Question: Did Jesus teach His disciples to submit to Rome or fight for independence?
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).
When Jesus came onto the scene, the Jewish leadership dismissed Him as the Messiah because He was not what they were expecting. They were looking for a King to physically deliver them from Roman oppression, but Jesus’ mission was much greater. He came to deliver us from the greatest oppressor, sin (Matthew 1:21, John 8:34). Jesus was to be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His way of dealing with persecution from Roman officials. “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also… And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:39, 41). When Jesus said to go twain (two) miles, it was in reference to a Roman law that forced a Jewish person at any time carry their equipment for a Roman soldier for one mile. It didn’t matter where that Jewish person was going, if a Roman soldier demanded that they carry their equipment for a mile with them (usually weighing about a hundred pounds), they had to submit to carrying this abusive burden of humiliation.
While this oppressive rule may have made many Jews want to rebel, Jesus’ method of “fighting back” was to not only submit to the rule, but to offer the Roman officer to carry the equipment a second mile. This was for the oppressors to see God’s love for them in the oppressed person and change their heart in the process. Jesus’ only weapon was love.
Jesus’ own disciples did not understand His ways until after His crucifixion. Just before He was arrested, they were still trying to fight things their way. “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:51-52). In Luke’s account, Jesus is noted to also heal the ear of the man who was helping to wrongfully arrest Him (Luke 22:49-51). Jesus clearly did not approve of them using physical weapons to fight.
Jesus was very tactful in His dealings with political issues. In the story of the Pharisees and Herodians (Roman supporters), they tried to catch Jesus in a verbal net by asking Him if they should pay tribute to Caesar. If Jesus said yes, then the Jews could accuse Him of siding with an oppressive power. If He said no, then the Herodians could have Him arrested for speaking against a government rule. In His divine wisdom, Jesus says those famous words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
Jesus’ teachings were revolutionary and radical, but this is because they were powered by love. While nations have come and gone, Jesus’ words have remained. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44).
While Peter is said to be the disciple who drew the sword at Jesus’ arrest, he eventually learned Christ’s ways and wrote the following teaching to Christians, “ Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
In His service,