Summary: Why did Romans execute Jesus as a revolutionary if they did not view Him as a rebel?
April 12th, 2009
Why did Jesus die
Ac 2:22 Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. Ac 2:23 This man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Ac 2:24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Jesus of Nazareth is not only one of the most famous men in all of history. He is also one of the most misunderstood men in all of history. We know that He was an actually historical figure. We know He was born around 4 BC. He grew up in Galilee as the son of a carpenter named Joseph. It was not until around 28 AD that he emerged as a public figure teaching about the kingdom of God and calling people to repent. He gathered a few disciples and was said to have performed some remarkable healings and miracles. Over the years His fame and popularity would increase greatly until He was arrested by the religious leaders put on trial. It is unlikely that either Pilate the Roman governor or the Jewish leaders truly saw Jesus as a revolutionary threat. Yet still the Sanhedrin declared Him guilty and turned over to the Romans to be executed. The Romans held their own trials but did not find Him guilty of any crime and yet they crucified Jesus on a cross. This much we know. Yet this knowledge alone fails to answer one extremely important question: why? Why did Jesus die? Why did Roman authorities punish a teacher as a rebel? Why did religious leaders want to kill a man who preached on the kingdom of God? Why did Jesus die?
We believe that Jesus was not just a man but that He is the Son of the living God and that He came to earth as a man to proclaim the kingdom of God and to testify to the truth. We believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through Him. We believe that though He was innocent of sin and of the crimes He was accused of He suffered and died on a cross. But why? Why did Jesus have to die? Let us look at it from the perspectives of the parties involved.
The first important party of note is the group that physically put Jesus to death-the Romans. At this time Rome was a vast empire that had stretched itself thin. They were a great military power that wanted to advance and expand their empire. To be successful in this they had to ensure that the regions they had already conquered stayed in line. For an empire few things can be so destructive and revolution. Naturally those in power fear being overthrown by their subjects. In conquering so many areas the Romans had to be prepared for potential uprisings and from time to time they would occur. One problem area for such attempts at rebellion was Judea. The Jewish people had a number of men attempt to deliver their people by leading a revolution. The Roman answer to this problem of revolt was crucifixion. Crucifixion was a harsh and terrible punishment maximizing degradation, pain, and humiliation. Its message was clear: Rome is in charge, Rome is sovereign, this is what happens to rebels. You cant win and dont even try or this will happen to you and this method was very effective. The cross was a form of punishment often reserved for rebels. Many would be Messiahs had come along like Judas the Galilean or Simon bar Giora but they failed and they ended up on a cross. So Jesus was executed as a rebel by the Roman empire at least this would be the impression that the people of Jerusalem would have, because He was on a cross He must have been another failed Messiah that had tried to overthrow Rome.
The Jews arrested Jesus and wanted to put Him to death but because they were controlled by the Roman empire they had no authority to carry out capital punishment. So they turned Jesus over to the procurator of Judea a man by the name of Pilate. Pilate was appointed this position by Emperor Tiberius in 26 AD. Almost immediately after arriving in Palestine Pilate created conflict with the Jews. He proved to be obtuse if not completely ignorant of the people he was governing. He had Roman standards which bore the embossed figures of the emperor into the city of Jerusalem. Previous prefects had taken very special care not to do this for they knew to do so would offend the Jews. Since the Jews considered graven images idols and were commanded by God to avoid them and Jerusalem was their holy city this act nearly caused a national revolution. This was but one of several acts that created conflict with the Jews.