About two millennia ago Jesus lived amid the politically charged atmosphere of Galilee and Judea. Ruling over the Jews in this region were hated Roman masters. The Jews considered them infidels. They believed that the coming Messiah would overthrow the Romans giving them a place of political power and independence. They intensely hated those that collaborated with the Roman State. Thus tax collectors were relegated to the lowest class of Jewish society. The atmosphere of hate and intolerance was fertile ground for seditions and rebellions.
The miracle-working power of Jesus raised the hopes of the Jews that this was the promised prophet or Messiah. They would have made him king, intending that with him on the throne, they could overthrow the Romans. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone (John 6:14 & 15). Jesus withdrew. He knew that taking such step would result in war and bloodshed. This was contrary to his mission. Jesus had come to save lives. At another time when his disciples suggested that religious opponents be killed Jesus said, For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (Luke 9:56). Jesus taught the people saying, 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).
Jesus never involved himself the political intrigues of earthly kingdoms. When the Jews brought Jesus to trial in a Roman court they falsely accused him of subverting the Roman State. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King (Luke 23:2). This accusation was not true since Jesus had told them they should pay tribute to Caesar (Matthew 22:17-21). Also, Jesus had never claimed the place of an earthly throne. When Pilate further questioned him, 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 the disciple Peter took the sword to fight the band that had Jesus captive, Jesus said, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52).
Jesus prophesied of the destruction of Galilee (Luke 10:13, 15), Jerusalem (Luke 19:43, 44) and Judea. He instructed his followers not to fight the Roman armies but rather to flee Judea. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out (Luke 21:20, 21). The message of Jesus was entirely pacifist and non-political. The followers of Jesus were not to have anything to do with rebellion against the Romans.
Since the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah his warning message went unheeded. Many believed that the overthrow of the Romans would herald the re-establishment their own kingdom. This was a delusion. The idea that God was on their side only made them more delusional. When rebellion broke out in the year 66 it proved to be a complete disaster for Jews. In the siege of Jerusalem the Jews that would have made peace with the Romans were silenced and even attacked by more radical Jews. The radicals destroyed the food supply of the city, attempting to force the inhabitants to fight the Romans. The Jews faced horrors of starvation, mass crucifixions, and a final slaughter by infuriated Roman soldiery.
It is very clear that Jesus had absolutely no intention of establishing an earthly kingdom. His actions established a church or a spiritual kingdom. And when he [Jesus] was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20,21). The kingdom that God claims on earth is within you. He claims the hearts and minds of those that accept him. This is the only territory that God claims on this earth, nothing more. It is an entirely spiritual kingdom or a church.
The church established by Jesus was once pure but it became corrupt. The long history of Christendom is filled with examples of those who took the sword supposing they should to establish earthly kingdoms in the name of Christ. In the late tenth century Pope Urban II called for a crusade to recapture the holy city of Jerusalem. This was a bloodthirsty venture. Jerusalem was recaptured. Both Jew and Muslim were put to the sword and massacred. The crusades in Palestine continued for another 200 years. Peasants and knights all over Europe took up the sword in the name of Christ.
Crusades were fought not only against Muslims in Palestine. In Europe wherever there were religious dissenters crusades were raised against fellow Christians. There was no such thing as religious liberty. During the early 1400’s the preaching of John Huss filled Bohemia with new religious ideas and with dissenters. When the papacy had John Huss burned at the stake it provoked a strong protest from knights and nobles of Bohemia. They wrote letters in the strongest language. Civil troubles began between Hussites and Catholics. In response Pope Martin V proclaimed a crusade against Hussites in 1420. He raised this crusade “for the destruction of the Hussites and all other heretics in Bohemia.”
All this was contrary to the command and example of Jesus. The command of Jesus to the disciple Peter was to put away the sword. This command extends to all who claim to be followers of Jesus. The Popes, while claiming to be the successors of Peter, unlike Peter, did not obey the command of Jesus. The warning of Jesus to all they that take the sword, is that they shall perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52). In 1798 a prophecy of Revelation 13:10 concerning the papacy was fulfilled: He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. The pope was made captive, attacks were made upon the church and the power of the papacy was put in check all over Europe.
Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). If we think to kill others because of different religious ideas, like the disciples, Jesus turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (Luke 9:55,56).