Summary: Jesus died a very brutal death and Christian know that by his death we have life. But at the time what were the charges that the Jews had to warrant death and why did they pass Jesus over to the Romans to do their dirty work?
Why did Jesus Die?
The ministry of Jesus lasted just over 3 years and we have the gospels that relate and record that ministry.
A wealth of material to guide our Christian living, to offer us hope and to give us a strong faith.
And yet out of all the gospels that last week of Jesus predominates, in fact over a third of each gospel is devoted to the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So much is recorded in great detail, each gospel having their own incidents and slant on this the most important week in Jesus’ life.
Once you start to study this detail you become enthralled and enriched in this message which has in its own right converted many to the Christian faith.
There are fundamental questions that need to be answered, and it may take a lifetime to find that answer or indeed there may be no answer at all, or we just don’t find it.
But the search is very rewarding but you have to be careful as many books have been written on the subject of Jesus’ last days possibly with an ulterior motive.
Authors who put forward heretical ideas contrary to the Christian faith, eg Jesus was resuscitated rather than resurrected, that the body was stolen, that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross and recovered and so on…
But fortunately a number of Christian books have been written that can help us.
But at the end of the day it is up to us, individually to draw our own conclusions after all that’s what faith is all about.
So initially I want to ask the question: Why did Jesus die?
Immediately comes to mind that wonderful children’s hymn:
He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by His precious blood
But that can’t be the answer as to why Pilate order Jesus to be crucified and why the Jews were determined to get rid of Jesus.
Mrs Alexander’s hymn ‘There is a green hill far away’ sums up in a uniquely and very simple way the theological reason why Jesus died but NOT the historical reason – for this we have to explore a little deeper.
The historical reasons and factor that lead to Jesus’ death are there in the NT gospels but do we realise their significance?
Firstly Jesus aroused opposition because of the manner of His entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the final week of His ministry – Palm Sunday.
He entered the holy city mounted on a donkey, amid shouts of "Hosanna! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!" (Mark 11: 9-10).
Entering the city in this way deliberately mimicked David’s son, Solomon, who 1000 years earlier rode the royal mule as part of his declaration of kingship (1 Kgs1:32-40).
Such an entry by Jesus also answered the ancient prophecy of the anticipated humble king (Zech. 9:9).
Not only did Jesus ' act recall hopes of a coming son of David, but the crowd's response reflected the same popular interpretation of it.
Their Hosannas, as an allusion to Psalm 118, were a pronouncement that this one who comes to the temple "in the name of the Lord" is none other than David, the one destined to be Israel's king and ruler (Ps. 118: 19-27).
Such an event suggested in unmistakable terms that Israel's king was Jesus and not Caesar.
So from this very moment of entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was set on a collision course with Roman authority.
The second reason that Jesus aroused opposition was because of his actions in the temple precincts; where He disrupted the sacrificial trade and traffic and challenged the ruling priests with very troubling words (Mark11:15-18):
"Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a 'den of robbers."' (v. 17)
The first part of these words is a quotation taken from Isaiah 56: 7, part of an oracle that looks forward to the day when all peoples, Gentiles and Jews from afar, will come to Jerusalem and will be welcome.
All peoples will worship the God of Israel; their gifts will be received and their prayers will be heard.
This oracle expressed nothing new for Jews at that time; it reflects the original purpose for the temple, as reflected in Solomon's ancient prayer of dedication (1 Kgs. 8:41-43)
Jesus' action and his questioning appeal to Isaiah's oracle implies that the temple authorities have failed to live up to their calling.
The temple had not become a place of prayer for the nations; rather, it had become a "cave of robbers."
Here in the second part Jesus alludes to Jeremiah's scathing criticism of the temple establishment of his day (Jer. 7:11), warning that God will destroy the temple.