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Jesus as a Threat to the Politics of His Day, Both to Rome and Jewish Authorities
Religious people have for a long time viewed Jesus as a supernatural being. The implication of this is that the ministry of Jesus is viewed in the context of miracles and not the real history. However, understanding the Jesus as a sociopolitical being calls for him to be viewed as a human being who lived based on the geographical location of the historical context. Most of the researchers argue that Jesus cannot be clearly understood unless his historicity is taken into consideration. It is for this reason that scholars have accepted that Jesus was a Galilean who lived in the then Palestine in the 1st century. The life and ministry of Jesus must be addressed and analyzed in the context of the sociopolitical and economic situation in Palestine at the time.
In his ministry, Jesus sought to make a distinction between those who would make the cut as people of the covenant and those who would not. This made him come into conflict with the religious leaders, the guardians of the law and the guardians of the temple. From the very start, the language that was used in describing Jesus as King, Lord, Messiah and the Savior was an indication that there would be a collision with the authorities. His proclaiming of the Kingdom of God questioned the dominance of the Roman Empire and made Caesar’s kingdom to be viewed as not ultimate against the beliefs of most of his followers. His stories evoked the sensibilities of both Moses and Elijah who healed the sick, fed the hungry and offered resistance to authority. This means that the awakening that Jesus brought his people empowered them to reject oppression and the empire.
Jesus’ role as a teacher in the whole context of the Bible is usually viewed along the popularly generated opinion that he was a troublemaker as well as a potential revolutionary. Most of the actions of Jesus in the Gospels can be said to be against the norms that are socially accepted in the Jewish community at the time. He seems to develop a growing influence on the people, which does not augur well with the rulers of the day as these actions are seen as a threat to the Roman Political ruler. Despite the activities of Jesus Christ touching the lives of other people, the Roman and the Jewish authorities alike viewed his actions as a transgression against those social conventions such as the political level and authority. Jesus’ teachings and activities were, therefore, seen as a threat to the Roman Governance of the Jews as well as the existing social structure of the Hebrew society at the time. This makes the researchers argue that His death was inevitable based on the danger that he posed to the Jewish community and the Roman Empire.
One of the most important approaches in analyzing Jesus’ threat is by looking at his influence in the Jewish population. One can argue that Jesus represented a menace when it comes to the ideological, authoritative as well as on those religious grounds that had been placed for a long time. As depicted in all the Gospels, Jesus’ attitude on some of those who were viewed as outcasts created conflict within the community. For example, In Mathew 9, Jesus is put to the task of explaining why he ate with sinners such as tax collectors. This was something that was not in agreement with the ideas of most religious leaders at the time. Consequently, his kindness to those people who were poor and sick and the importance of his teachings to their lives was not common at the time. He justified his action in Mathew 9: 12 and Mathew 9:13 when he said that his was to persuade sinners to repent.
This is an indication that Jesus did not mean any threat to the authority of the land as his aim was to call the sinners and make them repent. However, these actions were viewed by the religious leaders as blasphemous and had the capacity to cause problems to the social order that was in place at the time in regards to religion. He affirms his interests to the community in Mathew 11:9 when he calls himself a friend of the sinners and the tax collectors. It is important to note that his ideology was against the cultural standards, which means that Jesus was looked upon with a lot of hostility and contempt.
The hostility with which Jesus is viewed with is further amplified by the Jewish political authority and those who were considered the elites. This can be seen in the many altercations that occurred between Jesus and the Pharisees, with Herod, the ruler and with other authorities. There are instances when Jesus insults the Pharisees referring to them as the hypocrites as in Mathew 15:7. Looking at Mathew 23, it is clear that it is full of accusations and insults towards the Pharisees and their hypocrisy. His accusations coupled with the disregard for the social and religious norms means that he was a menace to these powers. The concerns for the Pharisees were how they would maintain strength amidst the growing influence of Jesus on the land. For example, Jesus is against the idea of an oath only binding if it is sworn by the gold that is found in the temple as seen in Mathew 23:16. The implication is that all the charges that he made against the Pharisees and the large support he had from other people meant that he was a political threat, with the power to harm the current power structure. This means that there was a need to eliminate him as a threat.
