Jesus On Partisan Politics

There were two main political parties in Israel when Jesus arrived. He didn’t side with either of them, but chose a disciple from each of them.

Herodians supported the Roman occupation of Israel and Herod Antipas as king. Rome, after all, had improved infrastructure, its large army protected Israel from invasion, and under Roman leadership an era of peace had begun. Herod’s father, “the Great,” had expanded and beautified the Temple, and Herod Antipas granted Jewish leaders and aristocrats a great deal of freedom, power, and wealth.

Zealots sought to dethrone Herod Antipas as the Roman-appointed “king of the Jews” with violence, if necessary, and drive the Romans out of power. Under Roman rule most Jews languished in poverty while tax collectors, aristocrats, and other Jewish traitors got rich cozying up to the Roman oppressors. Zealot assassins strode through crowded market places and festivals sliding their slim daggers into the sides of Herodians, giving them a quick twist, and slipping away unseen.

Unlike other rabbis, whose students chose them, Jesus chose his first twelve disciples. Among them were Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector.

Two men on opposite sides of the political aisle were chosen to follow the same rabbi, to live from a common purse, to fellowship at the same table, to pray shoulder to shoulder for the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus didn’t ignore politics, but spoke directly to the ungodly priorities and actions of both parties. He remained non-partisan, calling all sides to HIS side.

In the Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain, Jesus challenged both Herodians and Zealots to forsake the divisive ways of their party for the uniting ways of His kingdom (Galatians 3:28): 

Zealots, he said, must love their enemies, pray for them, even bless them (Mathew 5:38-42). Anger and name-calling are no better than murder, he warned (Matthew 5:21-22). 

He cursed the wealthy Herodians living comfortably while their Jewish neighbors starved (Luke 6:24,25). He warned that popularity was something they had in common with the false prophets of old, who also sidled up to ungodly and unjust kings to save their own hides and make a buck (Luke 6:26).

Jesus called God’s people out of partisanship and into His kingdom. Jesus still calls ALL sides to HIS side. 

How can we join Him in doing that today?