The Political Climate in Jesus’ Time


At the time of Jesus' baptism, a contrast existed, just as it does today, between what people thought of Jesus and what God thought. Coming from Nazareth, there was a question that followed Jesus all of his life, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” This was certainly not the most "promising identity"[i] for one with such a monumental task ahead of him, but the Father had already openly identified Jesus as His Son the day he was baptized. Through his intimate knowledge of the scripture, Jesus now understood his God-given identity through three unique Son passages, Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, and Gen. 22:2. This unique identity but old familiar term brought to mind the willingness of Isaac to be sacrificed and the required obedience of Davidic sonship.[ii] Jesus' genetic code, or his DNA, was all there in the scriptures,[iii] and had he not have known them, he would have missed his true identity and would not have been able to withstand Satan's attack on his identity immediately following his baptism.

Jesus was aware of the people's expectations of him. Many of these expectations were scripturally based, and he could have easily sought to interpret his own ministry and mission in relation to them.[iv] The political climate of that day was right for the making of a false messiah, if one had a mind to capitalize on the angers, frustrations of the people, and even to feed them false hopes. Jesus' mission was squarely based from the scriptures using passages and types already established in the scriptures. Jesus avoided the frequent use of the term ‘messiah’ even though it was a very popular term. The political climate of the day was so charged with hopes and angry aspirations of a Messiah in the political sense. Jesus, knowing the times and knowing the deeper sense of his mission through knowledge of the scriptures, avoided falling into the trap of the peoples’ expectations of him.[vi] By using the term ‘Son of Man’ to describe his mission, he avoided "the package of misunderstandings surrounding other familiar messianic titles" and conveys "his own true perception of who he was and what he had come for."[vii]  

He avoided the trap of being pushed into a role based on popular opinion. There were the Zealots who sought to overthrow Rome's occupation by violence, and on the other hand, there were the Pharisees who sought to bring about revolution to make Israel distinct again by their own brand of holiness. Jesus answered the Father's call for holiness, but he defined it in a more practical way of loving your neighbor as yourself,[viii] a way that put him at odds with his contemporaries’ more ritualistic approach to holiness. Contrary to God’s definition of holiness, the politically correct missions of our government today with all its humanitarian efforts, pompous declarations and charters are no different. God simply defines holiness as being benevolent and compassionate to others, just like He is, without all the fanfare.[v] Jesus threatened the whole system and its very existence with his application of the law, for he set himself in its place.[ix]  By feeding constantly and meditating deeply on God's Word, Jesus avoided these pitfalls and became what God had sent him to be instead of what the people want him to be.   

In the recent 2008 Presidential Campaign, new contribution records were set, especially among the younger generation, and the resounding theme was "change." This was a clear indication that majority of the people had placed their faith in a political party to bring about that change, for the Bible says, "Where your treasue is there your heart will be also."[x] In this atmosphere of change, hope, backed by action (contibutions), was at an all time high. We got change alright, but during the election buzz, people wanted change so badly that most failed to ask what change meant. If we adopt the world-view of the Bible, we know that politics is not the solution. We as Christians always get into big trouble when we put our faith in the political systems of this world. From Daniel’s prophetic view of all the empires of the world leading up to the awesome Day of the Lord, we see that Kingdom of God will crush all the kingdoms of this world:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Dan. 2:44

 God’s hope is clearly defined in His Word. When we are filled with expectation of change as described in the Word and when our giving starts to back our expectations, we will have the God-kind-of-change that this world so desperately needs today.

[i] Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), page 104.
[ii] Ibid, 109.
[iii] Ibid, 110.
[iv] Ibid, 137.
[v] Ibid, 201.
[vi] Ibid, 146.
[vii] Ibid, 149.
[viii] Ibid, 201.
[ix] Ibid, 221.
[x] Matt. 6:21 KJV.

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