Jesus is political. That’s how He died.
In this season of everyone pitching their political beliefs—including my favorite kind of naysaying, Facebook critics—Christians quickly get out of control. In the midst of it all, it’s really easy to lose sight of who is really ruler, Jesus, as Eugene Cho recently pointed out. It’s also easy to lose sight of just how political Jesus is and what that means for us.
Our Opposition Is Everywhere—That’s the Choice We Made
Jesus’ entire identity opposed the worldwide power of Rome. Mark’s Gospel starts with, “Beginning of the good news of Jesus the anointed one, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). This echoes decrees sent out by Caesars, and Tiberius’ silver denarius, which read “Tiberius, son of the divine [Augustus], [himself now] Augustus.” Jesus’ ministry and personhood made claims that were anti-Caesar and thus anti-Rome.
Now, Jesus could have overthrown Rome—Peter gave him the opportunity when he pulled out his sword when they came to arrest Jesus—but Jesus didn’t make that move. Jesus isn’t anti-government; he is pro our primary identity being in God. But if that identity directly conflicts with the powers that may be, we must be willing to put ourselves on the line for the sake of God’s will.
Taxes Are Actually a Reminder about Our Identity
When it came to taxes, all of Jesus’ worldview was wrapped into his answer: “Give to Caesar the things of Caesar” (Matthew 22:21). The coin had Caesar’s image (Tiberius). And by the coin proclaiming this image in association with divinity claims, it was anti-God’s image. God’s image is perfectly manifest in Christ. That’s what the focus should have been. Jesus turned the tax conversation into a currency conversation and the currency conversation into a God dialogue. He finished with, “and [give] to God the things of God” (Matthew 22:21).
God is our master. Finances are a piece of that, but Jesus’ message is larger: identity in who God is, is what matters. Let’s focus on that.
The Powers Aren’t that Powerful
Later in Jesus’ life, Jesus says to the Roman governor of Judaea, Pilate, during his trial, “You would not have any authority over me unless it was given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has greater sin” (John 19:11 LEB). Jesus is not only political, he makes clear where political authority actually comes from—God allows it.
God doesn’t appoint political figures, per se, but he certainly allows the authority they have. He could, at any moment, take it for himself.
Are You Willing to Die for Politics?
Jesus lived as a political figure. He died because he was one. Before Pilate the Jewish authorities desiring to kill Jesus even say, “We have a law, and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself out to be the Son of God!” (John 19:7). They go on to even make the remark, “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar! Everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar!” (John 19:12). It’s all political.
Politics may have sent Jesus to his grave but they didn’t keep him there. Jesus rose because his powers far exceeded those any political figures could dream of. His powers far exceed those any political powers have today or ever will have.
Jesus may have gone rounds in politics, but he seems to always feel a little annoyed in the process. He really cared about battling the unseen darkness. Pushing back against the powers that were controlling people’s hearts and stealing their lives is his focus.
We should care about what’s going on right now. Who we elect matters. But who we elect is only a temporary decision. What we do with the choice of Jesus is eternal. What we do with the decisions we’re faced with—to help and love others—has eternal effects. It changes their lives forever, or if we don’t act, doesn’t at all—an even sadder reality we often ignore.
I haven’t cast my vote yet, but I know that wherever I land, Jesus is still the focus. Whether I vote for Governor Romney, President Obama, or write the name in of my college roommate, the eternal politics and real spiritual warfare will wage on.