Jesus and Caesar

Just about everywhere you look these days, there are articles and posts galore about the coming Presidential election, authored by Christians from all walks of life. I mentioned before that I would not be writing any additional posts on the pros or cons of which candidate to vote for, or which political party best represents the hopes and aspirations of our Christian faith and I intend to adhere to that commitment. 

What I do find noteworthy however and have selected for the topic of this post, is that Jesus lived during the time that the Romans occupied and controlled the Holy Lands. Under Julius Caesar, Judaism was officially recognized as a legal religion, a policy followed by the first Roman emperor, Augustus. The ruling Hasmonean dynasty was deposed by the Romans after the Roman Senate declared Herod the Great “King of the Jews” in c. 40 BCE, the Roman province of Egypt was established in 30 BCE, and Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom) became the Roman province of Iudaea in 6 CE.

To infer that the Romans were brutal in exercising their imposed authority on these Biblical regions would be an understatement. We know that they extracted a crushing tribute from the innocent peoples whom they enslaved. Yet there remains a striking oddity. Jesus never had anything condemning to say about the Romans. In fact, the only recorded statement where Jesus mentions Caesar is quite famous and it reads as follows:

Matthew 22:20-21 NASB”
And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

This is the same Jesus who had lots to say about the Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests and Scribes and the Jews in general. This is the same Jesus who cleared the Temple of the money changers and sellers of sacrificial  animals and birds. This is the same Jesus who said of the Jews in John 8:44 NASB “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Yet where is the condemnation for the occupying Roman authorities? There isn’t any. Does it ever cross our minds to why this is? It’s obviously not because Jesus was not aware of their occupation and authority. Jesus makes that abundantly clear when He responds to Pontius Pilate (the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea) in John 18:36-37 NASB:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”  Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

I would like you to focus on exactly what Jesus said. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.

If my kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Maybe if the Church at large had of taken this to heart, maybe if we followed the Great Commission that Jesus gave us and that God given task was our primary focus, maybe we as the collective Church, would not be in the situation that we find ourselves in today. But we haven’t done that have we?

And for some insane reason we seem to think that if we can gain power and authority over this worldly kingdom that we live in, then we will be able to impose our Christian moral will on those, whose hearts and minds have yet to be changed. And to add insult to injury, we throw stones at those within the Church, the body of Christ, who we think have walked away from following God’s will, as we perceive it to be. And what is that perceived will of God that so many pursue?  Gaining political power and authority to enact legislation and laws which adhere to our moralistic Christian thinking. Legislation and laws do not change people’s hearts and minds.

The whole point of the Mosaic Law was that we could not, in and of ourselves, perfectly follow God’s will but we totally abandon that reality and think somehow if we only can impose these laws on everyone, then we will be getting in line with God’s will. If that didn’t happen for the Jews, why will it be different for the Gentiles? I’m thinking that it matters little whether one is Liberal or Conservative because both sides have long abandoned following the principals of God’s Holiness and will. Unholy means will never justify holy objectives. Take a good hard look at the hatred and dissent that supposedly is representative of God’s mercy and justice, that is so prevalent today, and tell me that we are being Ambassadors for Christ. 

Romans 3:8-12 NASB

“And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”

The reason Jesus never had anything negative to say about the worldly kingdom that ruled all of Judaea was that the worldly kingdom of Rome was not His kingdom. So who’s kingdom are we fighting for, ours or His? 

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

 

 

23 comments

  1. Papa Bruce, if I would have known how to contact you yesterday in regards to this I would have. Nathan is also prior/retired Military and I shared some of this with him yesterday and he said the same thing as you, “whose kingdom are you fighting for?!” I said to my friend and mentee at lunch today that at NO point in Jesus’s earthly life did He know political peace nor a time without illness, sickness, disease etc. There is MUCH that we can learn from studying the historical-cultural background of the New Testament. While Jesus did have a nationalist (Simon the Zealot) in His band of 12, I am sure Christ’s denouncing of zealots and the religious elite/establishment did not always feel good (what he wanted to hear); however, Simon had faith that Jesus was who He said He was, even if it did not fit with his (Simon’s) political kingdom agenda. Love and blessings to you and Peggy!

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  2. Thanks, Bruce. We share the same thoughts. As you’ve written, Jesus didn’t concern himself with temporal politics and neither did Paul except to say we should be good citizens in order to live as peaceably as possible so that the Gospel won’t be hindered (1 Timothy 2:1-15 ). Regrettably, temporal-minded Christians took “good citizens” to mean deeply-rooted patriots. There’s no hint of Paul exhorting believers to take great pride in their city, nation, empire, etc. The idea was to be ambassadors and emissaries of God’s Kingdom, as you’ve written. The Puritans really messed up by teaching that America was the “New Jerusalem” and that concept has prevailed among Christians living in America for 400 years.

