Jesus & Politics | For King & Country PART I | Rage & Worship | Psalm 2 & Matthew 22:15-22
Topic: New Testament Passage: Psalm 2, Matthew 22:12–22
Christopher Rich – October 25, 2020
Jesus & Politics | For King & Country
PART I | | Rage & Worship | Psalm 2 & Matthew 22:15-22
Introduction | Jesus & Politics: For King & Country
Good Morning Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are beginning “Jesus & Politics: For King & Country”
“This is the most important election of our lifetime!” “The fate of the country and our democracy is at stake!
“You cannot be a Christian and vote for Donald Trump!” “I couldn’t go to a church where there are people who voted for Obama!” “Jesus was the first socialist!” “America is a ‘Christian’ Nation!” “(X)Want’s Tyranny!”
I’ve heard all of these in the last several years. From traditional media to social media, sports and streaming services, social science and climate science, even down to the coffee beans and garbanzo beans we choose; even the Avengers showing up to a rally, every aspect of how we participate in the public square seems to be influenced by a political message or position. The church in America is not immune to our highly politicized culture. It seems people are either eager to coopt Jesus and the church for the advancement of their political goals or pretended that somehow religion and politics do not have an impact on one another. How are we supposed to effectively navigate politically in this environment? There is so much pressure to engage, so many landmines to avoid, and so much temptation to check out of politics all together. So rather than remaining silent in the face of contradictory and incendiary language or to shout over opponents, let us have a civil discourse around the two topics we are told we are supposed to ignore. Let’s talk Jesus & Politics.
JESUS - Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, is the central figure of history. This is not hyperbole. Across nations, continents, languages, and cultures our world has literally counted every year in relation to Jesus arrival in history. During his 33 years in 1st century Judea, Jesus never held political office, owned land, or led an army, yet he was an unmatched revolutionary consistently calling people repent of sin and join the Kingdom of God. The only crown Jesus wore was made of thorns. It was placed on his head during a coronation of humiliation before his state sponsored execution by the Roman government working in tandem with the religious elites of the day. The Romans mockingly labeled Him, “King of the Jews,” as he hung on their cross. To the religious, Jesus’ crime was claiming to be God and the promised “Messiah” of God’s people. The word “Messiah” or “Christ” is a comprehensive term including BOTH Savior AND King, meaning the identity of Jesus (God the Son) has both religious and political implications for everyone created by God.
POLITICS - Politics is power. Specifically, how power governs people in various sphere of influence. Politics is the debates and conflicts around how power and policies will be used to further human flourishing. Paradoxically, Politics both reflects and reenforces our societal and culture norms. It can serve both as a mirror to who are now, and a window to where we are headed. We live in a culture where every arena of society infused with political overtones driving various agendas. Because Politics involves power and people, how it is used and stewarded matters greatly. For disciples of Jesus Christ, our motivation for faithful political engagement should be driven by reimagining the familiar rallying cry “For King and Country”.
WHICH KING? “Didn’t we fight the Revolutionary War with England to not be subject to a king?” Yes and no. While we no longer subject to the King of England, everyone is subject to the authority of King Jesus. From the first garden to the final city the Bible consistently describs the royal identity of Jesus of the Universe.
He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. - Revelation 19:13,16
If Jesus is not only a King, but THE King of Kings, then how we respond to Him is an inherently political statement. We will either rebel against Jesus as King in favor following a lesser king or queen (usually ourselves) OR we will respond to Jesus with the worship and reverence He deserves. If we desire Jesus as our savior, then we must also pledge allegiance to Him as our King. Other figures can command our respect, obedience, and even at times captivate our affection. However, it is King Jesus who we must continually recognize as our greatest authority and the one whom all our actions flow from and allegiance/affection flows to
WHICH COUNTRY? - “I live in the United States, I am an American, how does that impact my politics?” When Jesus was before the Roman Governor Pontus Pilate facing execution and being interrogated about His identity as King of the Jews, He responded with this: John 18:39 | Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” How do Christians, subject to King Jesus understand our citizenship and show appropriate patriotism, when his His Kingdom is not of this world?
