We often look at the Gospels and the story of Jesus through our paradigm of comfortable modern American society, but the truth is Jesus was a Jew, and a first century Jew at that. Outside of the theological and prophetic scriptures pointing towards his crucifixion for forgiveness of sins, let’s look at what drove him to the cross. Here is the truth about why Jesus was crucified.
I saw a quote the other day that really stirred this message in me. It said something along the lines that if Jesus had preached the message that is preached today he would never have been crucified.
While this statement is true in partiality in dismisses a great matter of theological context for scripture by saying if we preach love or grace we have failed at preaching the gospel. Here are three of the main reasons why Jesus was crucified.
He Went Against The Pharisees (The Religious Professionals)
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious professionals of Jesus’ day. The main difference that separated them was their belief on resurrection.
These religious professionals made sure the people upheld the 600 plus laws of the Old Testament, as well as those they added along the way. The burden to uphold these laws was so overwhelming that in reality those religious professionals couldn’t even uphold them completely.
They held the people to a greater level of accountability than they held themselves. Jesus went against their teaching. He broke down these 600 plus laws to two commandments to live by that upheld all of those: love God and love people. This is why he said my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
This pissed off the Pharisees because it went against the laundry list of laws and regulations they set for the people, thereby giving them power over them.
If you look closely at the Gospels you will see that Jesus only ever yelled at those religious professionals. He never yelled, became angry, or condemned a sinner who came into His presence.
He yelled at the religious professionals because they had manipulated the word of God to suit their own doctrine and dogmas. Something of which we are returning to today.
He also went against said religious professionals by making comments that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. The religious professionals of course thought he was talking about the physical temple, when in fact he was illustrating his own resurrection.
To them this was like spitting directly in their face, because the physical Temple was sacred and holy. Everything they did and knew revolved around their lives as priests and scholars of the Torah and Old Testament texts.
By contradicting their teaching and presenting a new paradigm for which men and God will live enraged these religious professionals to the point they devised a plan to have him killed.
He Hung Out With The Societal Rejects
Honestly, Jesus was crucified because he loved too much. He was crucified because he defied the religious leaders of his day that said you had to be a Jew, you had to become circumcised, you had to follow all 600 plus laws to the “T”, and more to come to God.
This laundry list included not hanging out and dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, addicts, those afflicted with diseases, and the societal rejects.
He defied their legalism with love. His radical love of socializing with these societal outcasts put him on the cross. A religious leader would never socialize with men and women of these types. Much less would they dine with them, which was one of the most intimate forms of friendship for Jewish culture in the first century.
Again, if you look closely, He never yelled at sinners he loved them and called them to repentance. As far as we know they did. Why? Because of his love and kindness. “It is his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).”
Yes, he called people to holiness, but it was because of his love and example that he set by going against the religious grain that drew the people to him and ultimately to the Father. It was not because he berated them and condemned them through fear mongering.
Many times we become the Pharisee by refusing to minister to and hang out with these same people. We kick the drunkard out of service because he smells like alcohol. We point fingers and turn our nose up at the homeless man digging in the trash because “that’s disgusting.” We laugh at the man with shoes that are falling apart because he doesn’t have the newest Jordan’s, yet he works three jobs to feed his family.
Our paradigm for comfortable life in American Christianity often compares nothing to the ministry of Jesus as a first century Jew. By choosing to dwell among the poor and destitute Jesus was setting himself up for crucifixion.
Now, please don’t get it twisted about what I’m not saying. I am not saying Jesus preached a grace filled, libertinism-based message of salvation. He clearly called people to follow him and live a holy life. It started with a decision and was followed by a life of devotion.
Mistakes would surely happen, and we would continue to miss the mark and sin, but he called us to leave a life of continually doing said sin. (i.e. The woman at the well, the woman in adultery about to be stoned, etc etc. – Hence his statements of “go and sin no more.”)
He was simply saying you didn’t have to jump through the 600 hoops to have that relationship with God anymore.
Jesus Claimed Equality With God
Finally, one of the major factors that put Jesus on the cross was he often made statements claiming equality with God. His statements of claiming equality with God and being Gods son drove the Pharisees mad enough to devise a plan to kill him.
The book of John provides us with many examples. Here are a few so you don’t have to go look them up:
so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. – John 5:23
So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” – John 8:19
I and the Father are one. – John 10:30 [KJV states my Father]
He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. – John 12:45
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. – John 17:21
We can also look at stances such as Matthew 14 when Jesus walked on the water. After Jesus and Peter got into the boat the winds stopped. Those in the boat worshiped Him as God. He never corrected or rebuked them, even though we see in Matthew 4 He quoted scripture in retort to the devil’s temptation, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
Again in Matthew 16 we see Peter confess Christ’s deity after Jesus asks him who he was. Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Again, He did not correct or rebuke him for theses statements, rather he praises him by saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
We can look further at statements as when Jesus forgave a paralytic man’s sins for his healing as told in Luke 5 and Mark 2. When he made these statements (and the man was healed) the Pharisees responded by saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
All of these statements enraged the Pharisees to want to kill Jesus. (See Matt 12:14; Mark 3:6; Matt. 26:4; etc.)
The Pharisees wanted to continue in their way of thinking and teaching that God is in heaven, God is good, you are not, try harder.
Jesus taught God is here. The separation that kept men from God is now removed, and through Him all men could come to the Father.
The life and teaching of Jesus shook the entire religious paradigm of His day and enraged the religious professionals to the point of wanting Him killed. He went against the Pharisees, He hung out with the socially unacceptable, and He claimed equality with God.
In a society that was run by these religious professionals and the Jewish beliefs, these actions were blasphemous. This drove them to seek his death by Roman crucifixion. This is the truth about why Jesus was crucified.