The Jesus Way

The political backdrop of Jesus’ day was a Roman republic turned empire, now under the rule Caesar Augustus.  It was a government that had divinized itself.  Roman religion was pagan, and the Jews had desecrated their monotheism with marketing and manipulation.  The people responded in various ways.

The ZEALOTS wanted to rise up in violent rebellion.  The motto of the Sicarii was to “say your prayers and sharpen your swords”.

HERODIANS were supporters of the puppet ruler Herod.  They believed that resistance to the Roman Empire was futile and that compromise was called for.  Changing the political arena might secure God’s validation.  Included in this group were the affluent and aristocratic SADDUCEES.  They did not believe in the supernatural, but used religion for personal gain and position.

The ESSENES were a “spiritually elite” sect that believed that the only way to please God was to leave the corrupt political and religious system and create an alternative community in the Qumran wilderness area.  They expressed their faithfulness by isolating themselves from a culture they considered to be without remedy.

The PHARISEES were common people who believed that God would be compelled to deliver them if they would just obey His commandments more rigorously.  It was the fault of the “notorious sinners” that they were under Roman domination.

Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was in their midst.  God’s rule was being unveiled before them in his person and His fate.  You do not have to protest with violence.  You do not have to be blindly patriotic and compliant.  You do not have to disengage from your culture.  You do not have to curse the sinning scoundrels to perdition.  God’s reality is breaking into their our midst.  We will explore this more next time.