God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part V
The New Testament Part I – John 19:6-16
The crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ stands alone as the single most important moment in all of history. Christ is a revolutionary, and very political. Christ came as the fulfillment of prophets claiming a King, a Messiah, would come and this was the hope of the Jews. Jesus was the king of the Jews, yet not what the Jewish people envisioned as their King. They had hoped for a strong military leader, one that would destroy their enemies, and look like an earthly King. When Christ started his ministry, he began performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. The Pharisees were greatly troubled by Christ’s teachings because Christ was teaching about freedom from the law.
The culmination of Christ’s ministry came when he was to be crucified. Jesus was captured and taken to Pilate to be sentenced to death. Pilate questioned Jesus asking him if he was the king of the Jews. In verse 10 Pilate asks Jesus if he realizes that he has power either to free him or crucify him. Jesus’ response to Pilate could be one of the most politically charged statements of all time. “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (11) To stand before a Roman governor and tell him that he is essentially powerless against you is a bold statement. The response of Pilate is even more confusing. One would think that this would infuriate Pilate, causing him immediately to grant the Jews their wish, to crucify Jesus. The text simply says, “From that point on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free.” (12)
Jesus’ dealings with the government in this passage look different from those of the Old Testament. Jesus was a prisoner; he did not choose to go and appeal to the government. Instead, Jesus was taken there to defend himself against the charges of claiming to be the Son of God. Christ was very aware that he would be captured and taken before Pilate and Herod. He even set the events in motion himself so that he would have the opportunity to stand before them.
“Since Jesus’ birth, he had been at odds with the establishment. They wanted him dead ever since the rumors about the other King of the Jews. Because of this Jesus had, for the most part, stayed on the fringes of public life, insisting that the kingdom he preached and represented be undetectable to the powers. But now he had paraded into the center of power, flipped over its tables, and hosted a public and critical teach-in, creating the conditions for his arrest. Now under government control he is questioned.” (Claiborne and Haw 2008: 109)
Christ is the ultimate example of a conscientious objector. Time after time in his ministry he did things that the political powers of both the church and the government thought were against the law. Christ continually found ways to approach things from a different perspective, a third way. The religious leaders would try and trap Christ yet he was always able to provide an alternative for how to participate in society.
As I study Christ I am constantly reminded that I should take a step back from things and look for the third way. More focus will be spent on this in the application section of this essay, so stay tuned. In the next post, we will look at another New Testament example.
|Ben Dudley was born and raised in Texas, though he has always felt like he belonged on the West Coast. He and his wife now reside in Portland, Oregon. Ben is a graduate of Baylor University in 1999 with a Church Recreation and Leisure Services Degree, and is currently two years into a Master of Arts in Global Leadership Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in two different churches prior to moving to Portland where he and his wife, along with a core team of people are planting a church. Ben also works with CrossTraining-US where he serves as a chaplain to professional soccer players in Portland. He considers himself a very lucky man to be married to his beautiful wife Jamie, who is his best friend and partner in ministry. They both love to travel, eat good food and spend time with friends and family.|