Republicans and Democrats alike will tell you (when it benefits them) that Jesus would be one of them.
“God created man in His image, therefore all life is valuable – this proves Jesus would be a Republican.”
“Jesus had compassion for the poorest of people and said it was nearly impossible for a rich man to enter Heaven – this proves He would be a Democrat.”
The real truth? He’d condemn them both as hypocrites and prefer they leave him out of the discussion.
It’s not difficult to reach this conclusion when looking at Scripture. The Sadducees and Pharisees were the political and religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and He frequently sparred with both of them. The two groups were separated on several ideological fronts including the existence of angels and demons, as well as adherence to Roman rule.
Sadducees – the group which held the majority at the time – were generally more affluent and conservative. They favored a cooperative relationship with Rome, primarily because it was good for business and maintained order and peace.
Pharisees were more representative of the common man and more liberal in their understanding and interpretation of Mosaic Law. They opposed Roman rule and advocated strict adherence to the Mosaic Law (as they understood it) and the Jewish traditions that had been passed down for generations.
In some ways, the two were similar to our modern-day Democrats and Republicans – particularly when it came to how they related to one another.
As members of the governing Sanhedrin, much of the interaction between Pharisees and Sadducees centered around debating their differences. Legal matters submitted for their consideration were viewed by each group in the light of its own values, often resulting in fierce debate during which both sides would fight tooth and nail just to win even the most minute of points against the adversary.
Sound familiar? Just wait.
Jesus sparred with the Pharisees far more than with the Sadducees, but in Chapter 22 of Matthew’s Gospel we see much about his dealings with both groups – as well as a key point which provides insight into how He might react to today’s political leaders.
Jesus spends most of Chapter 21 and part of Chapter 22 speaking in Parables which largely condemned both the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then in 22:15-22, the Pharisees lay a trap for him through a third group known as Herodians. The Herodians came to Jesus in what is His only truly political encounter in Scripture.
“Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”
It was a question asked with the intent of forcing Jesus to take a side, and in doing so to align himself with one group or the other. His response – as it always was with both groups – sent them walking away like Elmer Fudd after failing to ensnare Bugs Bunny.
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The Pharisees didn’t know what to do with such a response. Not only had they not anticipated it, but they could neither refute nor accept it without abandoning their own beliefs.
The Sadducees fared even worse. They came to Jesus (22:23-33) the same day and presented to him a loaded hypothetical question. If a woman married seven different brothers in her lifetime, whose wife would she be in the afterlife? Again, the intent was to get Jesus to take a side. Jesus leaves no doubt in His response.
“Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
In this case Jesus’ response confirms that there is indeed a resurrection, and that angels do exist – in both cases giving a direct refutation of firm Sadducee doctrines. Where the Pharisees had gone away scratching their heads, the Sadducees leave with much of their ideology having been rebutted.
With their adversaries having been completely denied by Jesus, the Pharisees return – this time directly – and question Him, perhaps hoping that Jesus’ treatment of the Sadducees might indicate some favorability toward them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus begins by shutting their arguments down so well that “no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (22:46).
At that point, Jesus sets off on a blistering verbal assault, pronouncing woe upon the Pharisees eight times and referring to them as hypocrites, fools, blind, unclean, serpents, a generation of vipers, and full of iniquity.
Eventually the two factions joined forces, seeing in Jesus a common enemy. Once that unholy alliance was made, Jesus’ fate was sealed – though we know from Scripture that His death had been planned all along.
Again – sound familiar?
There are few times that Republicans and Democrats join forces on anything today. When they do, it is usually an act of mutual self-preservation – just as with those Pharisees and Sadducees from 2,000 years ago. And it’s a certainty that Jesus would have no part of that.
The message of Jesus’ reaction to the two groups is clear: Rather than maintain allegiance to our side of the political aisle and co-opt Jesus into it, we should simply follow Him – even if it means throwing our political allegiance to the wind.