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Trapping Jesus: When his Kingdom is from out of this World

The conflation of political affiliation and religious devotion isn’t new. In fact, it was one of the earliest traps the enemies of Christ tried to ensnare Him with.

Part of the reason Jesus infuriated people in power was because He refused to do their bidding. He served a higher calling than any man’s or institution’s.

The Pharisees famously tried to, in the words of Matthew, “trap Him in His words.” They asked Jesus, “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

It was a question they hoped would trick Jesus into taking a volatile political position: If He answered “no,” He’d be running afoul of the rule of the Roman empire; If He said “yes,” then He could be seen as essentially agreeing to help fund the oppression being inflicted on His own people.

But Jesus knew better than to take a political position in this case. He knew He wasn’t actually being asked about a single issue. He was being asked to take a side. Jesus was wise enough not to take the bait.

Matthew writes,

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? … Show me the coin used for paying the tax. Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then He said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.

At a trial before His crucifixion, Jesus was brought before Pilate. During His questioning, Pilate seemed baffled that Jesus wouldn’t clearly state what His political agenda actually was. It was hard for the Roman ruler to grasp that politics had nothing to do with the real agenda of Christ. Here’s the exchange:

Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my Kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Even back then, the idea of serving an agenda bigger than a political one seemed foreign. But Jesus was making one thing clear: His Kingdom was not of this world. His message did not fit neatly into a political ideology—but it didn’t need to.

His Good News did not serve to promote politicians or powerful people. It served to promote the idea that God’s love extended to everyone, especially the “least of these” that have no power.

Serving the Kingdom

We shouldn’t be afraid to get involved in politics or discussions about political issues. But, while forming our judgements and opinions, we can’t be such a slave to a label that we lose sight of something Jesus wanted His Church not to forget: Yes, we are called to build a Kingdom, but this Kingdom is from another place.

This Kingdom is not of this world.

This is a portion of an article originally posted on Relevant Magazine.