Matthew / chapter 11 (read the chapter)
I write this blog with apologies to my conservative friends who cite Jesus as the reason to lobby the government to ban abortion and outlaw gay marriage and retain religious liberty. And I also write this blog with apologies to my liberal friends who cite Jesus as the reason to lobby the government to start providing universal healthcare and stop waging war and keep writing welfare checks.
The simple truth is, Jesus doesn’t support any of those political causes, because Jesus didn’t come here to help us understand the right way to run the kingdoms of this world. He came to usher in a kingdom of His own, a kingdom “not of this world,” a kingdom radically different from any government we know.
This isn’t to imply that Christians can’t have political views or that they must refrain from trying to make their earthly kingdom a better place to live “in the meantime.” But it does mean that to try to commandeer Jesus as the poster boy for your particular political viewpoint is a bit disingenuous, to say the least.
Jesus didn’t concern Himself with the politics of earthly kingdoms. And that was precisely the thing that caused so many people to reject Him as the Messiah. They were waiting for someone who would come and restore Israel’s political power! And when Jesus revealed that this wasn’t the purpose of the Messiah, they killed Him.
We see a bit of this in today’s chapter, where John the Baptist himself sent his disciples to Jesus to find out if He was truly “the One.” This was after John had identified Jesus as the Son of God at the start of His ministry. But, somewhere along the way, John must have started to wonder whether he had been correct in that identification. As he languished in prison and as the days ticked by without Israel being freed from the yoke of Roman rule, he must have wondered if Jesus was who He said He was.
Jesus sent back this explanation: “Go and tell John what you see and hear. The blind are made to see. Those who could not walk are walking. Those who have had bad skin diseases are healed. Those who could not hear are hearing. The dead are raised up to life and the Good News is preached to poor people. Blessed is he who is not ashamed of Me and does not turn away because of Me.” (vs 4-6)
I always thought that last sentence was an interesting one. Why would anyone be “ashamed of” Jesus or turn away because of Him? Why, because He was nothing like what the Israelites were expecting in their Messiah! They were anticipating a conquering king, a violent hero—not a meek, suffering servant.
Jesus continued to expand on this when He said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force.” (vs 12)
About this verse, Bible commentator John McGarvey wrote: “Jesus here pictures the kingdom of heaven as a besieged city. The city is shut up, but the enemies which surround it storm its walls and try to force an entrance. . . The gates of Christ’s kingdom were not opened until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2); but men, hearing it was about to be opened, sought to enter it prematurely, not by the gates which God would open, but by such breaches as they themselves sought to make in its walls. . . The people were full of preconceived ideas with regard to the kingdom, and each one sought to hasten and enjoy its pleasures as one who impatiently seizes upon a bud and seeks with his fingers to force it to bloom.”
Throughout Jesus’s life and ministry, there were many examples of people trying to usher in the kingdom through force:
- A mob of people actually tried to make Jesus king by force. (Jn 6:15)
- The mother of James and John lobbied for her two sons to have a prominent place in the kingdom. (Matt 20:21)
- The people thought the kingdom would come in a forceful way. (Lk 19:11)
- The disciples argued over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. (Lk 22:24-30)
- Even after the resurrection, the disciples were still looking for Jesus to restore their political fortunes. (Acts 1:6)
- And though not implicitly stated in Scripture, I believe that Judas intended to motivate Jesus to assert His kingdom through force when He was wrongfully arrested.
In worldly terms, God’s kingdom is not political. It wasn’t political in Jesus’s day, and it’s still not political. That means that neither my well-meaning conservative friends nor my well-meaning liberal friends will be able to usher in the kingdom of God via the government.
So, please, vote for the leaders you think are most qualified to run the kingdoms of this world and, by all means, support the political causes you feel compelled to sponsor. But don’t use Jesus as your political poster boy. God’s kingdom was “not of this world” two thousand years ago, and it’s still “not of this world” today.
Do you find that offensive?