Tim Keller | February 23, 1997
In this passage, the religious leaders want Jesus dead, but in order to make this happen, they have to take him to the political leaders. So they come and they say, “This man is a political leader. He threatens your political power. So we have a question.” The question is put directly to Jesus by Pilate. And that question is this: What are your politics, Jesus?
For years, I was always frustrated with Jesus’ answer, because it is a very ambiguous one. I always found it maddeningly ambiguous, but today I can come before you and say it is beautifully, wisely, profoundly ambiguous. As a result, we have some work to do. We have to do some reflection.
When Jesus gives a deliberately, wisely ambiguous answer, he would only ever do that because any other answer would be far more confusing, far more pathological, and far more deadly. Jesus is not just playing hard to get; he is trying to bring us to the truth. So let’s take a look first of all at what this tremendously ambiguous answer is.
We’re looking at how Jesus interacts with politics, asking if he’s a political leader and noting that his answer to Pilate about being the King of the Jews isn’t straightforward. Jesus’ way of wielding power, which is based on truth and convincing others morally instead of forcing or controlling them, is different from how humans typically run politics. The biggest show of power comes from self-sacrifice and openness, hinting that we should look to Jesus for real authority, not to politics or any other sources.
2. How is Jesus political?
Jesus didn’t come to be a political figure, but his existence made a big political impact. He symbolically stepped in for Barabbas, standing in for all human wrongdoing, and bore the penalty for us, offering a message of grace and righteousness that changes everything. This gospel message even changes how we see politics, because our identity is now based in Jesus, which goes beyond race, class, or wealth.
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