When Julius Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River on this day, January 10th in 49 BC, he violated the law (the Lex Cornelia Majestatis) that forbade a general to lead an army out of the province to which he was assigned. His act thus amounted to a declaration of war against the Roman Senate and resulted in the three-year civil war that left Caesar ruler of the Roman world. As he crossed he proclaimed “the die is now cast” meaning he was breaching a point of no return.
“Crossing the Rubicon” became a popular phrase describing a step that commits a person to a course of action. It applies well when a new believer repents of his old life and commits everything to Jesus Christ.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a wonderful sermon about this saying
“If Caesar crossed the Rubicon, there would never be peace between him and the senate again. He draws his sword, and he throws away his scabbard. Such is the act of baptism to the believer. It is the crossing of the Rubicon. It is as much as to say, ‘I cannot come back again to you. I am dead to you. And to prove I am, I am absolutely buried to you. I have nothing more to do with the world. I am Christ’s and Christ’s forever.”
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he halted for a while, and, revolving in his mind the importance of the step he was on the point of taking, he turned to those about him, and said: “We may still retreat: but if we pass this little bridge, nothing is left for us but to fight it out in arms.”
While he was thus hesitating, the following incident occurred. A person remarkable for his noble mien and graceful aspect, appeared close at hand, sitting and playing upon a pipe. When, not only the shepherds, but a number of soldiers also flocked from their posts to listen to him, and some trumpeters among them, he snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran to the river with it, and sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed to the other side. Upon this, Caesar exclaimed, ” Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the iniquity of our enemies call us. The die is now cast.”
C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Suetonius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars; An English Translation, Augmented with the Biographies of Contemporary Statesmen, Orators, Poets, and Other Associates, ed. Alexander Thomson (Medford, MA: Gebbie & Co., 1889).