Jesus came with a lot of religious controversies that was damaging to his public image. This is because his actions violated the most fundamental aspects of the Jewish society such as the laws of Torah. His violation of the Torah was seen as the main justification that could be used in removing the political danger by charging him with blasphemy and later executing him. For example, the Pharisees were not happy with the action of Jesus healing a sick man on Sabbath day as shown in Mathew 12.2. According to the Pharisees, this was against the laws of Torah and was a crime whose punishment was death. In Mathew 8:22, Jesus is said to show another disregard for the religious authority when he ordered one of his disciples to follow him and leave the dead to bury their won dead. This is an act that is considered dishonor for the dead and against an important ritual in the Jewish community. It is important to note that the disciple wanted to stay behind and bury his father, which means that Jesus was seen as breaching the fifth commandment that called for one to respect his parents.
In Mathew 9:14, Jesus continued his disrespect for the holy law by defending his disciples for not observing a Sabbath ritual like all the other people in the society. Although Jesus is not taking part in the act directly, he defends those who take part in it, and for this reason, he is placed at the same level as the transgressors and taking advantage of their actions. The implication is that Jesus was destined to be in conflict with those who strictly followed these laws and those who had always thought of them as unbreakable. For example, during the time, the Sadducees held most of the high-rank positions in the Sanhedrin. The Sadducees were not in agreement with the teachings of Jesus as they preached adherence to the law and Caesar. Initially, it is important to note that the Sadducees were not concerned with actions of Jesus until when they felt hat his activities were a threat to their authority and may also bring some unwanted attention from Rome. The Sadducees and the Pharisees, therefore, came into agreement that the best way is to execute Jesus as shown in John 11:48-50. The Sadducees are mentioned in Acts 4:1 and Acts 5:17 where they are conspiring to bring charges against Jesus. Violating the Torah affected the public opinion and helped strengthen the blasphemy charges that were levied against Jesus by the Pharisees and other members of the ruling class. The claim that Jesus was the son of God was viewed as the most blasphemous actions, and one that was harmful, which as depicted in Mathew 26, led to the high priest and the Sanhedrin make the final decision to execute him. It can be argued that the claim of Jesus as divine ought to have been a disturbing on a religious level to the authorities especially those viewed as religious. John 5:18 can summarize this where the Bible says clearly that they tried to kill Him because He was making Himself equal with God above breaking the Sabbath
Jesus’ Rejection of Roman Rule
Jesus’ power over the demons as seen in Mark 5:9 and Luke 8:30 is a symbol of his rejection of the Roman rule at the time. This is analogous to his confrontation with Satan at the start of his ministry where Satan had offered him political power. Jesus can be seen rejecting Rome’s politics when he rejected authoritarian leadership. In Mark 10: 42, Jesus cautioned the people not to use political authority does not mean oppression to the people. It is such activities that might have made Jesus get at loggerheads with the Roman rulers. Researchers argue that Jesus’ message to the people was that the order of peace that was existing was based on the oppressive rule through forceful authority. His idea of peace is one that does not put into consideration the idea of political authority.
Jesus and Taxes
This is one of the areas that would have led to a confrontation between Jesus and the Roman authority. It is also one of the areas where Jesus’ denouncement of political authority is very clear. His words present the listeners with a choice between two of the main people who wanted loyalty that is God and Caesar. His argument was that those who believed in God would not give any loyalty to Caesar. Similarly, Jesus’ view was that everything belonged to God and not to Caesar was argued by the authorities at the time. In saying this, Jesus must be stating that no political authority had power over the Israelite people and God is only one who had control over his people. However, there are instances when Jesus asserts that he does not have any need of political power. For example, at the start of his ministry, he turns Satan down by stating that he would not accept his offer of political power. Consequently, when Jesus was face to face with Pilate, he said that his kingdom was not of this world. One of the main arguments presented by researchers is that by saying this to Pilate, Jesus did not mean that he was apolitical or in any way different from the Roman Empire. However, he presents his political ideology and one that is an alternative to the Roman rule. In this accord, it can be argued that Jesus led a movement that was revolutionary in the sense that it rejected the status quo and presented an alternative vision in regards to social order. The language related to the term “Kingdom” shows that Jesus viewed himself as creating a rift between his community and the Roman rulers.
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The religious unrest that Jesus was causing amongst the Jews was viewed as a political concern for the Jewish territory and in extension the Roman Empire. It is important to note that his trial, although based on issues related with blasphemy under the Jewish law, was presided over by Pilate, a procurator of the Roman Empire. A critical analysis of these events depicts the connection between the social nature of Jesus under the Pharisees’ concerns and concerns arising from the Roman government about his growing power and the effect it has on authority.
