Was Jesus subject to the governing authorities?

Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) (ESV). These words imply that one is on the right track, when duplicating the behaviour and the general conduct of Jesus, as recorded in Scriptures. There is no other standard formula for human behaviour, except as set by Jesus.

Jesus had a direct communication line, between Him and His Father. As declaring Himself to be the only way and the truth, humanity is expected to follow in His footsteps. Nothing shows that Jesus was not committed to obey His Father—in conformity with His declaration:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does, likewise” (John 5:19) (ESV).

All this confirms the reality in that all authority under the sun, comes directly from God, who is our Father. There is no other authority, except that which God allows. Jesus made this point even very clear, to Pilate, who may have not been aware of this reality:

“So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:10-11) (ESV).

Pilate had been a governor under the Caesar of the Roman Empire. To Pilate, Jesus made it quite clear that, even the Roman Empire existed, only as God allowed it to exist, at that time. In other words, Jesus had not been a revolutionary—intent on changing the governing system at that time.

During His time on earth, Jesus had never been caught violating the laws of the land. He fully understood that those in power, had been fulfilling what had been predesigned by God Himself. Jesus had been popular among the citizens, who were under the governance of the Roman Empire. But He could not be found violating any of the laws of the land.

His enemies came from the religious community of the Jewish stock. These were the people who had presented Jesus to Pilate, for prosecution. They intended to secure the authority from the governor, to murder Him. Apparently, due to political pressure, Pilate had to acquiesce to their demands. Although Pilate, himself, could not find any incriminating reason, justifying the prosecution of Jesus.

At one stage, those Jews had sought to trap Jesus by asking a sensitive question about paying taxes to Caesar. Obviously, the questioner had desired to find good reason that would alienate Jesus to the Roman Empire (Matthew 22:15-22). However, Jesus’ mission had nothing to do with the Roman Empire—existing with God’s blessing.  

Also, Jesus had to perform a miracle, to avoid being labelled as unlawful—under the existing governing authority (Matthew 17:24-27). His problem with the Jews had not, necessarily, been about the violation of the laws of the land.

His problem with those religious authorities had, basically, been to do with the truth, as opposed to falsehood. The Jews had prophetic Scriptures at their disposal, yet unable to understand those Scriptures. Each time they sought to trap Jesus, they received answers that exposed their ignorance and hypocrisy.

This was regardless of their pretence to religiously hold everything recorded in those Scriptures. Ordinary people regarded those Jews as committed religious authorities. But Jesus drastically exposed such hypocrisy, which is basically what invoked their animosity against Him.

They expected Jesus to acquiesce to their authoritarian philosophy—though not in alignment with God’s authority. Yet ordinary people had all along been misled to believe that they carried God’s authority, in their activities. In short, the problem of the Jews, emanated from the dichotomous principles—represented in truth and falsehood.

In their behaviour, the Jews did not know that they were under the manipulation of the devil—who remains the champion of falsehood. Yet, Jesus was fully aware of the origin of their problem. This is why, even as they carried out the gruesome act of murdering Him, Jesus still prayed for them.

Jesus was fully aware, of the fact that those people did not know what they were doing. This is equally true of anyone committed to truthfulness, when confronted by those, ignorant of the effects of falsehood. Stephen, similarly uttered the prayer of forgiveness for his murderers (Acts 7:60).

When holding the truth, one is bestowed with full responsibility to carry the burdens of one’s fellows. The most important reality on this planet is truthful datum—which should be considered as more important than any person’s physical existence. This is because truth carries eternal value, as compared with falsehood—whose value ends in being interred in the graveyard.     

As the only way, the truth and the life, Jesus exhorts His followers to hold similar conviction—even when confronted by the world’s authorities. It is important to let those authorities know that they could not have been in authority, without God allowing it.

Interestingly, while we should be fully aware of God being in sovereign authority, God also allows Satan to exercise the opposite authority. Satan was granted authority to practise the treacherous authority. There is nothing that Satan does without God allowing it.

Humanity ought to appreciate the fact that their greatest enemy is falsehood, peddled by Satan. This is why Jesus insisted that only the truth would set people free (John 8:32). A person holding the truth cannot be in conflict with authorities—whose governance is established by God. But, obviously, that person falls into serious trouble, under the governing authorities of Satan.

To know the difference between Satan’s and God’s authority is simply the ability to differentiate between truthful data and false data. All problems of humanity emanate from the inability to know that falsehood is anti-survival. Attaining freedom is associated with truthful discoveries, containing pro-survival results.

People get misled, due to inability to deduce truth from a vast array of information. The phenomenon of multiple Christian denominations confirms the undetected falsehood, among believers. Those people innocently believe that their denominational leadership would be under God’s authority.

But, a simple question that should occupy those believers, is: Why are Christians divided, if they all believe in Jesus? The answer to that question could free a person from falsehood. The authoritarian culture carries the greatest venom, against those sincerely desiring to be the followers of Christ.

Scriptures like Romans 13, are used to manipulate poor believers—led to assume that it is Godly to submit to any authority under the sun. This is why even Hitler predominantly used Christians in sustaining his fascist regime.

