I gave a sermon today about the meaning of Palm Sunday and spoke about the crucifixion of Jesus, as well. I will post the audio file of that sermon in a couple of days.
As I read the crucifixion accounts in the New Testament this week, I was reminded again of how horribly sad it is that, by various groups at various times in history, the Jewish people have been blamed for the death of Jesus. Although Jesus criticized the religious establishment of his day, the Jewish religious authorities did not have the power to execute anyone. The occupying Roman Empire did not permit Jews to enforce capital punishment.
The Jews did not kill Jesus. We know this because of a fact that is so simple, it is often overlooked. The Jews did not use crucifixion. The Romans did.
It is horribly sad that Jewish people have been persecuted, called “Christ-killers”, and generally blamed for Jesus’ death when it is obvious that Jesus was executed by the Roman Empire under the authority of the governor, Pontius Pilatus, known in English as Pontius Pilate.
What we know of Pilate from history is that he would not have hesitated to execute a person who was called a king by anyone, because the Romans did not tolerate any potential threats to stability and the kingship of Caesar. Jesus’ followers claimed he was a king, and this was enough for the Romans to execute him.
Jesus was Jewish, all of his first students were Jewish, and Jesus was killed by Gentiles.
More than this, in Christian theology, Jesus is believed to have died on behalf of all people in the world. His death shows the ugliness of violence, domination, hatred, in other words, sin.
However, in the Gospel of John 10:14-18, Jesus is reported to have a different take on his own death:
“’14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.'”