As we continue reflecting on the politics of Jesus’ day and how his example can speak to us today, we arrive at the most pivotal moment of Jesus’ earthly life – his trial and crucifixion. The tension has been building as the religious leaders grow increasingly uncomfortable with Jesus’ ministry and popularity. They want him gone, but face two obstacles – his popularity with the crowds, and their lack of authority to execute him.

To get around this, they hold a sham trial, actively seeking false testimony to establish a pretense for convicting Jesus. The testimonies don’t add up, yet Jesus remains silent, fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7. When directly asked if he is the Messiah, Jesus answers affirmatively, knowing this gives them the pretext they need to condemn him as blasphemous and worthy of death. With the crowd swayed against him, they take him to Pilate to seek official authorization to execute him.

Pilate questions Jesus, initially finding no reason to sentence him to death. But when the crowd insists, Pilate gives in, afraid of the consequences of going against their wishes. Despite multiple attempts to release Jesus, even Pilate’s terror cannot deter the religious leaders from demanding Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus’ silence throughout much of these proceedings is striking. He speaks up directly only a few times – in claiming to be the Messiah, in stating that Pilate’s power is limited, and in identifying the greater sin as belonging to the one handing him over. His silence aligns with Isaiah’s prophecy and reflects his perfect submission to God’s will. He speaks only when absolutely necessary, without defending himself or resisting his accusers.

One statement Jesus makes to Pilate is particularly profound – that his kingdom is not of this world. This defines Jesus’ entire purpose and mission. He did not come to establish any earthly kingdom or liberate the Jews from Roman oppression. His concerns are eternal, not tied to the political machinations of the day. This mindset allowed Jesus to endure the torture and humiliation of the cross, keeping the end goal in sight.

As modern-day Christians, we can glean important principles from Jesus’ example:

  1. Our true citizenship is in heaven. We represent a kingdom not defined by human governments or institutions. This gives us a security human institutions cannot provide or take away.
  2. Our allegiance belongs fully to God alone. We cannot serve both God and human political agendas. We represent Jesus above any party or country.
  3. We focus on eternal, not earthly, outcomes. Standing for truth may have temporal consequences, but we keep our eyes fixed on eternity.
  4. We follow Jesus’ model of engagement. He avoided earthly power and resisted those who wanted to force him into their power agendas. We represent the kingdom of God by doing the same.
  5. We rely on God’s power, not our own strength. Jesus surrendered himself fully to God’s plan. We too can trust God to act, rather than seeking to assert our own will.
  6. We love and serve, rather than fight and assert rights. Jesus redefined strength and victory as sacrifice and service. We lay down entitlements and fight injustice through compassion.
  7. We speak from humility and love, not fear or anger. Jesus’ silence highlights the caution and care with which we must speak. Our words should build up, not tear down.
  8. We repent of collective sins that perpetuate injustice. Jesus bore the sins of the whole world. We too humbly repent on behalf of our nation and institutions.
  9. We invest in prayer more than politics. Jesus prayed often and taught his followers to pray. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have for engaging the political landscape.
  10. We point people to the eternal kingdom. Jesus knew this world was not all there is. Our highest purpose is advancing God’s eternal kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.

Following Jesus’ model of engaging earthly powers is difficult and countercultural. But the gospel calls believers to a paradoxical way of winning by losing, conquering by surrendering, living by dying. Up is down in the kingdom of God. By laying down our earthly rights and agendas, we gain the right to be called sons and daughters of God.

Imagine how different political engagement could look if Christians adopted Jesus’ model of speaking less and praying more, of servant leadership rather than domination, and of love for enemies rather than defeating opponents. As western civilization increasingly embraces secularism and humanism, Christians have a unique opportunity to represent an alternate kingdom – one defined by humility, love, and service.

Will we rise to the occasion? Will we stand for truth at the cost of reputation, influence, or even life itself? Our King has already blazed a bold and costly trail for us to follow. May we honor Jesus’ courage and sacrifice by carrying our crosses as we walk the road he walked.

 

Here are 4 questions with scripture references to reflect on based on this blog post:

  1. How can Christians live out Jesus’ statement that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)? What are practical ways we can distinguish our allegiance to God’s kingdom versus earthly kingdoms?
  2. Jesus was silent during much of his trial, speaking up only at key moments (Mark 14:61, John 18:36-37). What principles can we learn from Jesus about when to speak up versus when to remain silent?
  3. Jesus resisted earthly displays of power, instead emphasizing humility and service (Philippians 2:5-8). How should this model shape the way Christians engage in the political sphere?
  4. Jesus prayed often, especially before major decisions or moments of crisis (Luke 6:12, 22:39-46). What role should prayer have in a Christian’s political engagement? How can we make prayer a greater priority?

 

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About the Author: Mutheu Esilaba
Mutheu has loved Jesus since she was a little girl. Born and raised in a Christian family in Nairobi, Kenya, she felt a call to ministry as a teen and worked with students for many years. Mutheu has a deep passion for people to know God and see the world through God's heart for it. Mutheu holds a Master's Degree in Christian Educational Studies from Africa International University and has been ministering to students for 24 years. Mutheu and her husband, Albo, (our Ann Arbor Campus Pastor) have three boys. Mutheu, her husband, and three boys have been at 2|42 since 2019.

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