There are many so-called Christian leaders, who teach their followers that human authority is more important than truth. Falsehood is attractive to the few—benefitting from it—but prejudicing the majority. Such authoritarian peddlers in falsehood, enjoy being among the privileged few.

Fascist philosophies are attractive to the dictators, who enjoy being feared and worshipped by the disadvantaged majority. To them, freedom means subjugating everyone else, as they themselves, expect to be treated like gods. This is generally the pattern, characteristic of governance culture in this world.

While all this spells gloom—considering the plight of humanity under such an arrangement—Jesus brought the good news of the Kingdom of God. The mission of Jesus was to bring an alternative, but workable governance. However, the existing bad governance systems cannot be replaced before the appropriate time.  

If the mission of Christianity could be advanced appropriately, the reality of God’s Kingdom could be experienced. Like light, the effects of truth bring transformation from the effects of falsehood. However, the few spoilers, assuming that there is a benefit in falsehood—can never allow truth to prevail.

Those benefitting from falsehood are few in numbers—but able to influence the majority. This is typical of what happened at Ephesus, during Paul’s expedition. A man called Demetrius—a silversmith—had made good business out of crafting idols for the uneducated populace (Acts 19:21-34).

Demetrius incited the ordinary people to riot, just for the sake of protecting his business. The ignorant idolaters were manipulated to rise up against Paul—who intended to free them from such stupidity. We also have people calling themselves champions of human rights—insisting that people should be free to do anything that identifies with their culture.

Ignorance—being the archenemy of the entire humanity—is easily embraced, under the pretext of protecting the principle of human rights. Yet the enlightened ones know that there cannot be any benefit in activities such as idol worship. See [Genuine conflict is between good and Evil].

The greatest human right is valuable education—which the authoritarian systems of this world make it impossible to access. Such systems seek to maintain people in ignorance so that they can be easily manipulated.

Let us now explore the tenets of authority. Where does authority come from and why is authority necessary, after all? Authority is necessary for control purposes. Without authority, it cannot be possible to control humanity—let alone, anything else in the physical universe.

Jesus told Governor Pilate that his authority came from God (John 19:10-11). Therefore, if authority comes from God, it is important for humanity to pay attention to what comes from God—the only true authority.

In His conduct—while here on earth—Jesus showed exactly how one should stand by the truth—even though challenged by what comes from false authorities. A wise person would, therefore, take heed of every word that comes from Jesus.  

Before His departure, Jesus declared that all authority had been given to Him. However, during his sojourn—before crucifixion—Jesus lived under the governing authority of the Roman Empire. His communication with Pilate, Jesus revealed that He could not invalidate Pilate’s authority (John 19:10-11). This had been before Jesus’ utterance of the following words–after His resurrection:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 18-20) (ESV).   

However, this message could not have been intended for everyone living on this planet. It was directed to His disciples, on assumption that they had committed themselves to believe in Him. The most important factor is that, under the authority of Jesus, there is no dictatorship.

In Jesus, people are free to follow or not to follow Him. The governing authorities of this world assume that they need to be obeyed by those of this world. This is why the story is different, for those choosing to follow Jesus. Such followers get persecuted—or even killed for their stand—when displaying the opposite of what everyone is used to.

Like Jesus—during His sojourn on earth—those people are guided by the truth, more than being guided by falsehood. They do not walk in deception, as to be under the authority of those of this world, any longer. They know how to decipher truth from falsehood.

They are powerful, but not abusing their power—as to manipulate the ignorant of this world. While believers cannot physically identify Satan, to easily reject him, they are quite aware of Satan’s schemes. They easily avoid Satan, in the same way that Jesus avoided Satan, when He was on earth.

Having chosen to follow Christ, they abide by His word. They are fully aware of the significance of Jesus’ declaration that all authority under heaven and earth had been given to Him. Due to their faith, they no longer fear losing their lives.

However, those people do not disrespect the governing authorities—as long as truthfully governing according to the law. Their challenge arises, only where there would be manifestation of falsehood. Such opposition could come, either from the governing authorities, or from the religious authorities.

But the irrefutable truth is in that a Christian is under the authority of Jesus only. Whatever a Christian does, would be in accordance with what Jesus does, at any particular time. However, all authority—having been bestowed on Jesus—still holds little to do with what actually happens in the governing authorities of this world.

A true Christian is not necessarily a politician, just as a politician is not necessarily a true Christian. But, all authority—having been bestowed on Jesus—is within Jesus’ prerogative to install Christians, or allow none-Christians in positions of political leadership.  

The guiding principle ought to be truthfulness—in determining whether the governing authority is of God or not of God. Generally, the governance of this world is under Satan—until his time is up, at Christ’s second-coming. Jesus did not out-rightly dispute that reality—when confronted by Satan—in the wilderness:

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:8-10) (ESV).

Indeed, Jesus was subject to the governing authorities—as long as such authorities governed according to God’s mandate. Such governing authorities might have not even been aware of the fact that they existed according to God’s mandate. If governing according to truth, they held direct communication with God. If governing according to falsehood, they would be under Satan’s authority.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from 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 reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99