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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Was Jesus "Political"? - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Was Jesus "Political"? - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Was Jesus Political? - Part 1
TOPICS: Jesus; His Followers and Politics

It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic for this session is "Was Jesus Political"? You know, one of the statements that is made to me frequently is that Jesus wasn't political. He didn't remove the Romans. Well, that's a partially true statement. He certainly didn't remove the Romans. But Jesus addressed what was happening in his contemporary culture a great deal. He talked to the Jewish leaders, he spoke about what the Roman leaders were doing. He wasn't running for office or supporting candidates, but he was very much engaged in what was happening in his world. And I believe we have to take our faith and engage the culture in which we live or we fail to be salt and light. We're gonna explore it in a little bit more detail. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.

I began a new study in the previous session, talking about "Jesus, His Followers, & Politics," because I wanted a topic that wouldn't be controversial. No, honestly, I don't have any interest in controversy. There's too much work to be done to fool with just needlessly stirring up confusion. But I think we need to understand the church's role in the earth, and there's a great deal of confusion around that these days, and I wanted to spend a few sessions with you exploring it. In this session, we're gonna talk about a very, really, the heart of it, I think, or at least a good introduction, and that... was Jesus political?

Now, that has everything to do with how you define the term "political," and I'm gonna work on that with you. In fact, I'm gonna give you a really brief Hebrew lesson. Aren't you excited? How many of you... yeah, sure you are. I'll teach you two Hebrew words, okay? 'Cause I only know about ten, you're not gonna learn many, okay? We could blow through my whole vocabulary in a hurry, but we're gonna do a true/false test, so I'll teach you true and false in Hebrew. It's one of the first things I learned in Hebrew school. True is nachon. Nachon. See, you're scholars. Okay, "no" in Hebrew is lo, so false is lo nachon. So nachon is true, lo nachon is false. So I'm gonna give you a little true-false test. You don't have to answer out loud. Your Hebrew's not that good. And you're gonna hear your answer in English before you figure out which one is which in Hebrew anyway, but it'll help frame, I think, this discussion.

First question is: "Jesus was", our first statement is: "Jesus was not political". True or false? I'm gonna submit to you that's false. Second statement is: "Jesus did not expel the Romans". Nachon, lo nachon? That's true, he didn't. "Jesus did not care about policy decisions". Is that true or false? I think that's false; he did care about policy decisions, and we'll look at that. "Jesus suffered because of the Roman authorities". Well, that's true, they put him on a cross. The Jews didn't crucify people; the Romans did. Crucifixion was a Roman punishment, not a Jewish punishment. That's why the Sanhedrin had to take Jesus to Pilate. They wanted the Romans to do something they couldn't do. "Jesus submitted to Roman authority". Is that true or false? That's true. He didn't go to the cross because he had no options. He made it very clear, he didn't have to go to the cross. He submitted to their authority and offered himself as a sacrifice. "Jesus could have overwhelmed both Jewish and Roman political power," true or false?

That's true. You got that one, no equivocation. "Jesus organized a political party," true or false? False, he did not. Don't think he's doing that today either. "Jesus mobilized his followers to teach the truth everywhere". True or false? True, he did. So you think he really did? Even where you work? Even in the places where your kids go to school? Even when it's politically incorrect? Are you sure? Or did you just hire me to do that? Good luck with that. And finally, "Jesus's message transformed the Pax Romana, the Roman law". That's true. The gospel finally overcame Roman civil authority and became the faith of the Roman Empire. It's an amazing story. We could go on with that list but, as you can tell in your own internal responses, and the responses in the room, there's a lack of certainty. We're a little... the whole topic makes us a little uncomfortable.

When Christians discuss current events, there's a list of ideas and words that tend to be evoked. I read them in all sorts of articles and I hear them in presentations and we're very uncomfortable with this, uniquely amongst the leadership in Christian communities. Words like "nationalism" creep into the discussion, "power-hungry". We're ashamed of the gospel so we're looking for other assertions of authority. We begin to talk about the separation of the church and state. Not only is it not a biblical idea, it's not even a constitutional idea, but that's another discussion. And often the narrative goes a lot like this, you know, God is only involved with spiritual issues. The divine focus is upon eternity, and God does not direct us to engage in worldly affairs. Therefore, Christians should strive to understand the Bible but not try to impose biblical principles upon secular activity.

