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Crucifixion

2nd May 2013, hej

 

1) About the Crucifixion

We saw someone sky write “+ = love” as an Easter message. But it was troubling. It is never wise to simplify events in history, as in fact on investigation the resurrection is the act of love. That crucifixion was about leading personalities, hatred and it was highly political.


Instead of reading doctrine into human doctrine and finding fuzzy feel-good simplifications, let us examine what really happened according to the eye witnesses we have available.

The whole has a history. It didn't happen in a day.


What Jesus said that upset his home town

John the Baptist had introduced Jesus (Iesous Yesous, Y'shua) to the people as the one revealed to him as the son of God. Some began to follow him and for a while he teaches near the Jordan John notes they went on occasion to Galilee. According to Luke he then moves into Galilee and does miracles. Matthew and Mark say that he went into Galilee after John the Baptist was put in prison. Luke then tells us that after he becomes famous in Galilee he comes to his home town of Nazareth. He reads Isaiah where he is 'anointed to preach the gospel to the poor' and says he fulfils it. The next event is an eye opener,

And he said unto them, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.”
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (Luke 4:23-29)

It seems no one tried to stop this. Somehow he escaped them and walked back though the crowd. Why did he explain to the people of Nazareth what they would do? Did he seek to upset those who knew him so well? The outcome is that there was so much anger the people who knew him well sought to kill him. There can be no reason to doubt this did happen, as it forms the beginning of a pattern that could not possibly have been imagined.


Let us see clearly, not a false picture. This man gained rapidly a lot of enemies. Unless each of us look into our hearts we might also reject what is a very unpopular message.


2) An early Serious upset of the leaders in Judea

John records Yeshua going up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. While there on the Sabbath he heals a man who could not walk, and tells him to take up his bed. The man is seen carrying the bed and told he can't carry it on the Sabbath. He says the one who healed him said to take up his bed.

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
But Jesus answered them, My Father works hitherto, and I work.
Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:15-18)

John speaks of the 'Jews', as meaning the leaders of Judea. John was, like his Lord, a Galilean. After this and a few other incidents John summarises,

After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. (John 7:1)

This shows that John meant by 'Jews' the jurisdiction of the Jews in Judea. They were so upset over him breaking their sabbath rules and on top of it having such powers that they were going to kill him. It was well known that there was an intent to kill. The following quote shows the debate not long after John the Baptist endorsed him as the son of God,

Jesus answered them (the Jewish leaders in the Temple), and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goes about to kill thee?
Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

It was indeed well known some sought to kill him.

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaks boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ comes, no man knows whence he is.
Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he has sent me.
Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man has done?
The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, there ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come? In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water..
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knows not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he does? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee arises no prophet. And every man went unto his own house. (John 7:16-53)

Nicodemus having come secretly by night had confessed that none could do such miracles unless they be sent by God, but the leaders of the Pharisees did not know this. This shows that the whole people were divided, from bottom to top, but that the balance of power, the leadership of the Pharisees and the chief priests were against him and sought to take him (to judgement ending in his death).


Reason at an Unnamed Synagogue in Galilee

The kind of environment is explained in one place where Jesus (Iesous Yesou, Yeshua) heals a woman bowed with infirmity 18 years.

And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? (Luke 13:14-15)

In this case his adversaries are ashamed as they understand the argument. They all accept the leader of the Synagogue being rebuked.


Herod didn't like him

After some acceptance in Galilee he heads to Jerusalem again.

The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stoned them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:31-35)

As is revealed later in the record Herod had a desire to see him to no good end. But though Herod would wish him dead, there is a distance which suggests the source of active hatred was somewhere else, and it was diffuse.

