Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of the members of the church I serve or other organizations for which I am employed.
The Christian Nationalists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th claimed that Jesus was on their side. I don’t believe Jesus would have sided with them, but if we were to pick someone from Jesus’ time who would have sided with them, a good choice would be Judas of Galilee.
Judas of Galilee was the founder of the Zealots during the time of Jesus. The Zealots hated anyone who paid taxes to the Romans or accepted their rule. They refused to accept any ruler other than God and any law other than Torah. They attempted to undermine Roman rule through violence.
There was a splinter group of the Zealots called the Sicaris who were terrorists. They would stealthily infiltrate a crowd and stab Romans and Roman sympathizers. Either the world would be run their way, which they claimed was God’s way, or there would be hell to pay.
This attitude was not one Jesus supported. Jesus taught people to respect civil law. When the Pharisees asked him whether it was a violation of Torah to pay imperial taxes, Jesus answered, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Many Christian Nationalists clearly entered Washington, D.C. with violent intentions. Jesus would not have approved of this behavior. When Jesus entered into the City of Jerusalem, he rode in on a donkey, not a war horse. In this way, he made it clear that his intentions were not violent.
Immediately after entering Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the Temple, calling it a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13). Some say this demonstrates that Jesus was not a pacifist, and they use this incident as an excuse for their violent behavior. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he wasn’t protesting political behavior; he was protesting religious behavior.
Jews were coming from long distances to worship God at the Temple. Since it was difficult to bring sacrificial animals long distances, people would buy them at the Temple, but first their money had to be converted to Temple currency. The moneychangers converted foreign money at a low rate, and the merchants charged high prices. So essentially, people traveling long distances to worship God at the Temple were being robbed in God’s own house.
This made Jesus very angry. How would you feel if visitors coming to your church to worship God were being treated this way? Wouldn’t you protest? Well, Jesus didn’t simply complain about it; he protested using a demonstration – one that didn’t hurt anyone, only the pocketbooks of the corrupt.
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. And when a Pharisee asked him, “And who is our neighbor?” he opened the door to one of the greatest parables ever told – the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Samaritans were the people the Jews hated the most – and the feeling was certainly mutual. Yet when a fellow Jew was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road, two other Jews refused to help him for “religious reasons.” They were too concerned with cleanliness to practice the greatest commandment.
What good is going to church every Sunday, partaking in the sacraments, and studying the Bible if it doesn’t teach us to love one another? If it doesn’t teach us that every life is worth saving? The Samaritan went above and beyond to take care of his “enemy.” He might not have followed the Torah as closely as those two Jews, but he knew and actually practiced the Spirit of Torah better than they.
Most of the Zealots were from Galilee. The fact that Jesus was also from Galilee probably contributed to his crucifixion. Given the behavior of the Zealots, the Roman authorities seriously doubted that a religious teacher from Galilee was a peacemaker, not an insurrectionist.
When Pontius Pilate gave the crowd the choice to release Jesus or Barrabas, they chose Barrabas – a Zealot who had committed murder. Some Christians hate the Jews for this, yet they are making the same choice.
Most Galileans were not well educated. They knew just enough religion to make them dangerous, but not enough to get the point. I would say the same is true of Christian Nationalists.