Why Was Jesus Executed Essay, Research Paper
Why was Jesus executed? In answering this question in historical terms, we must first look at the events leading up to his arrest and ultimately, his execution. We know that Jesus performed that symbolic gesture of cleansing the temple, by overturning the money changers tables, and most believe that this act was symbolic of destruction, not purification. Paula Fredrickson, author of From Jesus to Christ writes: Through this disruptive gesture, Jesus symbolically enacted the enpending apocalyptic destruction of the Temple that God s kingdom was at hand. So basically, his gesture, as Fredrickson states: would have been readily understood by any Jew watching, as a statement that the Temple was about to be destroyed by God, and accordingly that the present order was about to cede to the Kingdom of God.
So in doing this, Jesus obviously made a lot of people mad. Most obviously were the chief priests in the temple because he did it during Passover (one of the holiest holidays), knowing Pontius Pilate was around for crowd control, and to announce so liberally that the freedom of their people was at hand, would incite a threat to the Roman stronghold. It is known that Pontius Pilate was not a nice guy to begin with, and he was not happy to be in Jerusalem during its most crowded time of the year. Passover is a holiday celebrating the Jews freedom from slavery, so he was there as crowd control. Paula Fredrickson states in an interview: He had a reputation for crucifying untried prisoners Pilate was legally responsible to be in Jerusalem when it was most crowded. He was in a bad mood already when he got into town hearing that someone was a trouble maker would be enough. So all he needed to do was find someone to take his frustrations out on. Enter Jesus. The priests basically handed him over to Pilate. In the gospel of Luke, the priests call Jesus a blasphemer. Was he turned over to Pilate because of their desire to keep the peace, or was it out of jealousy that maybe Jesus knew something they didn t, or was it merely out of ignorance? There is no evidence that he committed some blasphemy, so he was handed over to Pilate for what? He was a threat to the priests stronghold over the temple, if Jesus was right, then there would be no need for them. As for Pilate, it seems he did his part because the crowd was calling for it. They traded Jesus for a convicted murderer named Barabbas (gospel of John).
Well, I think to myself, that can t be it. There has to be another real, solid answer to this question. Politically, what Jesus preached was a threat to the Roman stronghold. If the Jews were to believe that their freedom from Roman rule was at hand, and a new order was abounding, they could uprise against the Romans, and their main representative in Jerusalem-Pilate. This being true, what about the priests? Jesus was a threat to their religious sensibilities . Jesus was a revolutionary. His ideas did not interact smoothly with those priests ideas. His ideas challenged both the political dominance of the Jews by the Romans, and the priests dominance over the temples and the peoples beliefs. Jesus prompted people to search for the truth. Rome was not the truth and the priests certainly did not hold the truth within them. He questioned their authority and they did not like that, some really believed that he was the son of God, and they did not like that either. He was betrayed, first, by his own people; they bore false witness against Jesus to priests looking for incriminating evidence. But does this suggest he dies for religious reasons? Fredrickson states: The query the high priest is made to utter- are you the Christ, The Son of the Blessed? -is precisely the Christian confession. Jesus is the Christ, he is the Son of God; and so he is presented here, in effect dying for Christianity.
It seems to me, and this is personal opinion based on evidence presented, that the only things the Romans did directly, was the crucifixion. He was betrayed by a Jew, tried by the Jews, and turned over to Pilate by the Jews. But Jesus was portrayed by them as, essentially a troublemaker, not only for the priests and Jews, but also, ultimately, the Romans. In Luke, chapter 15, he is accused of enticing a revolution, in Mark, he is accused of many things , and in both, his crucifixion is demanded.
I believe Jesus died to keep the peace. Even though he preached non-violence, and peaceful protest (kind of like an ancient Ghandi), he was misunderstood. What Jesus taught was radically different than anything anyone of that time was used to, and history goes to show, we always seem to condemn that which we do not understand. The priests saw him as a threat to their establishment; what if more people began to follow his teachings? That would draw people away from the temples, they would no longer be needed. If Jesus were right, then everything they were preaching would be wrong, so why not get the trouble out of the way before it gets any worse, right? It seems nothing has changed with religious policy, it s all a form control, and a desire for power. Seeing how intertwined politics and religion were, I have to believe that it was a political move. The crucifixion of Jesus satisfied both the Jews and the Romans, but ultimately, through their own action, they helped propel Jesus into an idol, and also helped propel Christianity into one of the fastest growing and now largest religions of the world, exactly what they sought to prevent.