Philippians 3:20 | But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Citizens of Heaven - If we are “in Christ”, then our citizenship, our primary and preeminent allegiance, and homeland is Heaven. God also determines the times and places in which we live and we are called love the people and places in which we live. If you live in the United States in this season it means you have a charge to love, care for, be concerned with, and faithfully engage with the affairs of America in a unique way.
2 Corinthians 5:20 | Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Ambassadors for Christ – While we called to seek the welfare of the places and communities God has called us to live in, we have, in a sense, a “dual citizenship”. Our primary citizenship is in Heaven, but we are also concerned right here and right now living as “Ambassadors for Christ”. He is our King, we are representing and inviting people to experience the life and love of Heaven (Our Country). This has an impact on one’s eternal destiny AND their current place of dwelling. It means our church is an “embassy” where citizens of any country or nation are invited in and welcomed to learn, hear, see, and experience the beauty, truth, justice, and mercy of God’s Kingdom and our King Jesus. While an ambassador for Christ, we also enjoy the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in America, this is our secondary citizenship. While secondary it is still highly significant. Therefore, we work, live, and vote in ways that promote the flourishing of all people we have an opportunity to impact. While our greatest longing is for heaven we also desire, pray and act for God’s Kingdom to be realized “on earth as it is in Heaven”. This means we serve our King buy loving our country and our communities here and now, but this is difficult.
PART I | Rage & Laughter | Psalm 2:1-9
Ps 2:1-9 |Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
We were made for worship, to reflect God’s glory and respond to God’s leadership. From rejecting the first commands in the garden, revolting in the wilderness, to the regicide of King Jesus on the cross; humanity has consistently chosen to respond to God’s good provision and purpose with rage over worship. This has been the disposition toward God the King from the beginning. The first vote we ever made as humanity was to declare our independence from God. The issue on the table was will we, or will we not, submit to God.
“We the people of the Garden in an effort to form a more perfect union declare our independence from our Creator and do so though casting off the totalitarian restrains of His one oppressive law of refraining eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
We have collectively formed nations and governments seeking independence, not from tyranny or evil, but from God. With the promise of freedom (breaking from bondage) and flourishing, nations plot to overthrow the one true source of life and joy. Is it any wonder that our current political discourse is filled with such vitriol? We need to recognize how our rage plays itself out on a national, global, and political scale so we can be reorientated to worship for our joy. It says the nations rage? Which nations? All of them. Persia, Egypt, Rome, UK, North Korea, Canada, and the USA. There is great unity for the purpose of opposition to God’s authority in their individual and collective lives and the assertion that self-rule would lead to greater flourishing.
The rejection of God is also a rejection of Jesus as God‘s anointed. “Anointed” is where we get the concept of Messiah and of “Christ” It’s the Savior-King of God’s People. Jesus can be just about anything but King. God leads His people through His Son Jesus so to be against Jesus is to be against God. World leaders gathered together are asking “how are we going to overthrow the Good God the Creator” who they’ve recast as the evil emperor we can easily forget who the good side is in this conflict. The reason for the rebellion us wrong understanding of who God is and what His rule looks like in our lives and our world. It is believing an old but effective life that “We can do it better than God.” and twisting God’s character so to be under the rule an authority of God is to be in some sort of bondage to be cast off. They see and feel the tension of brokenness lives and world and they have placed the blame for the burden and sin on God, Yet, it’s God desire and character of compassion to bring abundant life and joy. God is not the one who puts us in bondage, He is the one who brings freedom. Rage and Rejection is a group effort but a foolish one. Ultimately all their intentionality, unity, and plotting is in vain. What a comfort in the first sentence of the first verses all of this conspiring, all of this turmoil and raging against God will be for nothing. They can plan all they want in vain.
