Was Jesus political?
According to John 11, the authorities in Jerusalem feared that Rome would come and take away their place (temple) and nation (semi-autonomous status). It seems Jesus was perceived as a political threat because his stirring of the crowds might lead the Romans to see Israel as bad for civil order. Therefore the leaders in Jerusalem saw Jesus as a threat to their security.
In synagoge and temple, Jesus spoke to the crowds about the coming kingdom of God. As well, through miracles of healing, exorcisms, and subversive teaching, Jesus was leading Israel out of her wilderness like existence (she had returned home but politically and spiritually was still in exile) and into her Eden like calling where she was to represent the reign and rule of God to the Gentiles.
By using titles like Son of Man and conjuring up the eschatological hopes tied to the Son of David and the Son of God, Jesus led many to believe that he was inaugurating the kingdom Israel had been waiting for. So most certainly he would have been seen as political. And the truth is, Jesus was inaugurating the kingdom Israel had been waiting for, but he was doing it in a way they did not expect or like. Jesus knew himself to be the Messiah, Israel’s eschatological deliverer, but not the sort of Messiah popularly expected.
His message was one of faith and repentance, as he called Israel to adopt his way of being Israel (faith) and turn from her way of being Israel (repentance). He called people to have faith in him and to take up their cross (which could mean losing Roman security and being rejected by Rome) and to follow him in order to become the new Adam who would represent God to the nations. Through the meager 12, Israel’s original calling was now being renewed in Jesus.
Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God sought to shift the people’s hopes away from their distorted national allegiance (we are true Israel) and their boastful boundary markers (circumcision and food laws), which were never meant to be signs they boasted in, but evidence of their election and their special calling. Jesus called people to trust him even though he was going to die. Because in three days, the new Adam, the new Israel would be resurrected and God would once again be on mission to redeem the nations.