The following is an excerpt from 100 Prison Meditations, on our lack of fitness to govern society:
Why did Jesus not allow himself to be made a king?
When Jesus perceived that the Jews would make him a king, he departed (Jn 6.15). Surely he would been a better king than Herod and He must have known it. Why, then, did he not accept?
We can only postulate his motives.
One reason would be that the choice would not be His. Nations are fickle: today they elect a king; tomorrow they overthrow him. Christ does not accept the roles we choose for Him. The choices must be His. His decision was to be a Saviour for eternal life rather than a king in this life.
On the other hand, the fact that He was a good Saviour does not prove that he would have been a good king over Judaea, just as a good Sunday school teacher might not necessarily be a good prime-minister.
As man, He sometimes showed utter indifference toward human suffering, just as he could also show compassion. None of these attitudes dominated Him.
He chose among them. He was told about innocent Galileans killed by Pilate. A kingly person in the earthly sense would have shown indignation and would have organized the tyrant’s overthrow. Jesus said simply: ‘Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13.2-3).
He is told about a catastrophe, a tower which has collapsed killing eighteen people: Jesus does not give instructions about building more safely in the future, nor does he organize relief for families of the victims. He repeats the above words and makes this another occasion for teaching repentance. He acknowledges only one real motive for grief: that of not being a saint.
This is the correct attitude for a Saviour, but not for an earthly king.
When Jesus heals a man inhabited by demons, He causes a large herd of swine to drown (Lk 8.33). Jesus shows callousness towards this destruction of property. But it was acceptable for a Saviour to destroy a herd and leave someone impoverished in order to heal his fellow man, and therefore Jesus does not justify himself, nor do the evangelists defend his action.
He achieves the objective to be expected from a Saviour. For an earthly king such behaviour would not be right.
Jesus predicts a national tragedy: the destruction of the Jewish state. He does not call upon men to risk their lives in defence of their fatherland as a secular king would have to do. He tells his disciples, ‘At such a time, flee’ (Lk 21.210. The abandonment of their countrymen at such a time forced the final break between Christianity and Judaism.
The Saviour had entrusted the disciples with a deposit of eternal truth which had to be kept intact. This was more important than the defence of the land.
So thinks a Saviour. An earthly king has another calling. These two purposes do not mix.
Jesus could not be an earthly king, and those who try to make Him the Solver of earthly problems are mistaken.