I think we have to face the fact that Jesus was killed because he was perceived to be a political threat ("King of the Jews"). His language was more political than it was religious. His manifesto (Luke 4) was political in nature. A de-politicized gospel is no gospel at all. But what kind of politics did Jesus practice? Ah ... now there's a question.
Jesus certainly understood politics. From political science in which we examine the acquisition, and the application of power. From political philosophy which seeks a rationale for politics, and an ethic for public behavior. From political economy which seeks to understand the relationship between politics and economy and the governance of the two. And, from a public administration understanding the practice of governance.
I don't think you can read the gospels and not see it's political nature. Jesus understood the politics of earthly empires. But Randy raises an extremely important question. What kind of politics did Jesus practice?
A couple of years ago Jim Wallis was asked by a reporter, was Jesus a politician? Here is Jim's answer...
Of course not. But he had a vision of the Kingdom of God which was spiritual, personal, relational, social, economic, and yes, political, because it talked about allegiances and loyalties and authority, and if Jesus was Lord, Caesar was not. His confrontation that he provoked in Jerusalem was with the religious and the political leaders. They saw him as a political threat. If they saw him just as a private pietist, why would they worry? [If he was] helping people get their lives together, helping their marriages, making them better parents and make them go to less Roman orgies and drunken parties, why would that have been a threat to the ruling powers? They regarded him as a threat. I remember I was at Wheaton College once and I asked this class, "Why was Jesus killed?" and they had no idea. They just couldn't comprehend the question. And then one young student said, "Well, to save us from our sins." And I said, "So you think Pontius Pilate was sitting there thinking, 'How am I going to save these American evangelicals from their sins? I'm gonna kill this guy and that will do it.'" Albeit that our theological understanding of the cross and our redemption -- I'm orthodox on all those questions, but he was killed because he was seen as a threat to the rulers both religious and political. In the book I talk about how Jesus confronted the major political options of his day. All four of them were there, they're always there: One was collaborationist, one was pietist, one was withdrawn -- you know, the kind of counter culture -- and one was political insurrection, or revolutionary violence. He confronted them all, he rejected them all. There was a fifth option called the Kingdom of God, and that's our option.
Jesus death was political. Jesus was killed because of his politics. He was killed by the religious and political power of the day. Jesus was sentenced to death because he was a threat. The kingdom is a threat to any empire.
Interestingly Jesus didn't merge, entering into the political arena of the day to reform politics to give the roman empire a more liberal tone. He did the same with religion. As Christians, we are delusional if we think we can vote and elect the Kingdom into being. The Kingdom can only be lived into being. Jesus lived and spoke the Kingdom into being on the fringe of empire. It was not to be seen of as part of the empire, but to be seen as a profound alternative, " the city on a hill."
There is only one ruler in the Kingdom, It is not a democracy. If it is a democracy, it is a democracy of 3; Father, Son and Spirit. Always as one, in perfect unity. If we are Kingdom people, this is where our allegiance lies. And if we want to practice the disciplines of the Kingdom, be disciples of it's ruler...then we try to the best of our ability to live the gospels on a daily basis. We live them out in the comings and goings of our day, we live them out as individuals, and live them out as a community. On earth, as in heaven...may your Kingdom come.
James Kingsley, graphic artist extraordinaire puts the thrust of the post in an image.
(After reading Ron's post I just couldn't resist adding a little twist to Fairey's Hope poster)