Brad Hightower at 21st Century Reformation asks "what if Jesus had played politics better?"
Jesus lived perfectly aware of political realities, and He refused to play politics and actually intentionally surfaced the sinfulness and selfish motives of those in political power. For example, Jesus knew he had conflict in Jerusalem and knew that if he surfaced the hypocrisy of the political elite, they would crucify Him. Jesus predicted this outcome. So what did He do? Jesus fearlessly pressed the issue and rode into Jerusalem. He went straight to the temple, turned over the tables, and said, “You greedy money-changers have made my Father’s house into a den of robbers. My Father’s house shall be a house of prayer for all ethnicities.”
Hightower focuses on Jesus' refusal to "just keep quiet" about the sins of those who might have otherwise made powerful worldly allies.
To me, what is most interesting about this is that Jesus never made effective use of the existing power structures to make his ministry more "successful." When I think about Jesus not playing politics, I picture more than just his refusal to compromise with key influential individuals. I think about the way he always seemed to confound expectations in the way he went about his life. Jesus went out of his way to avoid using "official" human systems to spread his teachings. His ministry was a true "word of mouth" campaign--it wasn't backed by the existing religious system, by the government, or by the myriad movements and factions of the day--even though tapping into those systems might have increased the reach or worldly influence of his message.
This raises a lot of questions, many of which we've discussed here at TC in the past. Are we missing something in looking for the "most effective" evangelism opportunities? Is there something inherently corrupting about "systems," even when they're well-intentioned? If Jesus were here today, would he use blogs, movies, and churches to spread his message? Or would he avoid the most obvious or conventional means of ministry in favor of something else, as he seemed to do in the New Testament? Am I misunderstanding the way that Jesus went about his ministry?
I'm just thinking aloud here. What this means for us today is of course the subject of eternal debate, but even if we can't agree on how to apply this aspect of Jesus' life, it nevertheless seems a crucial part of his ministry.