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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why was Jesus killed?

Why was Jesus killed?

Throughout their history, the Jews not only contended against hostile neighbors, but even more so against vastly superior empires who threatened both their way of life and their survival.

In the gospel of Mark, the cosmic battle was described as between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan played out in each individual and in the community of believers.

This battle comes to a head when, on the first day of Passover week, Jesus makes an entry into Jerusalem with a demonstration of support by his followers sure to attract Rome's attention. By riding on a donkey, Jesus entry was anything but triumphalistic. A conqueror enters either on a war horse or chariot, Jesus enters on a lowly beast of burden in fulfillment of Zachariah.

Jerusalem was a city of violence and empire, as well as the Temple Herod the Great had decorated with eagles, a symbol of Roman power. This stuck in the craw of pious Jews as it was a constant reminder of their subjugation even in their holiest place.

Jesus then performs another prophetic act, the so-called cleansing of the Temple (actually symbolizing the destruction of the Temple) since it was built by the unholy alliance between Rome and the religious leaders.

Jesus action was an affront to both the Jewish authorities and their Roman masters. It was a protest emanating from the very heart of Judaism. It was a permanently valid protest for all ages against collusion between religion and worldly politics.

Each prophetic sign takes place at the entrance: of Jerusalem and of the Temple.
Mark implies that the populace was totally on Jesus' side, since the Jewish authorities wanted to arrest Jesus but were afraid of the people's reaction. They feared instigating a riot. So far, Jesus is safe.

Judas, however gives them an opportunity to arrest Jesus at night and have him dealt with before the people become aware of what is happening. (Bear in mind this was millennia before texting and Twitter.)

The charges brought against Jesus was sedition against the Temple, sedition by urging nonpayment of taxes and also blasphemy, a serious offense to the Jewish leaders but which Rome cared little about. The term "Messiah" certainly caught Pilate's attention. Pilate despised this untenable dilemma they had thrust upon him.

Their scheme was as insidious as it was brilliant: if the crowd caught wind of the plot, the Jewish leaders could always blame the Romans. At the very least they'd be rid of this pesky Jesus; at best they'd undermine Pilate as well, and maybe get him transferred out of Jerusalem.

For his part, Pilate sought to stick it to the Jewish leaders by forcing them to choose between freeing Jesus, a seemingly unthreatening prophet and preacher from the sticks, as opposed to freeing Barabbas, a notorious murderer and revolutionary.

Mark alone identifies the charge against Jesus as a being a serious threat against the Temple/Rome alliance. Once Barrabas' followers out shout those of Jesus, his fate is sealed. Or so they thought.

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