A little game of Jeopardy here. The answer is …. “No.” The question? “If Jesus were alive today, would he be a Republican or a Democrat?” In Jesus’ world he could have joined any number of movements or parties. He even had the opportunity to be the world’s leading political figure (Matthew 4:8-11) that could have brought in, albeit temporarily, a modicum of order and peace. Had he chosen, he could have been a Pharisee. These theological conservatives were the prominent sect that by and large controlled the synagogues. They were avid advocates of the law. They were teachers, scholars, and scribes, believed in the resurrection, and accepted the Scriptures as God’s revelation to his people. They were more interested in theology than politics. Many Pharisees became followers of Jesus, including Nicodemus and the Apostle Paul. Pharisees turned Christian were prominent in the Acts 15 conference. But Jesus was not a Pharisee. The Sadducees, the priestly class, were the aristocrats. Even though they had control of the temple, they were clearly more interested in politics than religion. The High Priest served at the pleasure of the Roman occupying force.
These were religious liberals and elitists who drank deeply of Greek philosophy, eventually coming to deny the existence of an afterlife and of angels. When confronted with the decision of what to do about Jesus, the cynical conclusion of the High Priest that “it is expedient that one man should die for the people” tells us much about them. The details that some of the gospel writers reveal about the private meetings held among this priestly class could very well be an indication that some of them eventually became followers of the Way and shared what happened behind closed doors. Jesus could have joined the Essenes. The Essenes separated themselves from society, living in communes and dedicated themselves to purity and study. These ascetics were active in the same part of the country as John the Baptist, whom they apparently to some extent influenced. The Herodians, as their name implies, were supporters of the Herods. We don’t know for sure if any Herodians became followers of Jesus, but at least one woman, Joanna, who was close to Herod (see Luke 8:3) supported Jesus out of her own pocketbook.
Jesus could have chosen to become a Zealot. The Zealots were a political movement that sought to incite rebellion against the Romans. This group took the lead in the rebellion against Rome in 66 AD, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. One of the apostles, Simon Zelotes, was apparently a part of this movement at one time (Luke 6:15). The Sicarii were extreme Zealots who were vocal and active in their opposition to Rome. They were nothing more than terrorists who engaged in assassination not only of Romans but even of their own people whom they suspected of being collaborators with the occupying force. Some scholars believe that Judas’ moniker “Iscariot” is derived from the word Sicarii. Jesus could have collaborated with any of these groups had he so chosen. Instead, he was able to bring together elements from most of these groups and forge them into an entirely new movement that has since changed the world forever. If Jesus were alive today (and, by the way, I contend that he is because without that simple fact Christianity has no point), he would be neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Instead he would draw followers from both.