The claim of Jesus that offended both the Jewish leaders and Pilate was that his authority came from another place, from God on high, and thus it had something directly to do with both Rome and Jerusalem. Pilate acknowledged no authority higher than the Roman emperor, who claimed to represent God on earth. If Jesus was correct, then he was indeed challenging the foundation of Caesar's claim to authority. Of course, if Jesus was a fraud or was mistaken in his claim, then he was no threat to Rome. The Jewish authorities believed they represented God, in accord with the covenant. If Jesus was correct, he was trumping their authority by the direct authorization of God.

If Jesus had been preaching the arrival of a kingdom that had nothing to do with this world, a kingdom removed from "real politics," then neither the Jewish nor the Roman authorities would have been so upset with him. To the contrary, however, the claims that Jesus was making had to do with God's lordship over all kingdoms on earth, over every human authority in this world. Jesus presented himself as God's directly authorized prophet of the kingdom. His actions and words said even more; he was acting as if he were the promised Messiah, the promised Son of Man who had come to inaugurate the divine kingdom. Jesus, therefore, was either deranged and a fraud or his kingdom did pose a threat to everything Rome represented and challenge the position taken by the Jewish authorities.

We can see how relevant those claims are to every kind of human responsibility on earth, including human government. Jesus did not teach that his shepherding was "spiritual" and unrelated to life in this world. He did not say that his authority to teach disciples touched only theological matters. He did not teach that the brotherly, sisterly love he was urging his disciples to practice was sacred in contrast to their "secular" family relationships. To the contrary, the mission of Jesus in announcing the fulfillment of God's purposes with creation was to reconcile and redeem all that is human—all shepherding, schooling, family relationships, economic institutions, and political practices. God's kingdom does not originate in this world, nor is it confined to the life we live as sons and daughters of the first Adam. But that kingdom does have everything to do with human life in this age because our lives here and now have their entire meaning within the order of God's good creation and Christ's fulfillment of it.

James W. Skillen, The Good of Politics, Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2014. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

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