That's a very popular mantra amongst many Christian communities. Well, there's a fundamental principle of biblical interpretation that if you have studied in almost any setting, conservative, liberal, anyplace along the spectrum, I suspect you have been introduced to this idea that a text without a context is a pretext, that you need to understand the biblical text in the context in which it was written in order to understand its implications for us. So that a text without that context is just a pretext. And I believe that's a sound principle. But I think what is derived from that is something that we don't talk about, that a text without application to our current context is just a theory.

If it's important to understand the context in which the scripture was written and the story emerged, I would submit to you it's equally important to understand how that truth applies to the world in which we live, or it's just theological theory. And we cannot afford a theoretical faith. I don't wanna go to a theoretical heaven. I'm not praying for theoretical healing or theoretical deliverance or theoretical forgiveness. I need to know I am forgiven and righteous and clean and justified and sanctified in the sight of God. So, theoretical faith is no faith. So if we fail to apply our faith, what we know of scripture, to the world in which we live, we are theoretical Christians, we're not real ones. I can give you some examples.

Matthew 24 and verse 35. I'm back to your notes, there's hope. "Heaven and earth will pass away," Jesus is speaking, "but my words will never pass away". That the Word of God is eternal, unchanging. It is our rule of faith and practice. It isn't nearly as much about our opinion as it is about the authority of God's Word and the truth that it reveals to us. And it's important, as Christ followers, that we submit ourselves to the authority of God's Word. I will readily admit it's not all easily understood. Not all the names are easily pronounced. There are things that remain a mystery to us. God does not take his great truths and just, he said not to cast your pearls before the pigs. It takes some determination to understand, but as you read the Bible consistently, systematically, you will gain an insight and understanding in the character of God and how he deals with his Creation.

That's far more powerful than sermons. If you haven't yet submitted to the discipline of that daily routine, I would encourage you towards it. It will change your faith. I believe it will change your eternity, but it will change your faith along the journey. Jesus said that. Now, I'll give you two passages that apply to what's happening in our world today. Genesis chapter 13, God is giving some further instruction to Abram. He's invited him to leave his home and to go to a land that he will show him, and he said that he will bless all people on earth through him. It would be hard to find a more all-encompassing promise from God. Abram's family are idol-makers, and he has to go home and sell Sarah, "We're moving, we're leaving". And she said, "Who said"? He said, "God". And she said, "Which one"? And he said, "None of those".

I bet it was a difficult discussion for a few days. What do you bet? But this is God's promise in the next chapter. It's Genesis 13: "The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him..." The only family member that went with him was not the most reliable. Abram has to continually rescue Lot. He has the discernment of a rock. I mean, he stayed in Sodom until God came. You don't want to be known as the person with the discernment of Lot. But "after Lot had parted from him, 'Lift up your eyes from where you are, and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. And I'll make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.'"

God said to Abram, "I will give you this land and to your descendants forever," period. He didn't say, "Until the United Nations disagrees," or "The surrounding nations don't like you anymore". Now, the right of the Jewish people to inhabit that land is dependent upon their relationship with Almighty God, and the times they have been separate from that land has been when their relationship with Almighty God was too distant. Through the Jewish people, all peoples have been blessed through the Jewish peoples. It tells us in the book of Romans: through them we have the scriptures, the law, the prophets. Through the Jewish people we have a Messiah. Therefore, through the Jewish people we have access to redemption. All of the things that we imagine are part of our faith came to us through the Jewish people. We are in their debt. And a part of what God said to that group of people is that land would belong to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob forever.

We're watching conflict in Israel today because there are powerful, powerful forces in our world that don't want the Jewish people to occupy that little strip of land at the end of the Mediterranean. I'll give you another passage, Zechariah chapter 12. God said, "I'm going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem". To be besieged is to be surrounded. That's a description of the map in the Middle East today. The nations that surround Israel are uniquely Islamic, they are committed to Israel's removal, destruction, and many of them openly say, Iran leads the pack in this, that they intend to annihilate the Jewish people. And if you don't know, Iran supports Hamas, who recently carried out that cowardly attack on the citizens of Israel.