Nothing in the records is clear cut as to who it is who is driving the 'kill-campaign', as soon after this he eats bread at the house of one of the chief Pharisees, where the bone of contention seems to be unanswered when someone seeks to be healed,

And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things. (Luke 14:2-6)


3) Stones to kill

The following shows again that he had a talent for gaining enemies by his forthright speech,

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long do you make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, make thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphem; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, (John 10:22-39)

The leaders who hung about the temple might be hot-headed, but the stones were meant to kill and are listed as a weapon of both murder and justice in the law of Moses. Just why it was they thought they could take up stones, and how the stones were so readily about on the porch indicate much about the situation which was developing, and which was to become worse, in Jerusalem. Jews might take the lives of Jews over many disputes in a bloody civil war. When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans it had first been divided and destroyed by bloodshed internally. Analysis of Josephus shows,

In the first century, there were serious economic problems in Judaea. The rabbinical sources indicate that the Temple authorities were widely regarded as corrupt. In this conflict between the rich elite and the poor peasants, the Romans sided with the elite, as they always did. http://www.livius.org/jo-jz/josephus/josephus.htm

Chief priests and scribes

Though hatred was common and diffuse, the key to the power of the diffuse opposition to Jesus (Iesous Yesou, Yeshua), and why even people such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were secret disciples, was who was backing the campaign to kill him.

The chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. (Luke 22:2)

It turns out therefore that, there was general popular support of the common people but many key players had fallen in line behind the elite religious power of the chief priests and scribes who had already problems with wielding their power over the common people (peasants). There was first hand information from the chief priest camp, as John had access there (John 18:16). John reports,

Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man does many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (John 11:47-50)

The politics of this are perhaps a bit muddied, but if they don't like him it is then a justification of that dislike of his power to point out a political consequence. The point to note is that the people speaking here are the elite leaders of the Jewish people, and they found a very powerful political reason to justify their dislike.


4) The hour of Darkness

All along, right from the time of the events in his home town Nazareth, there was hatred and attempts to entrap and stone him. However the chief priests and scribes were the most dangerous as they plotted but were careful to be seen to be doing 'right'.


A possible misconception is that somehow it was God who caused it. It was indeed prophesied that he would die, but so is much evil was also prophesied which came to pass by evil men. An example is,

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1)

Even though the prophecy was given, they went to Egypt for help and the woe came upon them. God did not make them go down to Egypt, but knowing their nature God said they would. In such a way the Lord said he would be killed, and even noted precisely by whom he would be killed,

Saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22)
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.” And they were exceeding sorry. (Matt. 17:22-23)
Saying, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Mark 10:33-34)

It was not only that he should die but that his death be by being 'lifted up”

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (John 3:14)
Jesus answered and said, “This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince (Greek: archon from first, chief) of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. “This he said, signifying what death he should die. (John 12:30-33)

There is clearly expressed the idea of 'the chief ruler of this world' which, as Greek has differences in labels for rulers, virtually names the Chief priests, who are told to their faces they are also the power of darkness,

Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. (Luke 22:52-53)

The clear point is that power is given to them by God allow them to carry out their evil. They took him at night. He tells Peter a fact we need to take note of,

Think you that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:53-54)

To underline the point about the power of darkness, there was a report of darkness over the land until his death. This was their hour, the hour where power was given to the leadership in Jerusalem at that time. The Roman authority shows a consistency with the reported acts of violence of Pilate to control the restless common people in Judea, that shows they not sure what to do with the Jewish leadership. See how the leadership shifts their claim,

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speak thou not unto me? know thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou could have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee has the greater sin.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar. (John 19:7-12)

The fact that the Jewish leadership is said to sin, indicates the situation, that it was human will to do this. That Pilate had sin too is implied, but Pilate had much sin already in the blood spilt his unjust rule. They may have been prevented from sinning by God's intervention, but in this case it was to play out how the Jewish leadership wanted it, and how Pilate, a cynical representative Roman rule, felt they had to play the situation as this was their predicted behaviour in 'their hour'. If given a choice base human nature seeks that their political power should prevail. This will not be the last time that, even with evidence of miracles, human leadership will seek to kill a leader appointed by God. The reason for the crucifixion is that the Son of God was to be a king of the Jews, and with this future the political religious power of the Jewish leadership of the temple, and the Roman authority they used as leverage for their power, was challenged. They saw an opening and took it. Paul, who indeed knew the rulers of Jerusalem, and had joined with them said,

