The harm of 2,000 years
There was the mock triumphal entry, a triumphal reception, a reminder of the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on the back of donkey.
He had been in Samaria after hints of a big threat to His life following the decision of the Great Sanhedrin, the highest court at the time in Israel.
The court met presided over by the High Priest Caiaphas. It was an emergency meeting the Establishment called to take the final decision on the fate of a Man they had considered an irritant.
What precipitated the crucial meeting was the raising of Lazarus from death, and to worsen matters, on the Sabbath day! Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha.
The Lord was in Jordania and Lazarus had taken seriously ill. Fearing that the worst might happen if they did not take prompt action, they called on Jesus to come to their aid.
He rejected the admonition of His Disciples not to go anywhere because the Jews were already on his trail to stone Him. “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; goest Thou thither again?” (John 11, 16).
The Lord Jesus made the journey to Bethany nevertheless, accompanied by the Disciples only to find that Lazarus had died four days earlier. He called his name aloud and returned Lazarus to life.
This enraged the priestly authorities, hence the urgent meeting where they came to the conclusion that, as we say in Nigerian parlance: Enough is enough.
High Priest Caiaphas, invoking section 82 of the country’s penal code, persuaded his colleagues consisting of 70 members in the Great Sanhedrin that Jesus must be put to death. There were state Sanhedrin consisting of 23 members to deal with matters at the local level.
The “transgressions” of Jesus were mainly two: Blasphemy and breaking of the Sabbath. Jesus was accused of calling Himself the Son of God and of healing on the Sabbath day.
There had been other healings before that of Lazarus which was thought to be the last straw. In John 5, 5 we read of a man who had been sick for 38 years.
The story goes as follows: “When Jesus saw him lying there and He knew he had been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming someone goes down ahead of me.” “Get up,”
Jesus told him, “pick up your bedroll and walk!” “Instantly the man got well, picked up his bedroll, and started to walk.”
“Now that day was the Sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your bedroll.’”
Upon further interrogation, the healed man did not know who healed him until the Lord found him in the Temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well.
Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” In John 5, 15, it is reported: “The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.”
The “blasphemy” charge is in John 5, 16. It reads: “Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus responded to them, ‘My Father is still working, and I am working also.’
This is why the Jews began trying to kill Him: not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Then Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.’” John 5: 17-20.
The second instance of healing on the Sabbath day was that of the blind beggar who received his sight back through Jesus. There were doubts among neighbours and those who had known him as a beggar as to whether it was the same person. He was taken to the Pharisees who after confirming his identity said: “This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
The Pharisees and the scribes were all more preoccupied with the fact of healing on the Sabbath day than the manifestation of Divine Power they were experiencing, what Christ described as sham-piety.
They also sought to entrap Him with the issue of taxation. Mark reports the incident as follows: “And they send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto Him,
Master, we know that Thou art true, and carest for no man: for Thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
Shall we give, or shall we not give? But He knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt me? Bring me a penny, that I may see it.
And they brought it. And he saith unto them, ‘Whose is this image and superscription?’ And he said unto them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
And they marveled at Him.’” At the time, Palestine was under Roman occupation and they were expecting a Messiah who would set them free from bondage.
The question then was, should the Jews pay tax to the Romans? If Jesus had spoken in the affirmative, the Jews were going to conclude that he was not the expected Messiah.
If He had said it would be wrong of them to pay tax, it would have tantamount to rebellion against the Emperor in Rome. And it would have been what everyone would hold unto, quoting Jesus as having said they should not pay tax to Caesar. He would have been regarded as an agitator who was encouraging rebellion.
Besides, the Roman Emperors were seen as deities of a sort. There would also have been a religious overtone. But Jesus being the Primordial wisdom personified, he gave the answer that only He could have given, and His tempters were disarmed.
When the Lord said what belongs to God should be given to God, it is now revealed in higher knowledge that what He meant was that it is to God alone we must direct worship and not to any cult, office or personality. All this while there was a Resistant Movement in Israel.
It was desperately looking for a leader to lead them to battle. Through a treacherous link with Judas, they came to the conclusion that it was Jesus the cap would fit.
Judas had falsely presented himself as a representative of Jesus. He had been displeased that the Lord was always turning down wealthy beneficiaries of His Activities, among them those who had benefitted from His miracles as well as those who were aroused by simply listening to Him. Some offered monetary gifts, all of which the Lord turned down.