Hezbollah in the North, they are desperately searching to acquire nuclear capabilities and they've said as soon as they have them, they will use those nuclear weapons upon us, whom they refer to as the Great Satan, and upon Israel who they refer to as the Little Satan. If you doubt their intent or their willingness to carry out those threats, you need to watch what's been happening in Israel since October the 7th. Don't be so naïve as to think they don't mean it about you. They do. But God said through Zechariah, that he would make Jerusalem a cup that sends all those surrounding peoples reeling. They will stagger as if they're intoxicated. They have poor judgment. They'll make reckless decisions. They'll imagine themselves to be bulletproof when, in reality, they are very vulnerable.

All of those things come with staggering as if you're in a drunken stupor. And he said, Judah will be surrounded as well as Jerusalem, but "on that day when the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I'll make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations". In spite of all the noise and beside of all the opinion and all of the threats, God said, "I will establish the people in that land". Why? We just read it. Because in Genesis 13, I made a promise. And all who try to move it will injure themselves, literally rupture themselves. Well, you know that kind of a rupture, your life may not be done but your heavy lifting is. Well, we're watching a conflict play out in Israel. It's difficult to understand if your only access point is the news. Please don't spend lots of hours and hours on that, even with your favorite conspiracy sites on the Internet. About 10 minutes a day will keep you informed. Spend the balance of your free time praying and talking to the Lord about what's happening and listening to him.

There's a paradox in current culture, and you understand it, even if you aren't prepared to articulate it just yet. You sense it, you know it, it's intuitive, because I believe, as I related to you, it'll resonate with you. I find it very true in my life that when in public, there are statements if I make them, there's a label that comes to me very quickly. I'll read you a few. See if it makes sense. If I advocate for unborn children and embrace a pro-life position, I'm called political. If I advocate for a biblical view of marriage, marriage between a man and a woman, by many I'm called political. If I advocate for a biblical view of human sexuality, if I dare to suggest that God created us male and female, and I reject the narrative that is seeking to normalize the LGBQI2, whatever, I'm called political.

If I believe that parental authority is more important than the opinion of the teachers' union, I'm called political. If I object to pornographic books in the libraries of our schools and I call for their removal, I'm called political. If I advocate for the Jewish people in the nation of Israel and I repudiate terrorism and antisemitism, again I'm often called political. When I say that illegal immigration is a bad thing, I'm called political. When I say that the government should not censor our speech, close our buildings, or limit our opportunity to declare Jesus is Lord of all Creation, I'm often called political.

Now, in contrast to that set of statements, same platform, inside a church, if I take a different position. If someone declares that they are pro choice and they support unlimited access to abortion, they're called advocates for freedom. If someone believes marriage may include any combinations of persons, animals, or things, they're celebrated as progressive thinkers. If someone believes a biblical worldview of human sexuality is wrong, that it's too narrow, it's out of date, it's bigoted, or maybe it's just plain unacceptable, they're welcomed as modernists. If someone believes teachers' unions and government authority is the preferred voice in selecting content for our children's classrooms, they're considered enlightened.

When someone places pornographic books in the libraries of our schoolchildren, they're labeled as champions of diversity. When someone demonstrates in support of Hamas, demanding that Israel and the Jewish people be restrained, they're social justice advocates. When the label, "Misinformation" is evoked and speeches censored, or vaccines are mandated for employment or churches are closed as casinos are open, the perpetrators are deemed as warriors for the public interest. Now, you understand the challenge of being labeled.

Now, just the threat of it causes us, often, to be quiet. And it's not just a threat. We understand there's real-world implications for our employment, for our inclusion in social settings, for pressures that might come to our families or our children, or our business partners, our associates in life. And the temptation too is to imagine that if we stay silent and we don't advocate for that biblical worldview or for that biblical truth, that we can avoid those seeming challenges. I would submit to you that if we remain silent, the pressures will grow, because what is pushing the narrative is a spirit of authoritarianism. It's the spirit of antichrist, it seeks to dominate. And that silence is not the preferred choice. But the courage to face the need to tell the truth and to decide how to respond.

