They say that in polite society, we shouldn’t talk about politics or religion. Well, let’s break all the rules and talk about both. At the same time.
No, I’m not going to talk about Donald Trump and the Christian vote. Let’s tackle something bigger, with longer-lasting consequences.
Jesus Christ is not a political figure. He had – and has – a much wider purpose than that.
Some people try to politicize Jesus, claiming that He stands for their political or social viewpoint. He hates gay marriage and abortion so He must be Republican, right? He’s all about love and wouldn’t judge anyone, so He favors the Democrats, right?
You and I can make the Bible say just about anything we want it to. We do that by emphasizing certain parts of it and ignoring the rest.
But God doesn’t work that way. If we decide what parts of God we like and which parts we don’t, then we are making ourselves to be God – and the true God is just our puppet, whatever we want Him to be.
No wonder God says He’s a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).
God has a much higher calling than to play these games. He is God, after all.
Jesus is God. This becomes clear in the gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him … And the Word became flesh and lived among us …” (John 1:1-3,14)
Therefore, Jesus also has a much higher calling than to play political games.
Let’s take a tour through the gospel of Matthew, written by that disciple of Jesus to an audience of Jews, to show that Jesus is not a political figure, even though other people tried to turn him into one.
First opponent: King Herod
Not long after Jesus’ birth, King Herod saw him as a future political enemy. Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem to pay homage to Jesus. “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened …” (Mat. 2:3) As a result, Herod tried to kill Jesus: “… for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Mat. 2:13)
Why would King Herod care about a baby, unless he saw the child as a threat to his own power?
In response, his parents, Mary and Joseph, fled the scene (Mat. 2:14) until Herod died and the threat was over.
First adult opponent: Satan
As an adult, Jesus could choose His own path. First up: Satan himself tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Mat. 4:1). Among other things, Satan offered Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world, “if you will fall down and worship me.” (Mat. 4:9) If Jesus wanted political power, He had the chance right there to be the greatest ruler this world has ever seen. Jesus turned him down cold: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” (Mat. 4:10)
Blessings and faith
The Sermon on the Mount, recorded in chapters 5 through 7, records nothing political. He talks about blessings, salt and light, fulfilling the law, anger, lust, divorce, vows, retaliation, loving enemies, giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, money, worry, criticizing others, asking, heaven, fruit, and building our house on rock or sand.
These are spiritual issues. Jesus has a much different take on anger, lust, divorce and money, for example, than politicians do. Read the Sermon on the Mount and discover this for yourself.
Faith trumps politics
Next, Jesus encountered a Roman centurion, a military figure in that time period. Jesus praised this centurion for his faith (Mat. 8:5-13). Faith rises above politics in Jesus’ eyes.
Soon after, Jesus called Matthew, author of this book, and challenged him to “follow me.” Matthew was a tax collector (Mat. 9:9), a Jewish person employed by the Romans to tax the Jews, often unfairly. We think the IRS is evil; the IRS is nothing compared to the cheating, traitorous, overcharging tax collectors of Biblical times.
When Matthew left his job to follow Jesus, he made a permanent break. He lost his tax booth permanently. Faith trumped politics big-time in Matthew’s life.
Something old, something new
Next, Jesus told the disciples of John that the Holy Spirit is an entirely new game, not even a new take on the religious/political system of the day. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Mat. 9:16-17)
Jesus brought an entirely new way of thinking and living to this Earth. It didn’t fit in with the old system; it required a different mindset and lifestyle.
This was radical then, and it’s radical today.
For example, the religious leaders had turned the Sabbath into a do-no-work-under-any-circumstances day, with a couple of loopholes. Jesus threw all that out and changed the game. Jesus let his disciples pick wheat on the Sabbath because they were hungry, and he healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath because He could (Mat. 12:1-14).
Next comes a chapter of parables, none of which are political: four soils, weeds, mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure and a fishing net. Jesus is changing the mindset and lifestyle of His listeners, nothing less.
Misunderstanding the parade
Let’s jump to Palm Sunday. Jesus orchestrated a parade for His entrance to Jerusalem, even though He knew the religious leaders there wanted to kill him. He did not hide from his accusers at all.
Most interesting is the response of the general population. Those attending the parade shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mat. 21:9)
Why “hosanna?” They wanted a military leader to overthrow oppressive Rome.
Hosanna, according to http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/hosanna/ is a joyful Aramaic exclamation of praise, apparently specific to the major Jewish religious festivals (especially Passover and Tabernacles) in which the Egyptian Hallel (Psalms 113-118) was recited. Originally an appeal for deliverance (Heb. hosia na, please see Psalm 118:25), it came in liturgical usage to serve as an expression of joy and praise for deliverance granted or anticipated. When Jesus came to Jerusalem for his final presentation of himself to Israel, the expression came readily to the lips of the Passover crowds. (emphasis added)
Hosanna is a military term of deliverance from oppression. Later in the week, when the crowd realized Jesus wasn’t going to do that, they ordered Him crucified (Mat. 27:15-26).
Jesus’ real purpose
One footnote during Holy Week: Jesus supported paying government taxes. “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mat. 22:21)
Jesus even supported the government leaders and their taxing authority as they were finalizing details to crucify Him. He did not change his “morals” just because His life was threatened. Who has that kind of moral backbone today?
Jesus had one purpose in coming to Earth: to make His Father personal, to offer intimate relationship with Himself to us. That’s it.
Jesus’ mission and ministry were 100 percent spiritual. Politicians and religious leaders could not kill him or defeat him, although they tried. Jesus had – and still has – a much higher calling.
This is good news! As Jesus taught, we are so much better than what we’ve become. It’s time we started living like it.
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