did people want to put Jesus to death?
The Roman authorities,
who ruled over the mostly non-cooperative Jews, were very nervous about
Jewish "liberators" who would rise up from time to time in an effort to
throw the Romans out of Judea. Jesus made them nervous--for he seemed
to be exciting the people. Did this excitement mean what such excitement
usually meant: another Jewish rebellion in the making?
leaders were just as interested in seeing Jesus silenced--by death
if necessary. For some, it was simply a matter that they had become
very rich and comfortable under Roman rule and didn't want some hot-head
from among their own people upsetting the cozy relationship they had with
the Romans. The Sadducees (wealthy and powerful temple
priests) were particularly guilty of this kind of reaction to Jesus.
For other Jewish
leaders, they were very comfortable in their religion and did not like
the way Jesus constantly challenged them to think and act beyond mere religious
principles--to try to open themselves up to the working of God's Spirit
instead. Jesus constantly challenged them to let go of all the intellectual,
moral and spiritual control they tried to impose on life--and trust God
to provide instead. They didn't want to let go and trust God.
They preferred to trust their own religious achievements instead, as if
God were somehow forced to do their bidding because they were such "good"
people, becauseGod simply
had to reward their religous achievements.
Jesus made fun of their religious pretensions--which angered them deeply.
The Pharisees (Jewish religious lawyers and teachers) were
particularly guilty of this kind of reaction to Jesus.
people (even among Jesus' closest followers) turned against Jesus because
Jesus was not turning out according to their expectations for him.
When he first entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds were wild with
enthusiasm because they supposed that Jesus had arrived as long predicted
to restore the Kingdom of David, one that would rule the whole world from
Mount Zion in Jerusalem. When however nothing happened, no army arrived
with him, no new government was put into place, and the Romans showed no
signs of leaving just because Jesus had arrived, they grew discouraged,
frustrated and then angry. Clearly Jesus was to them just a fake
Messiah--and deserved only death for failing them in their hopes and dreams.
They became bitter, and by Friday were ready to have Jesus done in.
Of course, they
thought entirely as the world (governed by our Adversary, Satan) thinks--and
had no ability whatsoever to see what wonders God was up to with Jesus.
They were blind because they thought and acted entirely as the world thinks
Jesus’ own understanding of his coming death?
It seems at first
(as we have already seen) that Jesus thought his ministry was about bringing
all of Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Son of
But with the passing
of time--and through many prayers to his heavenly Father--Jesus' own understanding
of his ministry began to shift. Clearly all of Israel was not going
Moreover, it looked
as if events were moving faster than even Jesus expected--that the Son
of Man and the Kingdom of God were already there--in Jesus' very own presence
with them!!! That must have been an astonishing piece of self-understanding--one
that must have come upon Jesus himself only gradually.
Something in Jesus'
conversations with the Father also began to show him that this great event
was going to end tragically: the Son of Man was going to be put to
death by the very people he had come to rescue or redeem. Jesus was
going to become the "Suffering Servant" that the prophet Isaiah had long
predicted would become the savior of the world. It was not going
to be a pretty sight.
Further, he knew
that this was going to happen (as it must) in Jerusalem--and sensed that
it would most likely take place during Passover.
And he knew that
it would happen in part because of a major betrayal from among even his
But Jesus also
became aware of the odd outcome even beyond his death: his own return
from the grave in order to appear once again before his followers.
This was to take place as a testimony of the heavenly Father (for
who else could bring him back from death?!!!) reaffirming the truth about
everything that Jesus taught, performed and simply was.
What was the
reaction of the disciples to this news--and Jesus' reaction to their reaction?
failed to understand what Jesus was telling them when he announced
all this simply because they didn't want to hear such news. They
were looking for grand things to happen. Anway, his death (they thought)
would certainly end the dream of a New Israel--and their hope to be key
political leaders in the new Israel. Looking at Jesus through worldly
(Satan's) eyes they had no other way to understand events.
