July 22, 2017

Why Was Jesus Crucified?

Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate, who was the fifth prefect (governor) of the Roman province of Judea (or Judaea) from A.D. 26 – A. D. 36. There are several reasons for his crucifixion:

1.       Jesus often ignored Jewish customs. The Sadducees, and to a lesser extent the Pharisees, were generally skeptical, or outright hostile, to the message and actions of Jesus Christ. Many would have considered it heresy because it did not exactly match their concept of Jewish custom and (religious) law. There were also many zealots who took it upon themselves to sanction, or even kill, anyone who dared to violate Jewish religious tradition. Thus when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, the adulation he received would have thoroughly annoyed his opposition. Many wanted to end his activity.

2.       When Jesus disrupted the money changers in the Temple, he seriously offended the people of Jerusalem. Many of them depended on Passover for income, selling food, sacrificial animals and birds, religious items, and other goods and services to visiting pilgrims. For seven or more days the Gentiles Courtyard in the Temple Mount resembled a giant bazaar. Disrupting the money changers, who were mostly low level priests, world have been construed by rumor as an attack on all the vendors.

3.       Jesus frequently used the phrase “Kingdom of God” in his ministry. For him, it was a reference to what we would call heaven. But this phrase would have offended the Romans because it was commonly used as a code phrase that meant the restoration of God’s rule over Israel. Such action would have required kicking the Romans out of Israel and was a direct challenge to their authority. Pilot would have known Jesus was using this phrase long before he arrived in Jerusalem. The basis for a confrontation between Jesus and the Romans was already in place.

4.       When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a road covered with Palm branches, it was a high moment of triumph for both the pilgrims and the people of Jerusalem. It was fully expected Jesus would use his powers to kick the Romans out of the city. It was assumed if Jesus had the power to heal, he must also be able to use his power to bring about a military (or political) victory over the hated Romans. When it became clear Jesus had no intention of being a military (or political) leader (by Wednesday afternoon), the people quickly became disillusioned, and then rebellious.

5.       During Passover, the influx of thousands of pilgrims into Jerusalem often inflamed emotions. Outbreaks of violence occurred. The Sadducees feared Jesus would stir up the mob, and possibly cause a riot, with his talk of restoring the Kingdom of God. Since Caliphas, the High Priest was personally responsible to Pilot for maintaining the peace, Jesus presented him with an unwelcome challenge to his authority and responsibility. He would have been very motivated to have Jesus arrested for promoting rebellion and sedition.

Consistent with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, there were two trials as described in my novel "Am I Your Son?". It is unlikely either Caliphas, or his Father-in-Law Annas, were particularly concerned about breaking Jewish law or customs in order to have their way. Since Passover ended at Sundown on Thursday evening, a trial Thursday night would have been in violation of Preparation Day (considered a minor abuse of the law), but not of Passover (which to the Pilgrims would have had a greater significance). In addition, since Passover ended Thursday evening, most of the Pilgrims would have been in the process of leaving Jerusalem Friday morning. That gave Caliphas more control over a predominately Jerusalem population when he wanted to incite anger against Jesus on Friday.

Pilot would have regarded Jesus and his disciples as non-violent dissenters. Roman authorities normally dispensed with groups of non-violent dissenters by killing their leader. Hence while it is likely Caliphas would have liked to eliminate the apostles, he did not have a sufficient reason to justify their death. Pilot would have believed the elimination of Jesus would prevent any further challenge to Roman authority by those who followed him. As a consequence, his desire to find and punish the apostles quickly declined. Within weeks, Pilot was so busy with other matters, he likely ignored the apostles. Although the rise of Christianity irritated the priests in Jerusalem, and to a lesser extent the Sadducees, it was of little concern to Pilot.

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