I’m picking up where I left off in the previous post.
Hope that’s okay.
I had to run some errands around noon, and as I was driving up to the drug store, I got to thinking that it always annoys me when folks people drag Jesus into politics (as the Pope did – see my previous post)
“Jesus wouldn’t want you to build Walls”
“Jesus would support gay marriage.”
“Jesus wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump.”
“Jesus wouldn’t say Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”
Okay, I made that last one up. At least I think I did.
Jesus didn’t like it when they tried to drag Him into a political debate.
And, no. I’m not being a hypocrite here. I don’t base that on my psychic abilities to read the mind of Jesus.
Notice I didn’t say “Jesus wouldn’t;” I said “Jesus didn’t.”
The fact is, this attempt to drag Jesus into politics has been going on since Jesus walked the Earth.
See, the Pharisees and the priests really wanted Jesus to go away.
He was gaining followers and — giving the Pharisees the benefit of the doubt here — they wanted to expose and discredit Him if he was a false prophet.
So it wasn’t uncommon for the Pharisees or their disciples to follow after Him and try and trap Him.
Consider it the Biblical version of trolling.
They would ask Him questions that were designed to either catch him in a lie or a contradiction of Scripture.
But that wasn’t their only option.
If they couldn’t expose him as a false prophet, they would see if they could get him politically – either by exposing him as colluding with the Romans or expose him as a traitor to Rome.
See, Judea and Galilee were under Roman rule at the time. And it wasn’t a particularly popular thing among the Jews. There were Zealots who wanted to run Rome out – including Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus’ disciples.
And if the Pharisees could get Jesus to weigh in on this politically-explosive topic of Roman occupation, they might be able to get Him into trouble with Rome.
That way, if the Pharisees couldn’t stop Him, maybe Rome could.
What they decided to do was have their trolls lead Jesus into a political trap.
So one of their trolls asked, “Teacher, you’re a smart guy and have a lot of integrity. And we all know you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You don’t get swayed or influenced by others. In fact you don’t pay attention to them at all. So, let me ask you your opinion on something.”
[Okay, I’m taking liberties with the passage. Consider this the New Dianny Version of the Gospel of Matthew. But it’s true to the text.]
Anyhow. You probably recognize the style of trolling here because our American news media uses the same tactic: flatter, say a bunch of stuff that’s irrelevant to the question you’re about to ask in order throw the guy off. Then spring the question on him.
In that sense, the guys following Jesus were more like Jim Acosta than trolls.
So after all the prefacing, the troll finally gets to the question.
“Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
And there it is, the first time Jesus was dragged into a contemporary political debate.
But, (and this is probably self-evident since we’re talking about the Son of God), Jesus isn’t a stupid man.
He knew exactly what these trolls were trying to do.
And He let them have it.
“You guys are hypocrites,” He told them. “Why are you trying to trap me?”
And then Jesus did something that He often did when these guys tried to drag Him into a trap. He turned it around on them.
He asked them to show Him the coins used to pay the imperial tax. So the trolls pulled out the Roman money. And Jesus said, “Who’s face is that? Who’s inscription is on the coin?”
The trolls answered, “Caesar’s.”
Jesus said, “So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And give to God what is God’s.”
And with that, He shut the trolls down.
[If you want a less Dianny-style version, this is Matthew 22:15-22. You’re welcome to look it up.]
Even His own disciples tried the political route with Him.
When a woman in Bethany anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, the disciples got a bit irritated. And they muttered about it to each other.
“This perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.”
And being the Big Picture guy that He is, Jesus told them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” [Matthew 26:6-13]
Now, here’s the point I’m trying to make.
Well, several points actually.
The first is this. Jesus was not there to arbitrate or offer His opinion on the current political climate in Judea and Galilee.
His goal was far more long-term than whatever political hot-button issue folks were arguing about at the time.
He wasn’t going to be dragged into the temporal, very temporary politics of the moment.
Whoever runs the government and what agenda they choose to pursue has nothing to do with Him.
Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
If Jesus didn’t appreciate being used as a political tool back then, something tells me He probably doesn’t appreciate it now.
His concern is for each individual — not politics, foreign policy, national security or taxes.
His Kingdom is not of this world. [John 18:36]
He came to call the sinners to repentance, not moderate a political debate.
And, if you want my take, invoking Jesus in a political debate is a prime example of “taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
It doesn’t elevate the debate.
Instead, it diminishes Him.
Jesus isn’t a Magic 8-Ball.
He isn’t Mr. Opinions.
And He isn’t a Pundit.
He is the Eternal Son of God; the Savior.
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus (Y’shua), for He will save His people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:21]
Does that sound like someone who is eager to be used as political bludgeon?
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