Jesus, of course,
recognized their thoughts, understood the source of them (Satan), but figured
that little would open them to true understanding until after these events
actually took place--and after the Holy Spirit had come to take Jesus'
place in directing their lives (and give them their first understanding
of what these events had been truly about all along).
Even then the
betrayal by Judas, the bold maneuvering by James and John to become top
officials in Jesus' kingdom, and Peter's bold verbal attack on Jesus when
he first told them how things were going to be--saddened Jesus very much.
But he knew that these tragic misunderstandings had to be. Nothing
was going to go the way the world would like or understand--but only according
to the way of God, in line with God's own plan and actions.
How was Jesus
again tempted as death approached?
or testings by Satan that Jesus underwent (and overcame) in the wilderness
at the beginning of his ministry came back to be replayed in his final
could have refused to go to Jerusalem and thus avoid the destiny that awaited
him there. He certainly could have found all kinds of reasons (including
the reasons given him by his disciples) why he should have avoided such
a tragic end. But Jesus trusted the Father with his life--all of
his life including his death--and would do nothing to alter the plan that
the Father had set out for Jesus. Jesus remained obedient to the
Father--to the very end.
When Jesus was
arrested by the Jewish guard and brought before the Jewish High Court,
he could have perhaps softened the anger of the Jewish leaders with a speech
that played to their feelings. But instead Jesus remained silent
(as Isaiah had long ago predicted he would) as they went on and on with
their tragic joke of a "trial."
When the Jewish
leaders found Jesus guilty of blaspheming against God (though they had
not one single piece of evidence supporting their verdict), they turned
Jesus over to the Roman governor, Pilate, because they wanted the Roman
authority to be responsible for Jesus' death. But Pilate himself
gave Jesus many opportunities to talk himself out of his mess. But
Jesus would take none of the opportunities, for he knew that the Father,
not Pilate, was the one who alone would set Jesus' fate. This upset
Pilate--and frightened him a bit. He really did try to distance himself
from all these goings-on. But not even Jesus gave him any help in
thought that the crowds might call for Jesus' release, for clearly Jesus
was guilty of no crime that Pilate could detect. But Pilate was astonished
that the crowds preferred to see the release of a common criminal and murderer
(Barabbas) rather than Jesus, for whom even Pilate recognized that the
world should have only the deepest respect. But Pilate's hands were
tied by his own laws. He could do nothing to help Jesus--especially
as Jesus himself gave Pilate no opportunity to change the course of events.
as Jesus was finally nailed to the Roman cross (used to torture criminals
and horrify the people into submission to Roman power) and then raised
up into position, one from which the only escape was death, people cruelly
teased Jesus by offering to bow down and worship him if he would miraculously
come down from the cross--for surely a man claiming to be the Son of God
ought to be able to carry off that simple trick. What a cruel challenge--especially
since Jesus indeed did possess such powers. However, Jesus must have
recognized that this was just a replay of the temptation of Satan from
the pinnacle of the temple--one that Jesus had already rejected.
So Jesus was not moved to accept the Satanic challenge.
Why was Jesus’
forgiveness the power that broke Satan?
is the one thing that drives law-and-order people ("control-freaks") crazy.
over life (actually only the appearance, not the reality, of such control)
is what Satan offers people in exchange for their souls. What God,
of course, hopes to see coming from us is simply our total trust
in him with our very lives. But Satan knows that if we trust first
in ourselves and our handiworks, we will never find it in our hearts to
trust in God--until it's too late.
believe in the human world-system and have pledged their lives to advancing
it. They definitely do not like it when people do not play along
with the program.
Some people are
system "drop-outs" because the system simply has obviously not worked for
them (permanaent disability, loss of a loved one, poverty, bad mistakes).