God responds to their plot not with fear and concern but with Laughter and Derision – God is looking at all this plotting misunderstanding of who He is and His reaction is laughing. He’s ridiculing their plan (overthrow God’s authority) He’s mocking their purpose (to have our independence). Because it’s worthy to be mocked. Are you kidding me? You think the God who created sex, chocolate, and sunsets is too oppressive so you plan is wage war to set yourself against this God for the purposes of your independence will lead to greater joy? You fool! Your party platform is faulty from its inception, let the incumbent lay God’s plan. God has a counsel, a plot, a purpose as well. Ya’ll want to be king? The throne is not vacant, but that seat is taken. I’ve got a king for you I’ve already established. So you’re trying to come together and unify in opposition of God and His Anointed and I am telling you He’s already been set on His holy hill. Who is the King? God’s Son who is commissioned to possess and rule the whole earth! Jesus is God, Jesus is King, these two truths require either reception and response of humble worship or rejection and opposition. The nations want unity, God wants unity too UNDER the authority of Jesus the strong warrior King. God’s answer for our rage is our repentance from our rebellion and pledging allegiance to King Jesus for our peace and savior as our refuge.
PART II | Render & Worship | Matthew 22:15-22
Matthew 22:15-22 | 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Debating with Jesus - If Jesus is King, then engaging with Him is an inherently political activity. We can learn a lot about how to faithfully view politics from how Jesus engaged with the partisan issues of His day. Jesus has entered the capitol city during a massive religious/patriotic festival with Roman troops in the city to prevent riots. Jesus is popular and the powerful cannot stand it. With a platform of free food and free healthcare, and religious renew, if there was an election that day Jesus wins in a land slide. The various social and political groups in Jesus’ day were united in their opposition to him. Bipartisan plan for power.
Pharisees - socially and religiously conservative, they have been consistent opponents of Jesus as he has engaged with “unclean/unworthy” people. They are nationalistic, red-blooded patriots of the nation of Israel. They cannot stand the Roman occupation of their land and they long for a return to prominence and self-rule they experienced back in the golden age of King David and Solomon. They are not alone… Herodians- Elitist, globalist, not particularly religious unless it suits them politically, integrated with Rome. They are violent to their political opponents, morally reprehensible specifically when it comes to sexuality and family relationships. Herod has recently killed John the Baptist at the request of his second wife who was his brother’s wife/cousin. Both groups are identified not by their nationality, citizenship but their political party. Two parties, working together seeking to get Jesus to fit into (or be rejected by) their tribes. They’re seeing to undermine his influence with their political litmus tests in order to pigeonhole him into one specific party. Never underestimate the unifying power of the opposition of Jesus. Jesus is the anti-politician- They say four things about Jesus. You are true –You teach the way of God truthfully –You don’t care about anyone’s opinion –You are not swayed by appearances – He is not running for office or seeking votes or approval from people. He knows he’s the king.
Tax Question (v17) – They try to stoke controversy by asking “is it lawful” to pay a tax to Caesar. They are asking if it is morally right or proper for Jews to pay a specific “Poll Tax” to Caesar. It is believed that people in first century Palestine were some of the most taxed people in the history of the world. 20 years earlier there was a tax revolt in Jesus home region of Galilee where Rome came in and wiped the biggest city in the region off the map. The army that actively oppresses Israel is funded by their direct taxes. They are forcibly paying for their own oppression. This Poll Tax to Caesar wasn’t a property or sales tax it, didn’t go to fund roads or schools. It was a direct wealth transfer from 99% of Israel’s people to the 1% of Caesar. So to pay, or not to pay, that is the question. Even the way it’s asked the word “pay” is actually translates to “give” implying Caesar doesn’t deserve it. “It’s my money, why would I give it government.” Jesus is stuck, they’ve got him. Those that pay and hate the tax, present, so if he says simply “Pay the tax.” He could alienate huge portions of his people while seeming to align himself with the hated Romans. If he says “The tax is exorbitant and it funds an immoral godless government, don’t pay as an act of civil disobedience, in fact I just cleaned out the money changers let’s abolish the Roman IRS next.” The Herodians present, “loyal” to Rome, will charge Jesus with treason if he starts calling for rebellion.
