Saturday, March 7, 2015

Theft #9 - Stealin' Back Politics (from BOTH sides)

Luke 23:50-54 (and parallels.) Joseph of Arimathea

Translation - Luke 23:50-5450Then behold, a man, Joseph by name, being a council-member, a man good and righteous 51(this one had not put down his vote together with their decision and plan of action), from Arimathea a city of the Jews, who was anticipating the kingdom of God, 52this man, when he went to Pilate, asked for the body of Jesus, 53then after he took it down, he wrapped it in a piece of fine linen and laid Him in a tomb cut into rock, of which no one had yet been laid. 54And it was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was dawning.
Objective: To establish character traits that a Christian politician ought to exhibit in public life.

What are the two topics we should never discuss during polite conversation? {Politics & religion}. These topics have the reputation of generating fiery debate even at the most casual and friendly of social gatherings.    Nonetheless . . . . .  (BOOM!!!)

Actually, Politics and Religion have been intertwined in the USA from our actually beginning as a nation. I
ndeed the Declaration issued on July 4, 1776 lit the first batch of fireworks over a new nation in which these two "hot topics" would be virtually inseparable.

In particular I have chosen to talk about the way we view the religious beliefs of our elected officials. Virtually all the leaders of the American Revolution believed in God at some level. Indeed, I doubt you could find any American presidents in the annals of history who called themselves anything but Christian. Our contemporary obsession with our leaders' religious views began not, in fact, with Ronald Reagan, but in 1976 with Jimmy Carter's declaration of himself as a "born again" Christian. As a result, for better or worse, Time Magazine declared 1976, our bicentennial year, as the "Year of the Evangelical."

With the establishment of the New Religious Right and the election of Reagan in 1980, political candidates have had to consider seriously the impact of the evangelical Christian vote in their campaign. Even Bill Clinton and Al Gore made their Southern Baptist affiliation very public. Indeed, President Clinton's victory party looked and sounded almost like a revival meeting. Here in Toledo, our first strong mayor election brought forth a major discussion of the spiritual beliefs of the candidates, and fact that a major contender was an avowed atheist quite possibly brought about his close defeat. Americans still seem to want leaders who have basic religious beliefs.
In our 233 years as nation, American believers have had more than their share of politi­cal figures who embrace the Christian vote; but not necessarily the Christian God and His righteousness. George Washington was a Free-Mason; Thomas Jefferson published his own version of the gospels with the miracles of Jesus cut out; Ben Franklin's reputation as a shameless womanizer, especially in Paris, is well-documented. Let's get closer to home with our last four "Christian" presidents: Ronald Reagan's wife practiced astrology to plan his schedule; the George Bush dreamed of a "New World Order; that good Baptist Bill Clinton supported abortion and homosexual rights. George W. Bush was too often pretty vague on what he believed.

Background and Theme Statement
The question that comes to mind from all this is "How Do You Spot a Righ­teous Politician?" Luke 23:50-54 gives some clues, at least. In this passage we meet a 1st century Jewish politician named Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned only in connection with the burial of the body of Jesus, but his contribution is recorded in all four gospels. The setting is soon after the death of Jesus on the cross, and nearing sundown on the day before the Jewish Sabbath, which was the Day of Preparation. Jn. 19:38-42 shows that Joseph ap­proached Pilate immediately after Jesus' side had been pierced to be sure he was dead. John's gospel also shows that Joseph was accompa­nied by Nicodemus.
The setting in Luke's gospel comes after what are probably the last words of Jesus on the cross before he died (Lk. 23:46), and immediately before the women prepare spices (Lk. 23:55-56). It is the day of our Lord's crucifixion; the Roman spear in His side has shown He is already dead, and the Jews want their cruci­fied countrymen taken down because the Sabbath is near.

Now I call this Joseph a politician because he was a member of the Sanhed­rin, the council of priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees who ruled the Jews under the Roman empire. The gospel accounts present the Sanhedrin as a group of scheming, self-serving men who were interested in increas­ing their personal stature, and keeping the Roman empire and their own people off their backs. They were politicians. Joseph was a politi­cian, and from the accounts in Matthew and Mark we learn he was a rich and prominent politician. But Joseph was also different. Luke calls him a right­eous and good man, and there are three things re­vealed about Joseph that justify Luke's evaluation.
These are the character traits of a righ­teous politician:
1. He acts according to his convictions.
2. He puts politics in a Biblical perspective
3. He makes his faith public under pressure.

1a. He acts according to his convictions - Luke 23:51 - "He had not consented...."

1b. This could be rendered "He had not put down his vote with their decision and their plan of action."
2b. When the Sanhedrin made their decision to pursue the perse­cution and death of Jesus Christ, Joseph of Arima­thea appar­ently voted against. Whether he knew exactly who Jesus was at that time isn't certain, but he surely recognized the both the innocence of Jesus and the thoroughly immoral and cruel nature of the Sanhe­drin's deci­sion. He wasn't swayed by the majority decision when that decision was corrupt. He voted with his convictions.

