Was Jesus political or religious?

The definition of religion is belief in and worship of superhuman controlling power, being God or gods. Politics is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups. Or other forms of power among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.

The question we have to answer, today, is whether Jesus was a politician or a religious leader. Jesus moved around with twelve disciples. He never proselytized for followers, but He also discouraged those seeking to follow Him. This is the time to remove falsehoods and go by the truth, as Biblically revealed.

The Jews were religious and committed to worshipping God. As unseen by physical eyes, God had been symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant. To the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant represented God. But after losing the Ark of the Covenant, it became impossible to strictly follow the Jewish original way of worship.

Politics is often associated with the ability to manipulate others in order to gain power. But, it is also possible to be conferred with political power when serving people according to their needs. Religion assigns everything to a supernatural being, where the worshipper relinquishes his/her intellectual capacity to reason.

Jesus was neither a political leader nor a religious leader. His befitting authority was that of a teacher and Lord to His followers. There was a time when people sought to confer political authority on Jesus. But He had to disappear from the public view before they could forcibly install Him as a political leader.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself (John 6:14-15 NIV).

Jesus was not the Lord to ordinary humans, but only to His followers. Even today, Jesus remains Lord, but only to those obeying His commandments. He was hated by those in leadership; partly because they assumed He invalidated their leadership authority. Jesus was considered a controversial figure, among His Jewish religious counterparts.

The controversy of Jesus remains, even in our time. Hence, Christians, although calling Jesus, ‘Lord,’ are commonly not in agreement, on matters of worship and leadership. Various methodologies of worship have divided believers into thousands of sectarian worshippers. Each follows what is considered workable, or suitable to his or her environment.

While divisions are often found in political leadership, the name of Jesus, as central to matters of Christian leadership, triggers controversy. Whether with good intentions or not, the name of Jesus is often associated with sectarian viewpoints. However, the sectarian viewpoints are a manifestation of hidden agendas by those with an appetite for leadership.

Any method of worship is considered according to the comfort attained by the worshipper. Christian leaders aim at influencing more followers under their respective leadership. The more followers a Christian leader has, the more influential he becomes. Power is attractive to ordinary people of this world.

The congregants feel encouraged and obliged to give to God, after having received some blessing. However, there is no record of Jesus ever encouraging anyone to give to Him. Jesus did not even require those who received healing from Him to become His followers.

Jesus is Lord, but only to His followers. The rest of humanity is free to worship according to their dictates. Nothing is surprising when a Christian is ridiculed, for not abiding by the traditions of humanity. The only sign of being under the Lordship of Jesus is similar treatment. A Christian is better off when treated badly, than when treated well. Ordinary people feel uncomfortable, without a leader, in this world.

That sensation is driven by an idolatrous consideration. It signifies a lack of freedom, due to not knowing the meaning of freedom. The apostle Paul contended with the Corinthians who could not duplicate the meaning of submission to Christ’s authority.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. I mean this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17 NIV).

Paul highlighted the weakness affecting most Christians, today. Belief in Jesus has to be defined by a denominational leader. The behaviour of those Corinthians was right, according to the pattern of this world. But that same behaviour significantly disqualifies a person from being Christian.

Jesus’ followers cannot submit to any other authority, except to Jesus. “On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 20:19 NIV). Jesus is shown, here, as King and Lord. But His followers are also Kings and Lords.

Therefore, when truthfully used by Jesus, a person would be King and Lord, just as Jesus is King and Lord. That person would be ridiculed, despised and possibly killed for the testimony of Jesus. He cannot expect to be honoured in this world, because Jesus was never honoured in this world.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or need clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visited you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV).

The above passage shows Christ’s brothers, having been fed by the righteous ones. However, those feeding them would have not recognized that they would be feeding Kings and Lords. Jesus’ brothers would have not been recognized, as to be honoured in this world, necessarily. In other words, these would have been despised people, as to be unable to feed or clothe themselves.

The righteous would be surprised because they would have not considered the people they helped to have been of consideration for worship. This is different from the honoured Christian leaders, with titles like Bishops or whatever position of authority one can imagine. Here we are dealing with the truth only. Any fanciful Christian title known does not fit in the category of Christ’s brothers.

True Christians are not considered worthy of praise, according to the traditions of this world. Jesus is the only authority, to guide true Christians, and not according to worldly traditions. Any person is as safe as trusting Jesus more than trusting Worldly authoritarians. The fact that a person is highly honoured as a Christian leader, does not necessarily entitle that person to be the brother of Jesus.

Jesus said; “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5 NIV). The possibility of this deception could mean literally claiming to be Christ. But it suggests granting oneself an authoritarian position of Christ. Whichever way, many people are deceived by those claiming to be authorities in the Christian faith.

There is one authority in Christianity, which is Jesus. But that authority is not applicable to ordinary humans of this world. Jesus is Lord, only to those having chosen to live everything and follow Him. Jesus calls those people brothers, or friends, according to what He also said of such loyalists.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:15-18 NIV).

At the inception of His Church, Jesus pronounced that the gates of hell would not prevail against that Church (Matthew 16:18). This becomes true; when considering the impossibility of configuring the human ego when conferred with the responsibility to advance Christian cause.

The world assumes that one has to be popular and influential, to be attributed with authority. However, Jesus declared that the only sign of being His follower is when despicably treated poorly. His followers were actually instructed to only rejoice when hated by those of this world (Matt 5:10-12). This throws a curve to self-centred people.

To be on the Lord’s side, therefore, makes it the most unattractive business to tricksters. You have to surrender everything and be willing to die, in the process. This is the most uncomfortable condition of Christianity. The idea of being approved by those of this world is what removes one from being on the Lord’s side. In other words, one has to be as unpopular as criminals are unpopular, in order to be on the Lord’s side.

There are two ways a person can be unpopular in this world. The first is that one could either commit criminal activities or treat other people badly. Generally, people hate criminals, because they deprive human survival. The Biblical record shows that Jesus shared the crucifixion with two criminals.

Of the two, the one acknowledging his despicable condition, wishing that Jesus could have mercy on him, received salvation. The other criminal still sought to protect himself at the expense of those against whom he committed criminality. Both were undesirable to humanity, nevertheless.

The second reason to be unpopular is to advance God’s truth. If Jesus was hated to the point of being crucified, it follows that His followers would be similarly treated. That makes obeying Jesus unfashionable. From a political point of view, Jesus was unacceptable, as considered to be a threat to authoritarians.

The most unpopular individual can be the one who confronts the political establishment, for human rights violations. That individual can be classified among criminals, and rejected by the religious fraternity. This is just as Jesus could not be acceptable, either, from a religious or political viewpoint.

The religious establishment sought to find Him guilty of violating religious customs and traditions. In our time, those advancing what Jesus taught, on matters of worship, would also be most unacceptable, as to be labelled heretics.

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24 NIV).

What Jesus said to that woman, removed all religious traditions, which would then cause serious opposition. There are traditional ways of worship that this world accepts as normal. However, worshipping God in Spirit is most unacceptable, as leaving worshippers without anyone to idolize.

The most acceptable thing to humanity in this world is idolatry. In attempting to attain acceptability, a high-sounding rhetorical declaration about Jesus being Lord is characteristic of modern Christianity. Such gibberish utterances would be another pattern of worship, induced by idolatry, rather than the truth.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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