Did Jesus express views about government? The Politics of Jesus, a book by Dr. Obery Hendricks that I am reading for class, says yes: Jesus wanted to alleviate “systematic causes” of suffering. He wanted to change the power structures to benefit the most vulnerable in society, the ones “whose welfare concerned Jesus the most.”
Hendricks points to events in Jesus’s life as evidence that Jesus was both a political revolutionary and a spiritual revolutionary–
1. While at the Temple in Galilee, Jesus unrolled a scroll of scripture written by the prophet Isaiah and “found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners …, to set the oppressed free ….'” Jesus then told those present that “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Hendricks explains that the word translated above as “poor” is ptochois in the Greek original, a word indicating “a collective or class identity”–thus, Jesus wanted to deliver good news to what some might call the “lower class” or the people who are poor.
2. Jesus said to pray, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. …”
In his prayer, Jesus asks God to replace government on Earth with the doing of God’s will on Earth, per Hendricks.
3. Jesus taught that “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is the peacemakers that will be “called the children of God.”
The New Living Translation expresses this teaching as “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
One could argue that these events–delivering the “good news to the poor,” etc.–are only spiritual references. Jesus is just proclaiming the good news (to the poor and everyone) that God’s grace is available through Jesus, for example. One could also disagree with Hendrick’s interpretation.
Probably recognizing such a debate, Hendricks begins the wrap-up of his introduction with a reminder about Jesus.
Jesus said something: “… I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, … I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’” They will ask “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry … or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
When Jesus said this, was he referring only to those we see nearby and who are like us, or was he also referring to those we see across our nation and around the world via internet video, television, and the newspaper? Did he mean that we should do such things–like feed the hungry, invite in the stranger, and care for the sick and the incarcerated–in our individual capacity only or also by using our power as a voter and advocate?
Lord, when did I see you hungry or sick or incarcerated or in need of being invited in? Oh, that was you in the news? I didn’t recognize you. You should have said something.
(Picture: The picture at the top is a picture I took a couple of weeks ago while walking to the on-campus bookstore at Wake Forest University.)
Hendricks, Jr., Obery M., The Politics of Jesus (2006). Doubleday. New York. 1-10.
Luke 4:17-21 (NIV) (event 1)
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) (event 2)
Matthew 5:9 (NIV) (event 3)
Matthew 5:9 (NLT) (same)
Matthew 25:42-45 (NIV) (“… I was hungry ….”)