Tonight, one of the commentators on a documentary on the History channel explained his idea that Jesus had to be slaughtered by Rome because he came to destroy the Roman Empire: “You cannot usher in the Kingdom of God without ushering out the kingdom of Caesar…” The History Channel is probably replaying this series as part of their “Christmas programming”…
His idea sounds smart — even profound — but it’s profoundly wrong. Jesus actually did “usher out” a “kingdom” of sorts, but not the kingdom of Caesar.
In fact, the Jewish religious leaders challenged him to either spurn the political zealots of his day or align himself with them. In their test, they asked if Jews ought to pay pay taxes to the Roman emperor. In response, Jesus held up a Roman coin. Observing the image of Caesar on its face, Jesus avoided the political trap laid for him by simply saying, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”
Not only did he avoid the trap set by the religious leaders of his day by neither joining with nor denying the political zealots, before his crucifixion, Jesus overtly rejected that there was even a conflict between the Kingdom he proclaimed and the kingdom Caesar ruled. At Jesus’ mock trials, the Jewish religious leaders brought accusations against him to the regional Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate. The Gospel of John records Pilate’s examination in which he ultimately declared that Jesus had committed no crime:
“Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’
“Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’
“Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not from this world. If my Kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my Kingdom is not from here.’
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’
“Jesus answered, ‘You’re saying that I am a king. The purpose for which I was born, and for which I came into the world is to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice.’
“Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him.’” To please the chief priests, Pilate crucified Jesus anyway.
The TV commentator who said of Jesus that he could not “usher in the Kingdom of God without ushering out the kingdom of Caesar…” misspoke: he painted Jesus out to be a political adversary to Roman rule — who knows if he just wanted to play down the primary rôle the Jewish leaders played in Jesus’ murder? Rome crucified Jesus, but only at the insistence of “the chief priests”.
Jesus’ entire, earthly ministry certainly did have an adversarial focus — but his adversaries weren’t “Rome” or “Caesar”… Actually, Jesus didn’t even identify “Satan” as his adversary… Jesus’ “adversary” turned out to be the religious statue quo and the Jew’s religious leaders — primarily the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees.
Jesus never preached to the multitude of crowds in order to try and persuade them to be more obedient to “God”: Jesus preached that no one could ever “obey God” on any level… and his message was to stop trying. Jesus didn’t preach to the multitude of crowds to try and convert them to a “new religion”: Jesus proclaimed the end of religion… In fact, Jesus proclaimed the end of all religions; his message was that “religion” consisted of the attempts by human beings to please God, but the Truth was that no human being can ever please God… but that God is already Pleased with all human beings — that He loves them all, now.
“Grace” proved to be the center and heart of Jesus’ message — and that God’s Love (for every human who’s ever lived or ever will live) has already provided a Life beyond that of this world; an eternal Life, an endless Life, a Life that follows the death of a person’s weak, fleshly body with a “re-incarnation”… a Resurrection into a body just like that in which He now lives.
Jesus’ “plan” wasn’t to “bring down” a political ruler; his Plan was to “bring down” Death itself, and no one is “left out” of this Resurrection Life. There are none who die who do not immediately (in their self-perception) find themselves re-created — and (according to the book of Hebrews) “immediately after that, the Judgment”.
Not a Judgment as to whether someone or another has “lived life pleasing to God” — because (Jesus made it clear) no one ever has. The Judgment consists of one thing and one thing only: Does a person choose Life in Christ, or choose to simply cease to exist.
Oh the Bible is very clear that those who have worked great wickedness against others will face a degree of punishment before their existence ends… The Stalins, Hitlers, Polpots, Edi Amins, Caesars, Ghengis Khans and so on of history will not escape degrees of punishment commiserate to their wickedness. But for those who — seeing Christ — desire His offer of an eternal, immortal and incorruptible Life will receive it — not by their good works, not by their national identities, certainly not by their wealth — but by the free and gracious Gift of Life given by God to all who so desire.
This… This is the “Bible Secret Revealed”: Jesus came — not as a political revolutionary, but to destroy Death and the Grave, and to bring His beloved people into an eternally glorious Life beyond what the fantasies and dreams of any person could ever conceive.