Jesus was born into a world where His people were dominated and treated unjustly by the ruling authority of Rome. As such, the Jews held to the prophecies that God would send them a Deliverer. Such is why King Herod ordered the murder of all male children born around that time, causing Joseph and Mary to hide in Egypt with Jesus when He was a babe (Matthew Chapter 2).
To get a better understanding of this time period and the lives of Jewish people, look at the following excerpts from Jews and the Roman Empire and The Jewish World of Jesus:
Jews and the Roman Empire"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Zechariah 9:9
The way the Roman Empire developed, was gradually to take over more and more territories in the eastern Mediterranean. Some of these were governed as provinces. You can imagine the Roman Empire gradually taking over more and more areas as they conquered and progressively moved to the east. North Africa, Egypt, Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, Syria. And gradually, they also conquered Judea. In the process, they set up some as provinces, and some as client kingdoms. Judea happened to be one of these client kingdoms run by its own independent, or semi-independent, King. This is the person we know as Herod the Great.
For the ordinary people of the Jewish homeland, Rome was a kind of dominant political factor. Although they might not have seen Romans on a day-to-day basis, the imposition of Roman power was certainly there. In the case of the client kingdom, Judea, Herod's rule and Herod's forces would have been the political entity. But everyone knew that Rome was the power behind the throne. Everyone knew that Rome was the source of both the wealth and also the source of some of the problems that occurred in the Jewish state. So the political reality of the day was of a dominant power overseeing the life on a day-to-day basis.
The Jewish World of Jesus
Life for the Jews under the procurators was exceedingly difficult. For example, Pontius Pilate was described by Agrippa I as unbending and severe with the stubborn, and was accused of bribery, cruelty, and countless murders. This protrait is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus who chronicled a number of events that provoked the Jews under Pilate and other procurators, leading to riots, beatings, and executions. The Legate of Syria eventually removed Pilate on the complaints of the Samaritans, whom he had mistreated. After the interim reign of Herod Agrippa I ended in 44 C.E., the situation under the procurators deteriorated even further. In one case, Josephus (who likes to inflate figures) says 20,000 Jews were killed in a riot prompted when a Roman soldier ridiculed some Passover pilgrims with an indecent gesture. There thus emerged within Judaism groups of revolutionaries who looked back to the militaristic Maccabees and their zeal for the Law as great heroes. These “Zealots” were already active in spirit, if not in name, in the period prior to the birth of Jesus. In 6 or 7 C.E., Judas the Galilean and a Pharisee named Zaddok attempted to arouse the people to revolt against the first Roman census. Self-styled prophets and messiahs appeared from time to time and eventually an even more radical group, the Sicarii (Latin sicarius, “dagger”), emerged to foment revolution by assassination. Clearly, the policy of the tyrannical and brutal procurators, like that of the Seleucid Hellenizer Antiochus IV over 150 years earlier, met with increasing opposition led by more revolutionary Jews; ultimately, the forces of moderation could not contain them.
The Jews wanted someone who would save them from their position in this world, but Jesus came to save them from their condition in sin.
Think of one time when Jesus even spoke of Rome, besides Him telling them to render to Caesar what was Caesar's and render to God what was God's. In other words, the things which pertained to Caesar had nothing to do with the things which pertained to God.
In spite of the fact that the Jews were under persecution by the Romans, this was never Jesus' focus. Let's put it another way. Jesus was fully aware that the Jews were being robbed, abused, and killed at the hands of the Romans (the devil only comes to steal, kill, and destroy). So the question is, why didn't Jesus fight for the plight of the Jewish people against Rome? Why didn't He make it a priority in His life and ministry to redress Roman oppression? Why didn't He instruct His disciples to set right these wrongs?
- God's Kingdom is not of this World
"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
Jesus' eye was singly focused on preaching and bringing to pass the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world (Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; Luke 9:2). The Kingdom of God does not come from this world, is not influenced by this world, and is not based upon the things of this world.
- Such was not the Father's Business
"And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Luke 2:49
Jesus only did and said what the Father commanded, as He was always about the Father's business (John 4:34; John 5:17; John 8:29; John 9:4; John 12:49-50; John 14:10), Therefore, the Father never directed Jesus to focus on Roman oppression.
- This world is temporal and passing away
"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:" Mark 9:47
Jesus knew that everything in the world - the good and the bad - would all pass away and was not everlasting (Matthew 34:25; II Peter 3:10). He always attempted to get man to understand that their lives in this world were not the most important thing, but that we should value most that which is eternal (Matthew 16:23-25; Luke12:15; Luke 21:34; Johm 12:25; Colossians 3:2; II Timothy 2:4; I John 2:15-16). Even the troubles we face here are only light and momentary afflictions when compared to the eternal glory which awaits us (II Corinthians 4:16-17).
- Satan is the god of this world
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." I John 2:15-16
Jesus knows that the systems of this world are under the jurisdiction of Satan and that the world has been betrayed into Satan's hands. He acknowledges that Satan is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:3-4). The world's ways are not the Lord's ways and He does not expect the world to do what is right (Isaiah 55:9; John 15:19). Apart from God, any "right" man does is only as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
- Both the Jews and Romans were all sinners.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
The Romans were doing evil, but so were the Jews. The Jews wanted the Romans judged for their sins, but were blinded to their own affronts to God (Matthew 7:1; Matthew 8:23-35; Luke 6:37; Luke 13:34; John 7:24). They didn't cry out to God to be partakers of His righteousness; rather, they wanted vindication against their enemies. Yet, there was none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Would a just God judge one man's sins and not another's (Proverbs 20:10, 23)? He is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
The fact that Jesus (and His disciples) refused to get caught up in a pursuit for worldly justice against the Romans does not mean He didn't care for His people. It is an illustration of the fact that He cared too much to be sidetracked into participating in skirmishes that would not dismantle Satan's diabolical kingdom. Because Satan's kingdom is built upon sin, Jesus had to lay the axe to the root of the matter. Jesus came to destroy the all of the works of the Devil so that all men mught be set free (I John 3:8).
Because the True Messiah did not focus on their lives in this world - the Jewish people created "another Jesus" who would...and they await him still today (II Corinthans 11:4). When called to choose between God and the world, they willingly aligned themselves with the world.
"But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar." John 19:15
In spite of verbal professions that they belonged to the Father, the truth was that they really loved the world and were of the world. So when you hear people talking about a "Jesus" who is all wrapped up in the affairs of this life and whose primary concern is your life in this world - whether it is your prosperity or tribulation in it - you can know that they too are seeking "another Jesus". Jesus, and those who belong to Him, will never focus on the aspects of your life in this world, but on things above.
The Jews were looking for a Savior who was going to give them justice over their wordly oppressors, while ignoring their own sinful condition. Since they did not see this in Jesus, they rejected Him. They passed over the only hope for all mankind because they were focused on an earthly Deliverer bringing them earthly rewards. This is a lesson all should heed.