Arland J. Hultgren
“People colluded to have Jesus killed. The most certain fact we have about Jesus as a historical person is that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, just as we say in the Apostles’ Creed. Even though he had no intentions of being an earthly king, some people thought that that was what he wanted to be. The title on the cross says it all: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). As such, his crucifixion was a political act by the Roman government. If Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews (which Pilate does not actually think, but others in power do), that was treasonous, requiring his death.”
From a Roman perspective, why did Jesus have to die?
• Because he disturbed Roman order.
• Because he spoke seditiously of a coming kingdom other than that of Caesar.
• Because he allowed himself to be called “King of the Jews.”
• Because he made a nuisance of himself at the wrong time (Passover), in the wrong place (Jerusalem), in the presence of the wrong people (Pilate and the temple leadership under his command).
• Because his crucifixion would be a powerful deterrent that might keep other Jews from following in his footsteps.
Father Jim Cook
“Jesus was executed for three reasons, says Luke: “We found this fellow subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:1–2). In John’s gospel the angry mob warned Pilate, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).
“In short, “He’s subverting our nation. He opposes Caesar. You can’t befriend both Jesus and Caesar.” They were right, even more right than they knew or could have imagined. “
Opposition against Jesus arises early in the Gospels, mostly since he breaks the Sabbath laws (Mark 3:6; Matt 12:14).
The authorities want to kill Jesus not only for breaking the Sabbath, but also for calling God his own Father (5:18; cf. 7:1, 19-25).
The sanhedrin (high priestly council) opposes Jesus because he performs many “signs” and they fear the reaction of the Romans; Caiaphas says it is better for one man to die than for the whole people to be destroyed (11:48-53).
The Roman procurator of Judea (Pontius Pilate) finds Jesus guilty of sedition, rebellion, or treason.
Jesus is accused of calling himself and/or letting others call him “King of the Jews” (Mark 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32, and parallels; cf. also John 18:33-37; 19:12-1
Mark 14:61-64 and Matt 26:63-66 explicitly use the word “blasphemy,” while Luke 22:67-71 and John 18:19-23 use slightly different expressions. The word “blasphemy” in ancient Greek literally means “insulting or saying bad things about God.” The punishment prescribed in the Hebrew Bible for blasphemy is to be stoned to death (Lev 24:10-23).
From Killing Jesus
“Here is this man performing many miraculous signs,” a Pharisee says. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. Caiaphas agrees. “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” Nothing more needs to be said.
For those of us who struggle to reconcile the role of God’s will in the death of Jesus, this story offers a helpful but troubling clue: it was the will of God that Jesus declare the coming of God’s kingdom. A kingdom of peace, a kingdom of justice, a kingdom of radical and universal freedom. A kingdom dramatically unlike the oppressive empire Jesus challenged on Palm Sunday.
So why did Jesus die? He died because he unflinchingly fulfilled the will of God. He died because he exposed the ungracious sham at the heart of all human kingdoms, holding up a mirror that shocked his contemporaries at the deepest levels of their imaginations. Even when he knew that his vocation would cost him his life, he set his face “like flint” towards Jerusalem. Even when he knew who’d get the last laugh at Calvary, he mounted a donkey and took Rome for a ride.