Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who Killed Jesus?

"People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:15-17

Who was responsible for Jesus’ death? The simple answer to this question is the Romans did because Israel as an occupied nation could not exactly punish or condemn a man to death. There are others who say the Jews killed him citing that he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, denied by Peter and the other disciples, and condemned by the Jews in general. However, the backstory is much more complicated. Keep in mind that Jesus was touring and preaching across the land during Roman rule. But he was never stopped from doing so by the Romans. The Romans had removed the right from the Jewish High Priests to exert the ultimate punishment of death after they had conquered Palestine.

For a more detail account of the area in question, check out Land of Israel and Palestine.

As it relates to the modern conflict, the central claims that physically possessing the land will usher in the return of Christ violates the scripture. Not even Jesus knew when he would return. Yahweh, (the name of God as it appeared to Moses in Exodus) is the one who will decide this and Yahweh doesn’t operate according to our agendas nor on our time schedules. This indicates to me that these particular people especially certain ministers in the United States have led their congregations astray and are preaching a false doctrine especially when it comes to Revelation. Yahweh is not a real estate agent. Yet we have reduced him to being one. Likewise, the notion that committing suicide bombings will lead to meeting 70 virgins upon entering Heaven is equally absurd. Is it any wonder why logic and reason are important!

Judaism during the time of Christ had many sects and diverse beliefs. There was no one type of Jew. Among these were the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Essenes.

The Sadducees were of the wealthy aristocratic land-owning families who controlled the priesthood and oversaw the daily affairs of the Temple. We find in the Bible that the Jewish High Priests (who claimed to the spiritual heirs to Zadok, the High Priest under David and Solomon) had arranged a “marriage of convenience” with the occupying Romans which would enable to remain in power so as long as they kept the populace in line and paid tribute to the Romans. In short, they were sell-outs and certainly saw Jesus being a threat to their power. Read Mathew 26 & 27. The life of the Sadducees centered solely around temple worship and were extremely rigid in their interpretation of the Written Law. After the Temple was destroyed during The Great Revolt, this group disappears from the pages of history.

Woe to the Pharisees is commonly cited as proof that the Pharisees were the main opponent of Jesus (Matthew 23). However, keep in mind that Matthew and Luke were written during a time of increasing tension between the Jews and the followers that would come to be known as Christians. Both Gospels, thought to be written sometime between 75-90 A.D. occurred in a time of tremendous upheaval. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. The Jews and Christians were amongst themselves at odds over who was responsible for removing God’s protection and various other matters such as sacrificing of animals and ritual purity laws. The Pharisees were lay ministers and considered Jesus to be one of their own. The main differences were over certain aspects of Mosiac laws and the rules that grew up around them such as divorce, taxes and Sabbath observance in addition to the “tradition of the elders”.

The third group is the Essenes. It is thought that Jesus spent a few years with them before embarking on his public ministry at around age 30. The Essenes emerged out of disgust with the other sects. This sect believed the others had corrupted the city and the Temple. They moved out of Jerusalem and lived a monastic life in the desert, adopting strict dietary laws and a commitment to celibacy. The Essenes are particularly interesting to scholars because they are believed to be an offshoot of the group that lived in Qumran, near the Dead Sea. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd stumbled into a cave containing various ancient artifacts and jars containing manuscripts describing the beliefs of the sect and events of the time. The most important documents, often only parchment fragments that had to be meticulously restored, were the earliest known copies of the Old Testament. The similarity of the substance of the material found in the scrolls to that in the modern scriptures has confirmed the authenticity of the Bible used today.

The Sadducees outraged at Jesus’ new teachings of love and teachings considered an affront to temple worship, sent a group of their temple guards to arrest him. Once arrested they passed him over to the Romans conspiring false accusations until they managed to get him crucified for being "King of the Jews", an outright frontage to the Roman Emperor, punishable by death. Yet once again, this particular group disappears after the destruction of the Temple. Perhaps justice has already been served in this case.

So who do we blame? The Pharisees? They emerged as the main group in Judaism after 70 AD. But in modern times, this group has come to be known as a symbol of blind adherence to rules and regulations.

Should Christians be angry with the Jews for the Crucifixion of Christ? As a general rule, Jews don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah and didn’t Jesus die for those who believed in him?

How about his followers, mostly aptly named Christians? Perhaps so, but Christians didn’t emerge as a distinct sect until at least a decade after the cruxificion. Jesus’ followers were still Jews during his time on Earth. In a nutshell, Judaism didn’t give birth to Christianity. There were more like siblings and certainly after the fall of the Temple, sibling rivals.

So who is to blame? Perhaps the central focus shouldn’t be on who is to blame for the death of Jesus, but the fact he rose again. Didn’t God send his own son to take our place on the Cross? Perhaps the Apostle Paul gave the answer as to who is to “blame” when he wrote in Galatians:

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:24-29

Ultimately, the story of Jesus is a story of redemption and rebirth, not death and destruction. Think about that for a moment!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent insight and exposition!

Jim Callihan - GA
(aka "anonymous" :-)