April 10, 2020

It Wasn’t Sinners Who Crucified Jesus

During Easter Week I had this thought – it wasn’t “sinners” who caused Jesus to be nailed to the cross, it was religious people. 

Why would religious leaders want Jesus to be killed? They believed it was their duty for God to do so. Just as many people today are involved in activities that cause great harm to culture because they believe God wants them to.

In the Bible, the religious group known as the Pharisees had assumed the role of protectors of their religion and their country in a rapidly changing world. If they could enforce their religion on the people and hold off the destruction of their country, they believed a strongman/messiah (perhaps one of the zealots like Barrabbas) would come and overturn the government and fulfill their dreams of Israel once again being the most powerful nation in the world.

Because of their fear of any disruption of their plan, the leaders of the religion began to plot the death of Jesus – he was getting too popular and was going to steal their power.

Why would religious leaders want Jesus to be killed? Because They believed it was their duty for God to do so.

“…If we let him (Jesus) go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place (temple) and our nation” (Luke 11:47-48.) This was their discussion. The plight of the people under their religious leadership wasn’t a concern, but the political power of the religion itself was primary. Therefore, a little moral pragmatism might be in order to keep things in line. Even a murder or two.

“…You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Luke 11:49-50.)

This statement was made by the High Priest, Caiphas. Yes, the highest ranking official in this holy religion believed the death of a human being to be a necessary sacrifice in their quest. After all, what were the needs of people in comparison to God’s overall plan for the world?

Today, we can also choose to get so deep in our own belief systems that we can miss God’s actual plan. This generally involves our interpretation of what is “good” behavior and what is not – and our attempts to place that interpretation upon others for a good purpose. Christians often become so fixated on enforcing the rules of God, we miss the amazing grace that God has for others.

What’s interesting is that everything the Pharisees talked about in Luke 11 came true. The people did follow Jesus, he was the one man sacrificed for people, the temple was destroyed (not one stone was left on top of another) and the country of Israel was ultimately disassembled. Yet, their unmalleable religious political mindset of the Pharisees caused them to completely miss that this was all part of God’s.

The story of the Pharisees is not a unique one in history. Over and over humanity has claimed political strategies to be the process of advancing God’s plan on earth. In fact, wars have always been fought between two people groups each convinced they are fighting for a righteous outcome. Bob Dylan sang a haunting song about this in 1963 in the midst of the Vietnam war called God on Our Side (you can listen to that here https://youtu.be/BfHLYIms97A.)

Could it be today that many American Christians are similarly fixated on regulating behavior to preserve “our place and our country” that we’re missing God’s actual plan?

The men who crucified Jesus the good, religious people. They were the teachers, the neighbors in the clean neighborhoods, the little league coaches and girl scout directors. They were those that just wanted everyone to act “right.”

Jesus spent his time pushing away from those people. He hung out with “those people” and chastised the religious for not doing the same. They hated him for it. Today, were he here with us in the flesh, Jesus would sit with “those people” again – the unmarried pregnant woman, the queer community, the liberals, the anti-war/anti-gun/pro-choice crowd. Those deeply immersed in the religious politics of American Christendom would hate him for it.

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No, It wasn’t bad behavior that put Jesus on the cross, it was “good” people. It wasn’t sin that demanded Jesus be crucified, it was religion. It was the hatred of one who demanded we love those we don’t want to love. 

Could it be our unmalleable religious belief system has caused us to miss God’s heart today, too. Would we love it if Jesus told us to love our enemies?

Let’s open our eyes to the Hope of God in this Easter. That God’s purpose for the story of Jesus isn’t to condemn the world but to reconcile it. That God isn’t after just those who behave a certain way, but for Goodness and welfare to be available to “all flesh” – that means everyone, including you and me.

I bless you and your household – Be Well!

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