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  3. There seems to be here, as in many aspects of life, a delicate balance.
    On the one hand, as you say, our citizenship is not of this world, and the reason Jesus didn’t try to correct the Romans is that they did not profess to follow Yahweh and so weren’t responsible to follow Jewish law. (Like the pastor whose church had been firebombed, when asked if he was angry with the people who did it, said, “I couldn’t be angry with them any more than I would be angry with a blind man for stepping on my foot.”)
    On the other hand, we see in Scripture how whole civilizations were punished for the actions of their leaders, and if that was true then, when the common people had no control over who ruled them, how much more will we be held accountable when we can choose our leaders? For this reason I try not to get into worldly political arguments that would alienate someone I might otherwise lead to Christ, but come election day, I’d better be (prayerfully) voting!

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  4. Bruce, you said it matters little if one is conservative or liberal. I don’t think that is the case anymore. In case you haven’t been paying attention, 1 party is heavily influenced by marxist ideology which is evil. Dr Thomas Sowell and many others are experts on this topic. Also, why would Jesus speak about the Roman Gov’t when no one had a vote? The Jews had virtually no influence. There was no democracy in Jesus day. Based on your line of thinking, there would be no America because you would have advocated being loyal to England. America, for all it’s sins, and we have many, has been a beacon of freedom all over the world and check against evil against terrorist countries like Iran & others; Marxist and Fascist countries like Nazi Germany and today’s Communist China. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. If we don’t stand against evil, evil will run amuck. I agree whole heartedly that the Church has failed in it’s mission. How many Christians do you know who are actually sharing their faith outside a church walls? How many Pastors are sharing their faith outside the church and then talking about that experience behind the pulpit? Jesus is our model. He didn’t stay in 1 place and expect everyone to come to him. He went anywhere and everywhere testifying to the Truth and calling people to repent. I thank God for bold leaders who inspire me to share my faith more. People like Ray Comfort and Ken Ham who will talk about the issues surrounding the election. Because election has consequences. Of course we can’t change hearts. Only God can do that. But we can change laws and save beating hearts and precious life from being snuffed out. Thank God for the Puritans. I thank God for their writings and their sacrifice.

    A different persepcive,
    Michael Lind
    Silver Lake, OH

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    • Hi Michael, thank you for commenting. There are a number of your points that I could take issue with but I do understand where you are coming from. I personally spent 35 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and served in numerous foreign countries around the world, including some within the Middle East, so I am aware of the privileges we have and how they were won. I think there is a danger when we begin to demonize all within the Democratic Party. Of course elections have consequences and I am not advocating that we not participate in our voting responsibilities. What I do advocate is that we remember the bigger picture (which of necessity would include the Kingdom of God) and that we are called to be ambassadors for Christ in all of our dealings with others. My understanding is that there are none of us that is without sin. Sometimes we forget that and quite frankly, we shouldn’t. There is nothing wrong in loving your country or being willing to stand up for our freedoms but we must also be mindful that nationalism is temporary and the Kingdom of God is eternal. Blessings to you and yours Michael and thank you once again for commenting.

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      • Bruce, I appreciate your response. God bless you for your service to your Country. Please don’t paint a broad brush and misrepresent what I stated. There are many elements of both the republican and democrat party’s. Both good and bad. I wasn’t demonizing the democrat party or liberals. There are many democrats and liberals that love America. God bless them. But there’s a glaring problem when 1 element begins to dominate all elements of a particular party. To the point where we are defunding police that serve and protect minority communities that already have high crime and underserved. The problem with many and probably the majority of Pastors today is that they are more afraid of the mob than they are of God. They are more afraid of offending a democrat giver than standing up for the unborn. They are not sharing their faith outside the church and talking about that experience behind the pulpit. And the results are that according to Barna stats, only 2% of Evangelicals actually ever share their faith. We have a leadership problem in the Church. I agree with your point that we can’t legislate behavior. However every law is based on someone’s morality / worldview. Abortion is evil. We can’t force people not to have sex obviously, but we can make it rare to have abortions in this Country. And the problem Bruce, too many Pastors aren’t speaking up. Ask Dr James Dobson. Ask Janet Parshall. I have. I already know their answers.

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      • I hear what you are saying Michael and I don’t necessarily disagree with most of the points you are making. The issues are complex and I surely don’t profess to know all the answers. I know one thing, Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing and that is pretty inclusive. Jesus also told us to learn of Him so that is what I try to focus on. Hope I did not offend you because that was clearly not my intent. Blessings and God’s grace to you and yours.

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  5. Not at all offended Bruce. Thank you for your respectful reply’s. I’m just challenging Pastors and Churches that want to keep Christianity out of politics. God bless you in your ministry of Apologetics for the Kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

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