Summary: This message examines briefly the conspiracy behind the death of Jesus.
I admit that I love a conspiracy!
In 1995 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in Dallas, TX. After the conclusion of the General Assembly I had a day to visit in Dallas before traveling back home.
I visited the Grassy Knoll at the Dealey Plaza, right beside the Texas School Book Depository, the place from which President John F. Kennedy was shot. I listened to a vendor, who sold me a book and told me the “real” story about the death of the president.
I read various accounts about the assassination of President Kennedy. Many of those accounts promoted the conspiracy theory behind the assassination of the president.
I saw the Oliver Stone movie called JFK, in which Stone argued for a conspiracy behind the death of President Kennedy.
Now, whether or not you believe that there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy is not what I want to talk about tonight. However, I do want to bring to your attention the greatest conspiracy in all of history—and that is the conspiracy to kill Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus died on Good Friday, he actually went through not one but two court trials in less than 24 hours prior to his death.
But before the first trial of Jesus, there was a conspiracy.
Tonight, I would like to examine briefly the conspiracy behind the death of Jesus Christ.
I. The Participation of Leaders in the Conspiracy
First, notice the participation of leaders in the conspiracy.
The conspiracy to kill Jesus was hatched in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas. Jewish leaders met to decide how to get rid of Jesus. We read in Matthew 26:3-5, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”
Caiaphas and his cohorts were among the most highly respected men in Jerusalem. The chief priests were the religious leaders, the ones to whom people turned when they had questions about God and faith. The elders of the people were the political leaders, the ones who led the people. They were members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish people.
Together these priests and politicians formed an unholy alliance. Their aim was not simply to silence Jesus but to do away with him altogether.
Now, according to the law, “A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if, with intent of promoting or facilitating its commission, he agrees . . . that . . . one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or . . . solicitation to commit such crime.”
The chief priests and the elders of the people did the latter. They solicited someone to commit a crime. They wanted someone to kill Jesus.
Why did they want to get rid of Jesus? The religious leaders hated Jesus because he had a knack for exposing their secret sins. Whenever Jesus taught about hypocrisy, which he did frequently, they had the sneaking suspicion that he was talking about them, and usually they were right about this (Matthew 21:45). They also hated Jesus because he claimed to be God. They simply refused to believe that Jesus was divine; in fact, they believed that he was blasphemous, and in those days blasphemy was punishable in Jewish law by death (see Leviticus 24:13-16).
They were wrong, of course. Jesus really was God! Jesus had demonstrated this truth by his many miracles, but the religious leaders closed their eyes to the truth.
The political leaders hated Jesus because of his popularity. Lack of popularity is the last thing any politician wants. Just a few days prior to this gathering in the palace of the high priest, Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets, waving palm branches and welcoming Jesus as their rightful king. The politicians knew that they could never compete with such a popular figure. And so Jesus was dangerous to them because he threatened their popularity and authority.
However, the conspiracy to get rid of Jesus was stymied because Jerusalem was crowded with people who had come for the Passover. Jesus was too popular to attack in public, and so they needed to find a much more discreet way to accomplish their goal.
Their opportunity to move ahead with their goal to kill Jesus came from someone most unexpected.
II. The Participation of Judas in the Conspiracy
Second, observe the participation of Judas in the conspiracy.
One of Jesus’ closest disciples, “one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’” (Matthew 26:14-15a).