Jesus Christ never ran for or held a political office during his 3.5-year earthly ministry. He could have “run” for office as a political Messiah if he’d wanted to. The populace itself wanted to crown Jesus as Messiah, albeit for selfish gain. They hoped he would first restore the monarchy to Jews who had lost their nationhood status, and then throw Rome out of Palestine for good.
Yet Jesus refused both the office and the crown. Although he died as “King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37),* Jesus was and is and will always be “King of Kings” (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14, 19:16). His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Through the cross, Jesus gained the whole world and a heavenly crown (Psalm 2:8, Philippians 2:8-11, Hebrews 12:2). So an earthly crown that ruled over an earthly kingdom was beneath him.
Yet thanks to power-hungry politicians and a corrupt empire, 1st-century Judea was a minefield. Hypocritical religious leaders vied for various offices, while tax collectors cheated people as they filled imperial coffers. Zealots who tried to overthrow Rome were often crucified. How did Jesus walk through this minefield unscathed until the end? Filled with wisdom and forsaking political allegiances, he was led by the Spirit (Matthew 3:16). As a result, Jesus didn’t reveal his divine mission and the thoughts of his heart to ordinary passersby; nor did he cast kingdom pearls before swine (7:6, John 2:24). Jesus also knew the hearts of men (John 2:24-25, 6:64).
To an outsider, Jesus’ greatest threat was Rome. Popular leaders and people who fomented rebellion attracted the attention of an empire that feared for its power (Luke 23:19). So did anyone who publicly condemned Roman officials. After John the Baptist brazenly told King Herod that taking his brother’s wife was unlawful, he was imprisoned and beheaded (Matthew 14:3-10). Jesus, however, never spoke openly about a Roman official. Unlike John, he knew Herod’s heart, motives, and lineage (all the way to Adam), but Jesus contented himself with calling the king a fox when wrongly told that Herod wanted to kill him (Luke 13:31-32). And when told that Pontius Pilate had “mingled” Galileans’ blood “with their sacrifices,” Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (13:1-3). Although others thought he would condemn Pilate, Jesus wisely hid his views on Roman officials.
Still, one would expect the adopted son of a poor Jewish carpenter from Nazareth to hate Rome. However, as I explained in “Jesus and Rome,” he didn’t hate the empire or its representatives because he knew they were only doing their duty. No one else but Jesus could have healed a centurion’s servant, told Pharisees to pay taxes to Caesar, made a tax collector and a Zealot his disciples, and feasted with them (Matthew 8:5-13, 9:9-10, 22:16-21; Luke 6:15, 19:1-10).
Jesus didn’t love Judea or hate Samaria either. So he told the Jews a parable about a compassionate Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36), rebuked his disciples for wanting to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans (9:54-56), and ministered to a Samaritan woman by a well (John 4:4-28). An unbeliever might see this as neutralizing the opposition, but Jesus was only fulfilling his mission as Messiah and Redeemer.
In the end, Rome crucified Jesus like a common criminal because it alone had the power of capital punishment (John 18:31, 19:10). However, the empire didn’t arrest or try Jesus. Religious leaders did (Matthew 26:47-50, 57-68). Jesus’ words and deeds often fueled their wrath, so they sought to kill him (John 5:16, 18; 7:1, 32, 44; 10:39, 11:53, 57). Jesus never provoked these people, although he publicly condemned them. He also knew that the religious leaders could do nothing to him until his time had come (7:30, 8:20, 13:1). Before then, Jesus wisely hid (7:1, 10; 8:59, 10:39, 11:54). When his hour did finally arrive, Jesus willingly gave himself up (18:1-12).
Jesus Christ the Great Physician came to earth to seek and save what was lost by calling sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13, Luke 19:10). Because his only political allegiance was to the Father, this “doctor without borders” treated each person according to his or her needs – fishermen, lepers, Pharisees, Roman officials, Samaritans, Syro-Phoenicians, tax collectors, Zealots, etc. The church needs more such doctors, men and women led by the Spirit who don’t seek earthly power and are loyal only to Christ. She needs wise people who will minister to everyone regardless of class, ethnicity, language, nation, and political party.
* All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.