A summary of my current understanding of Jesus is that he made possible the downfall of Roman imperialism using the traditions of Judaism as a source for a revolutionary social ethic and a liberating community. This is expressed most succinctly in the third gospel (“Luke”):
“The poor are favored, because the divine government will belong to you. You who are now hungering are favored because you will be filled. You who are now weeping are favored, because you will receive joy. You are favored even when others hate you and shun you and pick on you and slander you just because you bear the character of the humanity’s destiny. Be happy at that time and jump for joy, for all will have abundance. Why, their patriarchs did the very same things to the messengers of their day. BUT– It will be hell for you rich people, because you’ve had your fling. It will be hell for you whose bellies are full now, because you’ll go hungry. It will be hell for you who are mirthful now, because you will sob and weep. It will be hell for you when everybody speaks highly of you, for their patriarchs said the very same things about phony messengers of their day.”
(Luke 6:20b-26, personal paraphrase based on Clarence Jordan’s “cotton patch version”)
This advocacy of divine revolution incurred opposition from the Roman tyrants and their collaborators. Jesus was executed for his message. After his death, his followers began to have visions of him miraculously transformed into an immortal body. Jesus’s revolutionary message was mutated into an otherworldly salvation using elements of Greco-Roman mythology, (a process actually begun in Jewish apocalyptic writings).
The impact of Jesus on Roman imperialism is expressed in the biblical claim that “Jesus is Lord,” not Caesar. That Caesar is a false liberator, bringing oppression, not emancipation. That Jesus is the symbolic planetary sovereign and his divine revolutionary movement will transform the entire world.