During the trial, Mathew 27:37 states that the charge against Jesus was that he was the king of the Jews to depict Jesus as a political threat to the Roman power. The charges of rebellion against Jesus had a practical justification based on the teachings that Jesus brought against the political rule. For example, his argument on Caesar and taxes placed him against the political establishment of the land. According to various analysts, Jesus was viewed as a threat because he was capable of developing a following that saw and believed in him as the Son of God, which means that the Romans’ understanding was that Jesus had the power to lead an insurrection against the state. The revolt would have had a lot of devotion as it was based on motivation of Jesus being divine. The implication is that this view played a major role in his trial and the decision to execute him was just a way of eliminating the danger before it could cause more damage. However, Pilate and the rest of the Romans were not aware of the power that Jesus would come to establish after his death. It has been argued that the Jews did not conform to the Roman laws and beliefs and the following of Jesus is seen as a provision of a leeway for those who did not want to conform to the Roman rule, which leaves room for some revolt. This led to a new problem for the Romans not only in Galilee but also in Rome.
Jesus Teachings as a Threat to Rome
Looking at Mathew 5:44, Jesus calls for people to love their enemies, which could not auger well with the Romans. Rome was built on the ideology of military conquest, where victory was promoted through the nationalistic roots of war. The statement that people should love their enemies may be misinterpreted to mean that Jesus was calling for the Jews to have allegiance to an enemy of the Roman Empire. Other phrases such as Mathew 5:9 where Jesus says that the blessed are the peacemakers and in Mathew 16:26 where Jesus asks if one has anything to profit from the world in case he loses his soul are viewed as Jesus’ attempt to attack the institution of war. The threat was that following his arguments would have led to many Romans questioning the viability of the campaigns and the warfare that was the foundation of the empire. For this reason, these statements were seen as disloyalty to the Roman government. The teachings of Jesus are, therefore. Rebellious teachings and propaganda in the eyes of the Romans.
Jesus was a threat to the Socio-political order as seen in Mathew 10.34 when He says that He came to bring a sword. The implication is that his teachings would be against the political structure and it is only through disharmony that he can describe to the general public what is important. The Roman Empire and the Jewish political structure were built on the concepts of wealth, power, and oppression. However, Jesus’ teachings argued that the Kingdom of God admitted all people such as the poor, the sick, and even the meek.
Jesus’ arrest was conducted by the temple police before he was forwarded to the Sanhedrin for trial. Later he was taken to Pontius Pilate with the main accusation being that Jesus called himself “King of the Jews.” To Pilate, this was a way of Jesus trying to establish the Judea kingship. Despite Jesus denying that the allegations, he was still viewed as having a political significance especially after he fed people. The people sought him to make him king as described in John 6. Despite Jesus leaving the scene as he did not have trust in their motives, researchers have argued that Jesus was acting in a way that made people think of him as a political leader.
The main reason the Sanhedrin ordered the arrest of Jesus is the fear that his political significance would make Rome order an intervention on Judea by imposing a military solution to the issues brought by Jesus. This is evident in John 11:45-53. The manner in which Jesus was killed is an indication that he was killed by the Romans as the Hebrews did not have the authority to crucify. It is also an indication that he was seen regarding a political threat. Research shows that Crucifixion in most occasions served as Pax Romana. His execution was, therefore, a way of securing peace, which shows that Jesus was viewed as a rebel who was a danger to the existing peace. During his trial, He told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. This may be understood to mean that his ways of ordering or ruling are not that of using political authority as was the case at the time. He led a kingdom but one that had its unique social life and was not built on wealth, power and military rule as was the case with the Roman. The question, therefore, is not of whether Jesus’ kingship was in place but of the form that it took. However, it should be understood that this kingship had its source outside the world, which means that it was established by methods and strategies that disagreed with those of the world. He can be seen rejecting militarism and the subsequent acquisition of wealth by the kings as he preaches inclusiveness, mercy as well as humility.
We can do it today.
Pilate made it clear that Jesus was on the wrong course with Rome just before his crucifixion. He made it clear that Jesus was to face death for proclaiming himself as king without the prior approval of Rome. Pilate can be seen mocking Jesus by asking the people whether he should go and crucify their king. The people feel intimidated and shout disapproval. When the priests proclaim that they do not have any other king than Caesar, Pilate gives Jesus away for execution to remove the threat that he posed.
Based on the argument above, Jesus proves a threat not only to the religious leaders but also to the political ones as well. His teachings are against the very laws that had governed people for a long time. This placed him on the wrong side with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. His actions and teachings are also viewed as a threat to the Rome authority especially after it was found that he could command a huge following that was mainly made up of those who resented the Roman rule at the time. Killing him was, therefore, a way of eliminating the threat that he posed.
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