How Did Jesus View Politics?
THE Gospel writers describe several events in Jesus’ ministry that brought him face-to-face with politics. For instance, shortly after Jesus’ baptism at about the age of 30, the Devil offered him the position of world ruler. Later in his ministry, a crowd wanted to make him their king. Still later, people tried to turn him into a political activist. How did Jesus react? Let us consider these events.
World ruler. The Gospels state that the Devil offered Jesus rulership over “all the kingdoms of the world.” Think of how much good Jesus could have done for suffering mankind if he had wielded the power of a world ruler! What politically oriented individual sincerely concerned with mankind’s advancement could resist such an offer? But Jesus refused it.—Matthew 4:8-11.
King. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries were desperate for a ruler who could solve their economic and political problems. Impressed by Jesus’ abilities, the people wanted Jesus to join the political process. What was his reaction? Gospel writer John states: “Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.” (John 6:10-15) Clearly, Jesus refused to become involved in politics.
Political activist. Note what happened days before Jesus was put to death. Disciples of the Pharisees, who favored independence from the Roman Empire, joined by Herodians, members of a political party favoring Rome, approached Jesus. They wanted to force him to take a political position. They asked if the Jews should pay taxes to Rome.
Mark recorded Jesus’ response: “‘Why do you put me to the test? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one. And he said to them: ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to him: ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus then said: ‘Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.’” (Mark 12:13-17) Commenting on the reason for Jesus’ response, the book Church and State—The Story of Two Kingdoms concludes: “He refused to act the part of a political messiah and carefully established both the boundary of Caesar and that of God.”
Problems such as poverty, corruption, and injustice did not leave Christ unmoved. In fact, the Bible shows that he was deeply touched by the pitiful state of the people around him. (Mark 6:33, 34) Still, Jesus did not start a campaign to rid the world of injustices, although some tried hard to get him embroiled in the controversial issues of the day.
Clearly, as these examples show, Jesus refused to get involved in political affairs. But what about Christians today? What should they do?