For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. (Acts 13:27)

The real failing of the religious leaders and those in Jerusalem at that time was their lack of knowledge of the prophets combined with a love of the political power that they had clawed from the Romans. This leads to their actions. The involvement of God was to allow what he had known would happen when he sent one to witness of their works,

Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. (John 7:6-7)

It would not be hard to know this would happen, to predict it, if you knew the hearts of humans. It had happened before. It had occurred from the time of Abel to Zechariah (Luke 11:51). God had not prevented the proud and unjust killing the just.


The challenge to us is to ask ourselves honestly, do we hear when we are told our works are evil (do we do good all the time)? Would leaders now accept being told their works are evil? The crucifixion and the stake represent the power of those who have seized power, and what they do when they are crossed. There was no love there, only lust for power, pride, hate and weakness. Seeing what needed to be done and knowing the outcome, a just man who had done no wrong, submitted to their treatment because his Father in heaven asked him to do so as he said to John in the matter of his baptism, “Suffer it now: for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).


5) Where the love was shown

The love is what happened afterwards because of that submission. His body was not left in the grave and saw no corruption. By this it was proven for all time that the evil in this world have no real power.

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. (Luke 12:4-5)

Listen to the detail of where love was,

Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17-18)

This power 'to lay down' must be understood as a command to submit, as when it came to it, help was sought in prayer to submit to those who would take his life (Luke 22:44). He submitted to his religious rulers' unjust intentions and it must be noted that this is in accord with the law (Exodus 22:28). He could have chosen to run away as he was given that choice by a commandment, but as he was mortal he would have died some day. His virtue was in choosing to let these people kill him as his Father had allowed. He knew if he did this then he would have power to live again. Because as the son he had access to the Father's power he had proven many times that they could not kill him, unless it was allowed by God and was also as he chose. Jesus (Iesous Yesou, Y'shua) said he was given a commandment. Notice that commandment is linked to the one and only expression of love,

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:12-14)

He didn't recklessly lay down his life, he submitted to a situation created by hatred. And he didn't say he was the only one to show such great love, it was rather an example for his followers as he is commanding that his followers would also submit as he commanded them, which many did subsequently, including John himself. Would you lay down your life for Christ? Would you speak out like he did, for him, when you know speaking out will lead to your death?


The leaders in Jerusalem, the chief priests, leading Pharisees and scribes all exercised their will and thought they had power, but their power was how far God allowed them to go. Those leaders all lived their lives out in a world where their action didn't bring the success they'd hoped for, as so many afterwards saw this man alive. The Bible says over 500 saw him alive (1 Cor. 15:6), and then these rulers died in an era of increasing trouble. The next day they will know about will be a resurrection to face condemnation.


The hatred is a record of authentic human experience. We know what happens to those in any situation who stand up to speak truth against a corrupt authority. There are other witness to the corruption of the leaders in Jerusalem of that era and to the resort to oppression by doctrine and violence. The situation was played out again when certain who called themselves 'Christians' seized political power and then sought to persecute to death any who spoke against them. It is played out again and again even in the modern world where those speaking against dictators and their entourage have faced unjust imprisonment and death. The difference is that while some may die for speaking out to no gain, those who die as servants of Christ will not be held forever by the grave.

All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matt 24:8-14)

For now if we also stand up and speak the truth we will be hated also. If we wish to understand how the world really is, we must see the crucifixion for what it really was: the hour of the power of darkness.


There is a submission required of us also, to identify with that resurrection to a new life.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him. (Romans 6:4-9)
Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)


For more in depth on this see The Greatest Love

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