The plot was that during the Passover, a huge crowd would gather; among them would be members of the Resistant Movement disguising as pilgrims so as not to arouse any suspicion. Rebellion would break out there with Jesus being hailed as the King of Israel so as to put Him on a collision course with Rome. “Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12, 13).
After the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Jesus went to Samaria where it was safer for Him to stay because there were hints that the Jews were looking for Him to do Him grave harm.
As Passover was drawing close, He decided to leave for Jerusalem for the Passover. It was a triumphal return to Jerusalem despite threats to His life.
It was a surprising reception. He cleansed the Temple which angered the priests managing it that he was interfering with their flourishing business of offerings.
For four days close to the Passover, He preached continuously in the Temple which held the multitude spell bound. He asked that men should do the Will of His Father, and not only should men love their neighbours and fellowmen, but their enemies as well and pray for them.
Those who had plotted with Judas could not believe their ears. The plot fell flat. This fueled the anger of the priestly authorities the more.
They wanted to get Him arrested, but they could not do so for fear of the crowd. At the end of the day, they succeeded in arresting Jesus through the betrayal of Judas Iscariot who made a deal with Caiaphas the content of which was that as a sign, he would give the Lord a kiss.
After an announcement that Jesus whom they described as a false prophet and who had been sentenced to death by the supreme court for blasphemy had been arrested, the crowd that had hailed Him had themselves worked up and incensed, suddenly felt that they had been deceived and their hope of liberation had been dashed.
They became hostile to the Lord and thronged the court where Pontius Pilate was in sitting as the representative of the Roman emperor. The Temple priests, the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees and the members of the Sanhedrin were all there.
Pilate’s wife with the special gift given to women put at the disposal of her husband the guidance that she had been permitted. “Have thou nothing to do with the death of that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
Pilate could see through the lies they drew up against Jesus. For instance they said the Lord forbade them from giving tribute to Caesar, “saying He Himself is Christ a King.”
He found Jesus blameless. From his knowledge borne out of experience of human beings, he found Jesus not only innocent but noble, and in the nobility he stood far above the howling crowd. And he announced His verdict thus: “I find no fault in this man.” But there was pressure on Pilate no sooner than he gave his verdict.
Caiaphas determined to get rid of the Redeemer, resorted to blackmail. “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speakest against Caesar.” (John 19, 12). Sensing that Caiaphas might send an unfavourable report to Rome about him, Pilate believed that if he stood his ground to save Christ, he might be deprived of the title “amicus Caesaris”, and removed from office. He caved in.
I have gone this length to show that what mankind has clung to about crucifixion of the Lord must necessarily, sooner than later, call for a rethink, a deep and drastic one at that. His trial and crucifixion was the handwork of man and not willed by God the Almighty Father.
The priests of the time found the Teachings of The Lord Christ irksome; that all they had made people to believe as Torah zealots and defenders were being overturned by One Who had brought the whole Truth about life and existence and the Kingdom of His Father for the liberation of mankind.
They found their position, power and influence threatened and conspired to get rid of Him, One who had brought Holy Peace and had him nailed to the Cross.
I dare say that I have my witness in Pius Oyeniran Abioje, Professor of Christian Theology at the University of Ilorin who threw a bombshell last year in his inaugural lecture.
He dismissed the age-long belief that the Lord Jesus Christ died to save the world. He said Jesus was killed by haters of truth as a victim of high-level conspiracy. In his words: “The conspiracy that killed Jesus Christ came from the milieu of the chief priest and the political elite. “Regrettably, the interpretation by many Christians is that God wanted Jesus to die so as to save the world.”
As for me, it is incongruous that God Who is Justice and the Holy Spirit Who is executive Justice will allow Jesus who is Love for that matter and is sinless, to be executed in place of the sinners, and in such indescribable brutality , nailed to the wooden Cross like a common criminal.
For more than 2,000 years, mankind has nailed the Lord to the cross again and again with the expression of the belief that Jesus was crucified to save us of our sins.
The Lord Himself asked on several occasions what He had done that they wanted to kill Him! See the plot, surreptitious moves, the kicking, the whipping and then the excruciating pains of crucifixion. There is nothing ennobling, dignifying or redeeming in all of these!
Next week: The mission of Christ on earth.
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