Was Jesus politically active? Or did Jesus avoid politics?

Was Jesus politically active? Or did Jesus avoid politics? Would you believe – yes and yes? Yes, Jesus was politically active? But Jesus avoided politics? How can that be? And more importantly, why does it matter?

Was Jesus politically active? Or did Jesus avoid politics?

The answer to all those question is in the adjacent image. Choice. Our choice, to tell the truth. After all, Jesus made His choice. Quite clearly.

The question is, will we, as Christians, abide by His choice?

Or, for those who aren’t Christian, will someone try to do their own thing, say it’s what Jesus did, and hope Christians will go along with their claim? Of course, not bothering to verify the validity of the claim.

Let’s examine the two questions and see what we see.

Was Jesus politically active?

It’s really not that hard to find incidents in the Gospels and claim they’re about politics. And they are, in a sense.

Here’s one.

Jesus at the Temple – Matthew

21:12-16 pp — Mk 11:15-18; Lk 19:45-47

Mt 21:12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’’”

Mt 21:14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

Mt 21:16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“ ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’ ?”

Mt 21:17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.The Parable of the Lost Coin

That’s political activism, isn’t it? Well, it’s certainly activism. But is it politics?

Let’s look at another one before we decide on whether or not it was about politics.

The Calling of Matthew

9:9-13 pp — Mk 2:14-17; Lk 5:27-32

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This one certainly sounds like one of the political attack ads we have to endure on TV every time an election is coming up. So it must be politics. Right?

Again, let’s defer the decision. We’ll check out one more incident.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

22:15-22 pp — Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Once again, the passage appears to be political. After all, Caesar’s in there.

But hold on a moment. Have you noticed something about these three passages? Jesus avoided governmental politics in every one of these.

  • In Jesus at the Temple, it was completely about the Temple. My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers. There was nothing of the government at all.
  • In The Calling of Matthew, it wasn’t about the government either. Yes, I compared it to a political attack ad. But in this case, as with many other incidents involving Jesus and the Jewish leaders, it was about The Jewish leaders and what they were doing to God’s chosen people. It was not about government. Jesus made this clear when He said, For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
  • In Paying Taxes to Caesar, the Jewish leaders tried to make it political, bringing taxes paid to Caesar into the conversation. However, Jesus refused to take the bait. Refused to get into governmental politics. He did that when He said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. In other words, Jesus refused to mix man’s governments with God’s Kingdom.

So, if Jesus was politically active, it was in areas where the topic was about God’s people, God’s Kingdom, Etc. When there was even an attempt to bring in the political and power structures of people, Jesus refused to enter the fray.

Ultimately, in these passages, when we ask if Jesus was politically active, we can choose to say yes. But in no instance was it about the politics of man. It was about God’s Temple, God’s people, and the separation of what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.

Did Jesus avoid politics?

We’ve already seen one case where Jesus avoided politics. But there’s one incident, probably more than any other, where this avoidance and even separation of man’s politics and power from God’s Kingdom and power is made extremely clear.

Jesus Before Pilate

18:29-40 pp — Mt 27:11-18, 20-23; Mk 15:2-15; Lk 23:2, 3, 18-25

Jn 18:28 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

Jn 18:30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Jn 18:31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32 This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

Jn 18:33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jn 18:34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Jn 18:35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jn 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jn 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Jn 18:38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

Jn 18:40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

To make it abundantly clear, notice when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jesus absolutely refused to get into the politics between the Jewish leaders and the Romans. It meant His death. But all He did was make it clear to all, including to us today, that Jesus’ Kingdom is from another place. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.

And He wasn’t going to get into the politics of this world.

Conclusion – Was Jesus politically active? Or did Jesus avoid politics?

Was Jesus politically active?

Yes, Jesus did get involved when people, especially the Jewish leaders, were leading God’s chosen people astray. Corrections needed to be made so people could be saved under the New Covenant, ushered in by His death on the cross.

If we choose to call that politics, of a sort, so be it. However, it’s best that we realize it was limited to the kinds of things we looked at above.

Did Jesus avoid politics?

Absolutely yes, if they involved the power structure or the politics of men.

And why should Jesus be involved in them? Jesus came to save our souls. And part of that was teaching us to follow His example. His example with Pilate was to say that His Kingdom wasn’t from here. It was in another place. Jesus didn’t need to get involved in politics here.

And the truth is, I can’t see how there’s any sort of politics in God’s Kingdom. Certainly not of the kind we know here. His is a Kingdom. With the ultimate benevolent King. Further, one who every Christian willingly bows down to. There’s no need for politics.

Should we be involved in politics?

I’m only going to answer this from a Christian viewpoint. A Christian example of what we should do in politics in Jesus’ name. And in that strict sense, no, I don’t believe we should be involved in politics. In other words, we should not bring Jesus’ name into a place where He so clearly did not go Himself.

Jesus made no attempt to force His teachings on anyone.

Not through His followers. Although that has been done throughout the years. Oftentimes in tragic ways.

Not through the government. Jesus didn’t try to force His teachings on people either through Herod or through the Roman government. Although we try to do it now, I believe it also has many tragic results.

Christians forcing their co-called Christian beliefs on society through legislation turns off a lot of non-Christians. BTW, it also turns off many Christians. Including me. It’s not following the example of the namesake of our religion. It is bringing Jesus into an arena He chose not to enter while He was alive.

When Jesus returns to earth, things will be different. But this just isn’t the way we’re supposed to behave now. God will judge everyone when the time comes. We are not to judge non-believers.

So, for those of us who live in countries that have some sort of elections, it’s certainly part of our rights as citizens of those countries, to participate. However, to drag our Christian religion into it, I just feel is misplaced. Yes, Jesus did tell us to bring His message to the world. But He never said to do it through man’s government or man’s legislation, or by force, Etc.

When it comes to Christianity and politics, yes we can choose to mix them. However, I believe we should first decide whether we want to follow Jesus’ teachings and examples, to whether we want to go our own way.

In other words, we can choose to follow the God of the Bible.
Or we can choose to follow the god of politics.

But choose wisely. Your eternal soul may depend on your choice.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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