Jesus’ earthly ministry took place at a time when His people were an occupied country. The Israel in which Jesus lived was not a self-governing country. The Israelites were subjects of the great Roman Empire. The famous city of David, Jerusalem, the location of the Jewish Temple and the center of their religious faith was governed by a Roman, Pontius Pilate, who was like a provincial governor. Even Herod the Great, the king of the Jews at the time when Jesus was born, was put in power by the Roman Emperor.
The religious thought of the Jews included a lot of thinking about how God would one day overthrow the Romans and bring a kingdom in Israel that was autonomous, a kingdom ruled once again by a descendant of their greatest king, David. God had brought their ancestors to that land. God had brought them back to the land from exile in Babylon. God had led them to throw out the heathen Greek army that threatened their faith. When Jesus came along, many believed that God would send a Messiah to overthrow the Romans as well.
Jesus had a hard time convincing his disciples that he was that Messiah, and that His mission was not to overthrow the Romans. His mission was to overthrow sin in the human heart. He would not do that by leading a conquering army. He would do that by allowing Himself to be crucified. His disciples and everyone who knew Him thought that His crucifixion was Jesus’ end, a complete failure. They did not understand His sacrifice of love.
Even after his resurrection, His disciples did not understand His mission. As He gave them final instructions, they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Even after all of His lessons, they were still expecting Him to change the power structure of this world. And you know how Jesus responded to them. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 6-8 NIV).
God has not lost control of His plan. Too often Christians are forgetting the commission of Jesus. We want God to fix the world our way and in our time. But the reply of Jesus remains the same. Let God take care of ruling the universe and you receive power to be witnesses for Christ.
Satan so often seems to be winning. But faith recognizes that God has not abandoned us. He is not overthrowing governments. He is still overthrowing sin in human hearts.
Love in Christ,
Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church