3b. Sometimes the majority is wrong:   (here you can insert lots and lots of troubesome examples . . . )

2a. He puts politics in a Biblical perspective.

1b. Luke 23:51b/Mark 15:43 - "waiting for the kingdom of God"
Lit.: "Anticipating/eagerly awaiting the kingdom of God." That is, he was anxious for the kingdom of God to come, and was ready to welcome it. Whenever Luke uses this par­ticular word for "waiting" the people doing the waiti­ng are always pictured as godly. To wait for the kingdom is the godly thing to do.

2b. Joseph certainly understood that the present state of af­fairs was not the kingdom. The non-Jewish king Herod and a ruling council who were a puppet of the Roman empire cer­tainly didn't match the Bibli­cal des­cription of the coming Messianic age, and unlike his fellow politi­cians, Joseph wasn't content with that. In John 11:47-48 we see the council convened that made the decision to kill Jesus. Listen to their reasoning: READ John 11:47-48. I think Joseph knew better. The Romans already had the nation; only God's deliverance would bring in the true kingdom.

3b. A truly righteous Christian politician today under­stands that the kingdom of God cannot be legislated in by the United States government, or manipulated in by political lobbies. He votes his convictions, but he eagerly awaits the kingdom which Christ will bring.

3a. He makes his faith public under pressure

1b. Both Mark and John tell us that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but John emphasizes that he had been keeping it secret for fear of the Jews. He picked a great time to go public. His comrades have succeeded in convincing Rome to crucify his Lord, the apostles are off hiding somewhere, but Joseph finally shows his faith.

2b. He goes to Pilate - Luke 23:52
Mark says that Joseph gathered up courage to go see Pilate. He certainly knew that Pilate was never thrilled to be involved in the mess. Pilate was a politi­cian too, and the most powerful one in Judea for the time. The last thing one wanted to do was upset the Roman gover­nor. But Joseph asks, and Pilate agrees.

3b. He buries Jesus - Luke 23:53
Joseph takes Jesus' body off the cross himself and buries Him in a brand new tomb. We know from Matt 27:60 that it was Joseph's own tomb, freshly cut into a wall of stone. This had to thrill the Sanhedrin. The man they went out of their way to discredit and murder was now buried in the tomb of one of their most prominent members. This Jesus spent most of His life with poor people, and now a rich man buries him: What kind of politi­cian does that sort of thing? A righteous one does! A righteous politician is willing to make his faith in Jesus public even when the circumstances are totally wrong from a political stand­point.

A few years ago, on a national­ly tele­vised inter­view Dan Quayle, vice-president of the United States at the time, said in so many words that the most important thing in his life was his relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, Mr. Quayle had taken his share of abuse from the press, but when Barbara Walters asked the vice-president and his wife the loaded question regarding their belief in the Bible as the Word of God, the unflinch­ing response was: Yes. The Bible is the Word of God. That's a pretty righteous stand for a politician. I think Dan Quayle meant what he said. I'd also like to point out that our vice-president chose to affirm his faith in Jesus Christ at a time when the Bush administration was losing popularity because of economic and social issues, and at a time when the media was hacking Christianity to pieces be­cause of confrontations over abor­tion and immoral preachers. If Dan Quayle was ever a secret disciple, he wasn't after that show.


In the lingo of today's pagan-humanism, the behavior of Joseph of Arimathea was not "politically correct." He risked his reputation and career by choosing to be a righteous politician.

We now live in a country where our political leaders sail on the waves of social change, one finger in the air to feel the direction of the wind of public opinion. We want to support political figures who stand apart from that system; we long for righteous politicians, politicians who are willing to acknowledge that God raised this nation up, that God can take this nation down, and that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be kicked out the White House, or the Capitol, or out of the United States of America by the President, or Congress, or the Supreme Court because Jesus is the Name above all names. Let the doubters ask Nebuchadnezzar Who holds the real power!

Before we stop today we need to acknowledge that politicians are not alone in their hypocrisy; they are not alone in expressing opinions shaped by their supporters; they are not alone in making truth relative to their own best interest. Don't we all feel the pressure of the crowd, the tyranny of the majority, now and then? We all have a public life of some kind, we all deal with the politics of the neighborhood and the workplace.

I've asked the question "How do we spot a righteous politician?" But all things considered, shouldn't the question perhaps be "How do you spot a righteous person?" We all find ourselves tempted to go with the flow occasionally: the media pressures us, our peers pressure us, and sometimes we just get used to a lower standard of holiness in our life because the evils around us that used to fill our eyes with the tears of God now seem almost normal. How do we spot a righteous person; how do we behave as righteous people? Joseph of Arimathea gives the model: He acts with his convictions; he puts politics in Biblical perspective, and most of all, when the pressure's on, he makes his faith in Jesus Christ public.

Later in Christ,
The Thief

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