Why was Jesus executed? In answering this question in historical
terms, we must first look at the events leading up to his arrest and
ultimately, his execution. We know that
Jesus performed that symbolic gesture of “cleansing” the temple, by overturning
the moneychangers’ tables, and most believe that this act was symbolic of
destruction, not purification.
So in doing this, Jesus
obviously made a lot of people mad.
Most obviously were the chief priests in the temple because he did it
during Passover (one of the holiest holidays), knowing Pontius Pilate was
around for crowd control, and to announce so liberally that the freedom of
their people was at hand, would incite a threat to the Roman stronghold. It is known that Pontius Pilate was not a
nice guy to begin with, and he was not happy to be in Jerusalem during its most
crowded time of the year. Passover is a
holiday celebrating the Jews freedom from slavery, so he was there as crowd
So all he needed to do was
find someone to take his frustrations out on.
Enter Jesus. The priests
basically handed him over to Pilate. In
the gospel of Luke, the priests call Jesus a blasphemer. Was he turned over to Pilate because of
their desire to keep the peace, or was it out of jealousy that maybe Jesus knew
something they didn’t, or was it merely out of ignorance? There is no evidence that he committed some
blasphemy, so he was handed over to Pilate for what? He was a threat to the priests’ stronghold over the temple, if
Jesus was right, then there would be no need for them. As for Pilate, it seems he did his part
because the crowd was calling for it.
They traded Jesus for a convicted murderer named Barabbas (gospel of
There has to be another real,
solid answer to this question.
Politically, what Jesus preached was a threat to the Roman
stronghold. If the Jews were to believe
that their freedom from Roman rule was at hand, and a new order was abounding,
they could upraise against the Romans, and their main representative in
Jerusalem-Pilate. This being true, what about the priests? Jesus was a threat to their “religious
sensibilities”. Jesus was a
revolutionary. His ideas did not
interact smoothly with those priests’ ideas.
His ideas challenged both the political dominance of the Jews by the
Romans, and the priests’ dominance over the temples and the people’s
beliefs. Jesus prompted people to
search for the truth. Rome was not the
truth and the priests certainly did not hold the truth within them. He questioned their authority and they did
not like that, some really believed that he was the son of God, and they did
not like that either. He was betrayed,
first, by his own people; they bore false witness against Jesus to priests
looking for incriminating evidence.