These people are embarrassments to the system, which puts them out of sight
so that they don't stand there like a bad reminder that the system doesn't
always work for everyone: prisons or leper colonies or nursing homes
or somewhere that they won't be a constant reminder that the system is
not all-wonderful. In justifying this cruel treatment of these "failures,"
the control freaks offer the excuse that these failed people have somehow
done something to deserve their fate (they are not useful contributors
to society) and we need not concern ourselves further with them.
But Jesus did
concern himself with them. He went to them--with the Good News of
a better way: "trust in God alone, and not in the works of man."
He even forgave them for their failures--which angered the control freaks,
who felt that "justice" was not being served when Jesus was so easy on
the failed ones. The control freaks felt that in his forgiving people
who failed or even broke the rules, Jesus seemed to be encouraging them
not to be concerned about the system and its rules--which indeed was exactly
what Jesus was doing. He was teeaching them to be concerned instead
in the judgments of God.
This made Satan
and his control-freak puppets very angry. That's what angered the Pharisees
so much who were watching and waiting to catch Jesus on some point of the
religious law when they brought the woman caught in adultery to him.
But where forgiveness
rules supreme, Satan has lost out, has been rejected. Forgiveness
puts aside the requirements of the law and offers people life (even eternal
life) instead through faith in God alone.
So even as Jesus
took his last breath he refused to call even his torturers to some kind
of moral accounting. Instead he simply forgive them--giving Satan
no opportunity to get into his thoughts, not even as Jesus hung there,
slowly dying an excruciatingly painful death. The Son of Man was
the one who got completely away from Satan--and showed Satan that indeed
he did not have full mastery over human creation. Satan's grip over
man was now broken, because one man, Jesus, showed the way of escape:
loving, even to the point of forgiving, those who, in the name of the world
system, try to destroy us. Against such forgiveness Satan has no
Why is Jesus’
crucifixion considered the essential ingredient for God's new covenant
Ancient Jews understood
very well that life belonged to God. And the sign or symbol of life
to the ancient Hebrew or Jew was blood. And it was such a sacred
sign/symbol that all blood that was shed (by man or animal) was thought
of as belonging to God alone. Man was forbidden to eat meat with
blood still in it; and only properly "washed" priests were allowed to handle
blood, such as during the animal sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem.
Indeed, the important
exception to the restriction on handling blood occurred only when God was
offering a new covenant to his people--a new deal, a new arrangement whereby
he promised his protection if they promised their total obedience and service
to him. The deal was signed or authorized by the offering to God
of the blood of sacred or specially set-apart animals (such as bulls, rams,
cattle, lambs, doves). Even at one time early in the life of the
Hebrew people, they offered up their first-born sons in sacrifice as a
sign of their commitment to a covenant relationship with God.
in the case of the new covenant God offered the whole world in and through
Jesus Christ, it was God this time that offered up as a sign or seal on
the deal the blood of his first-born son, Jesus (though ironically by the
hands of human murderers who had no idea of how much they were serving
God through their cruelty).
invited those who entered into the covenant to even themselves eat the
bread and drink the wine mysteriously representing his own body and blood
offered in sacrifice for their cleansing, shed as a necessary requirement
for them in being permitted to enter into the saving covenant with God.
And all that God
asked of them in return for this offering of divine blood was the recognition
of their own sins, the powerlessness of their own deeds to rescue them
from their sins, and their total trust instead in the power of Jesus' sacrifice
of body and blood to be the true payment, the only payment that could meet
the full requirements of the "fines" that our sins brought on us, the only
payment that could fully "atone" for our sins (bring us back into a one-ness
Why was Jesus
raised from the dead on the 3rd day?
This was God's
way of showing everyone the power we have--over even death--if we will
just trust him totally with the care of our lives. Jesus returned
as a sign, a God-given sign, pointing clearly for those who were willing
to see with the eyes of faith that everything that Jesus had promised about
the Way of God was indeed true.
to increase our faith, the faith we would need to go the full way with
God, even against the cruel attacks of the world system.