy, tied him to a tree and set off low-powered fire crackers against his flesh. Like Paul, I was there, holding their garments. I saw the tears coming down the boy’s face. I saw the innocence of the scapegoat. It struck my heart. I thought, “Why are we doing this?” From that day on, I tried to identify with Jesus, who was the scapegoat, not with those doing the scapegoating.
This must have effected Paul greatly. As he watched Stephen being stoned to death, having his vision of Jesus in heaven, forgiving and not hating his enemies, it must have struck Paul’s heart. “Is this the way to bring about righteousness,” he must have thought, “killing those who don’t conform to our faith?” Soon, Paul’s entire world was turned around. He left behind this pharisaical, satanic, sacrificial ritual of punishing sinners, and started washing their feet, following the one he loved.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2)
The reason why someone is born blind, and cast out as a sinner, is not because he has sinned, or his parents. God is not punishing them. We are the ones who punish others, or we punish ourselves.
When we see those who suffer, it’s a chance to shine a non-pagan light into the world, “so the works of God may be revealed.” What are these works? Bringing the person in and caring for them, acting oppositely to the satanic powers of the world, whether the person is a friend, foreigner, sinner or enemy. These are the works of God.
Mimesis rivalry ends in service.