Hypocrites (v18) - Their entire hope in this conversation is to use a divisive political issue to weaken Jesus standing with his people and in the culture. There are always people willing to use Jesus to score political points and there are always those who hope to delegitimize Jesus by tying him negatively to their political opponents. Jesus calls these men out as the hypocrites they are for speaking well of him when they at their core opposed to him and seek to trap him in a debate. It’s one thing to know you’re trying to be trapped in debate; it’s another thing to be able to get out of it. Don’t argue with Jesus, you’re going to lose.
Render Rightly (v19-21) - Jesus response is “show me the coin for the tax.” The tax was paid with a certain coin, a denarius. Jesus see the coin and asks who’s “likeness/image” and inscription is on the coin. This coin didn’t just have the image of Caesar on it (no big deal to us we put presidents on ours.) The confession of any Roman Citizen is “Caesar is Lord” The coins inscription says “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” The people of Israel were required to pay their taxes, with a coin whose image and inscriptions has an exclusive truth claim that Caesar is the son of God and worthy of worship, and Jesus affirms Caesar’s claim to this tax. “Render to Caesar what is Caesars AND to God what is God’s.” To “Render” is significant, it is different than the “pay/give” word used by the Pharisees. Render means “to pay what is owed” What Jesus is teach in this moment is a concept that transcends a tax controversy. He is making a massive shift in the nature of God’s people’s relationship with the civil governments of this world. Jesus says we have a responsibility to our civil governments AND to God. This creates two distinct spheres. Two spheres but they are not equal, and they are not entirely separate. There is earthly government whose sphere exists inside the sphere of what is God’s domain. We serve Caesar in a way that honors God. There is not a part of Government that God doesn’t care about or lay claim to; from national defense to parks and rec.
There may be a separation of Church and State, but that doesn’t mean a separation of Jesus & Politics.
What does that mean for us today? The current partisan divide of Right & Left should lead us to be at least a little unsatisfied with how we identify and engage with politics. By avoiding the simple polarization of today’s right and left, Christians are not seeking a soft centrism or impotent moderation. Rather we pursue clear convictions with compassion to form a prophetic voice which transcends parties while pointing our ultimate allegiance to our King Jesus, and eternal hope in His Kingdom. It also means how we vote matters.
“Who you vote for is not a spiritual matter.” Wrong! Who or what you vote for or against is a spiritual as how you vote with your dollars or how you vote with your body. Your vote is not a love letter or doctrinal statement, but it is an act of stewardship and discipleship. If you are a Christian, you are not your own you are God’s. If your God can’t come with you into the voting booth, or the town square, then you won’t let him into the bedroom, or your wallet, or your family, or anything of any import or value. We don’t sit elections out and we don’t disengage from our cities AND we don’t forget His mission. Love God and Love People, means we vote to love our neighbors as ourselves. It requires wisdom and discernment to look beyond (not past) personalities and preferred pundits to platforms promoted and policies enacted.
Marveled and left vs Worship and Remain - Jesus’ opponents marveled, impressed but yet they still leave and go their own way. Do not make the same mistake! Don’t place your identity and hope in your political affiliation or candidates’ fortunes. Following anyone but Jesus is eternally foolish. Opposition to Jesus led to the cross, but all their plotting was in vain. While it appeared to be successful, Jesus dead in the tomb, influence ended, election over, it was God who laughed because His plan, promise, word in this situation wasn’t rage but “resurrection”. Tiberius is dead, Rome is in ruins, at some point we will be dead, and the US will be no more, but Jesus Christ the King is alive. He has people in His kingdom from every nation and His Kingdom will last forever! We will find our place of blessing and refuge in our King when we Trust Jesus!
More in Jesus & Politics | For King & Country
November 8, 2020Jesus & Politics | For King & Country PART III | Hope & Humility | Isaiah 6
November 1, 2020Jesus & Politics | For King & Country PART II | God & Government | 1 Samuel 8 - Rom 13