Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series, "Jesus Answers Our Questions" looking at the question, "What are the politics of Jesus?" We looked at Mark 12:13-17.
America is now extremely divided politically, but Jesus lived his life in an environment even more highly charged politically.
Jesus did not avoid making waves. This incident took place in the last week of his life. He began the week with a parade leading Jesus in through the main gate of Jerusalem, and the crowd began singing a song about the Messiah. Controversial!
Jesus headed straight for the temple area and things got wild. Now the authorities were suspicious and angry and wanted to kill him. They sent some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him.
Political parties of 1st Century Palestine were religious and relating to Rome. The religious parties were the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees believed in resurrection and in strict observation of the law. The Sadducees didn't. Relating to Rome, the Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome. The Herodians were mostly wealthy sympathizers who enjoyed the favor of the Roman authorities and supported them.
So a group of Pharisees and Herodians was a rather odd pairing, but they couldn't imagine Jesus giving an answer that wouldn't make someone angry. It was a political hot button question. And could definitely get him in trouble with the Romans.
First they flattered Jesus, then they asked him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we or shouldn't we?"
They were talking about a specific controversial tax -- the head tax, which was a tax on your person. It was usually one denarius, which wasn't a lot, but the idea of a tax on your person was very controversial. 25 years before, there'd been a revolt led against this tax. The leader had even cleansed the temple before he was caught and executed.
So they were asking him for a yes or no answer. "Are you a revolutionary, Jesus? Yes or No?"
No, Jesus was not a revolutionary in the sense they meant.
Jesus was not and is not primarily advocating political change.
This is not the change Jesus taught about and gave his life for. The potential for those kinds of changes to effect real change in hearts and minds and habits is negligible.
It was not about politics for Jesus.
Don't give Caesar the allegiance he's asking for. Give that to God.
They wanted a Yes or No. You can't stay angry without oversimplification. Jesus refuses oversimplification. He says Yes and No in a way that's profoundly nuanced and textured, not political doublespeak.
Pastor Ed concluded with his own personal takeaways:
--I can and should be a voice of civility.
He strives to keep a right-size view of the importance of politics and not oversimplify. Using a pattern from I Peter 3:14-16, speaking "with gentleness and respect."
--I don't have to join in the hand-wringing.
The revolution Jesus is advocating brings real change to hearts, minds, habits, and ultimately cultures.