It comes back to this question about Jesus, and the statement that I hear frequently, almost every place I go, is people will say to me, "Jesus was not political. Jesus wasn't political. You should be quiet. Don't talk about what's happening in the world". And then they'll follow that with the statement that he didn't expel the Romans, and they're absolutely right. Jesus did not drive the Romans out of Israel. And the first verse that usually is quoted is from Acts chapter 1 and verse 6. I put it in your notes. There's hope, I'm back on your notes. We'll make lunch. It says: "When he met with together..." This is post Resurrection, after a 40-day seminar with his friends on the kingdom of God, they have a question for him. "When they met together, they asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' And he said to them: 'It's not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority.'"

Are you gonna throw the Romans out? And Jesus said, "It's none of your business". That's the Living Bible. Now, he redirected their attention to the next verse. I didn't put it in your notes. He said, "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth". And we know from the balance of the book of Acts that as they chased that assignment, they came under political pressure in city after city after city, jail after jail, scourging after scourging. But this passage is often quoted as evidence that Jesus was not concerned with the Roman occupation of Israel, that political or secular authority was beyond the scope of his assignment. I disagree. I disagree with that interpretation.

I don't believe that's the message at all. I believe Jesus the Messiah didn't address the Roman occupation because Rome was to be the instrument of God's judgment upon his people. I think I can support that from scripture in just a moment. He presented the truth to his generation, but they weren't particularly interested in the truth, as much as they were consumed with the desire for an end to the occupation. They wanted political freedom. They didn't wanna hear about an adjustment of how they worshiped God. They didn't wanna hear about an adjustment of how they sought righteousness. They weren't interested in that. They liked their habits, they liked their patterns. They liked their holidays. They liked their schedule and Jesus was seen as an intruder and, unless he was going to push the political agenda that they wanted, they didn't wanna hear what he had to say.

So it wasn't that Jesus was apolitical; it was that the people of his generation, the covenant people of God, had so little interest in the kingdom of God and they were so fully invested in the political kingdoms of their generation, that they chose not to worship the Lord. I would suggest to you that this isn't a repudiation of cultural involvement, but it's the establishment of priorities. The curtain is pulled back and first things are established. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added to you". That's in the Sermon on the Mount. Look at Matthew 22. It's another verse that's often used when people are arguing that Jesus was not political. "Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' And they brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? Whose inscription?' 'Caesar's,' they replied. And he said, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'"

Had they truly turned their hearts to God, Caesar would have been irrelevant. That's the story of scripture. Some suggest that Jesus established a dichotomy here, a separation between the sacred and the secular. Again, I disagree. I believe Jesus was acknowledging the existence of different realms of authority, and each has to be considered, and each has to be addressed. We will look in future sessions, God willing, at multiple examples. We're given very clear instructions on how to pray for those who have authority over us, not to stand apart from them.

In Matthew 17, there's another tax required. This time, paid to a different court, paid through a different realm of authority. "As Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum," it's a little fishing village on the shores of Galilee, "the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, 'Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?' 'He does,' he replied, and when Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. 'What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes from their own sons or from other?' 'Well, from others,' Peter answered. 'Then the sons are exempt,' Jesus said. 'But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you'll find a four-drachma coin.'"

For those of us that live in Tennessee, that means fishing is a godly behavior. It's a way of seeking God. Just in passing. "'Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.'" Jesus instructs Peter to pay the temple tax to the Jewish leaders. However, he makes the point to Peter that he should be exempted because the temple is his Father's house and you really wouldn't be expected to pay a tax in your dad's house. But Jesus models for the disciples cooperating with the Jewish political authority. So Jesus, in his training, his teaching, he acknowledged Roman authority and the willingness to address it and to yield to it. He also acknowledged the authority of those leading the temple who he calls out in the most pointed language of being blind guides, and he says, "Don't follow them". So he's not separate from, he's not disengaged from, he's not acknowledging the superiority of their insight, their understanding, their wisdom. He is recognizing their authority, both Roman political authority and Jewish political authority.

I believe the church has an assignment to be the conscience of our culture. We can't hide in our churches and imagine that we don't have a responsibility. Let's pray for boldness:

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you've called us to this season. May we have the courage to live our faith in such a way that will impact our generation for your good, in Jesus's name, amen.

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