Why His Enemies Killed Jesus
Jesus is so wonderful. We love Him. But it's Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. He's going into Jerusalem to die. By Thursday Jesus would be arrested; by Friday He’d be tortured, executed on a cross, and buried.
Here's the question as we enter Holy Week, why were His enemies resolute to kill Him? What did He do? What did He say? And what does it mean for us?
Many think Jesus was killed for breaking religious rules, conservative customs, for preferring sinners over the self-righteous, forgiving rather than shaming sin, and accepting everyone, so the religious hardos destroyed Him.
It's true, Jesus did this. And while the people did not like these things, this is not what compelled them to call for His death.
A few choice passages from John's Gospel make it clear what got Jesus killed.
Jesus just healed a man on the Sabbath who’d been unable to walk for 38 years. He told Jesus he had no one to help him. And it’s the Sabbath, a day of family, worship, celebration. Yet he’s alone and hopelessly crippled.
John 5:8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet [a burlap mat] and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
He’s tooling around Jerusalem, beaming, joyful, walking, and carrying his mat. Yet people are all angry with him, “Hey, what are you doing? It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry that around. That’s work.” Some really harassed him.
He told them, "Listen, the man who miraculously healed me in YHWH's name, this awesome dude who did what only God can do, told me to carry my mat; so take it up with him."
When they asked who healed him, he said Jesus had made him well.
John 5:16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things [working] on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”
To our ears this sounds pretty innocuous, but look to how John explains this.
John 5:18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
John tells us when Jesus called God "His own Father," He claimed an exclusive relation to God. Meaning, He’s the only Son of God, the unique Son of God. Jesus put Himself on the same level as God.
This is what is expressed in the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.
So no doubt, people were bent out of shape that Jesus broke the Sabbath, but they wanted to KILL Jesus "because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." (John 5:18)
Things settle down for a while after this. Until a few chapters later. Chapter 8 is a pretty cool chapter, a great read, Jesus is awesome throughout it. Brilliant and provocative. Leading the conversation to a climax, He says,
John 8:37 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me… 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father, you do the things which you heard from your father.”
John 8:39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, [then act like Abraham]. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, [who speaks only God’s truth], this Abraham did not do.
John 8:41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born [in sin, like you]; we have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus said, “If GOD were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.
Like today, those who reject Jesus have an perspective of God that works for them. Whatever their view, God, whatever He is, values what they value. He endorses their lifestyle.
Their false view of God allows them to be in control, live how they like, and judge others, all in the name of serving the Lord.
But Jesus said their actions prove they don’t know God. If they don’t love Him, they don't know God! But I do know him, I came from him, he sent me.
Listen to His argument. Listen to His claims. Then listen to this great promise,
John 8:51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.”
This is another way of saying what He said in John 5,
John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Jesus’ claim: if you hear My word and believe the Father sent Me, you have eternal life. God will not judge your sin. You pass out of death into life.
This is the most fantastic promise.
But it’s laughed off because who can make such a claim? Honestly, only God can.
But what rational person talks like that? None do. So,
8:52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon [you’re crazy, or evil]. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? [Surely you’re not greater than the prophets!] The prophets died too; “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?”
This is at the heart of everything, this is what we all have to do with Jesus. Who is Jesus? How you answer this affects everything?
Today, some people reject every clear fact, and deny that Jesus even existed.
Others won’t deny that He lived, but they reject His words and His miracles.
J.W.’s say Jesus is Michael the archangel. Muslims admit he was a prophet, but NOT God. Mormons claim Jesus was once a man who became “a god.” But you cannot honestly draw these conclusions from Jesus’ own words.
C. S. Lewis—I love what C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity,
“People often say, ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say.”
He continues with his famous argument,
“Jesus is either a lunatic who genuinely thought he was God and made that claim with all sincerity, or he was a liar who knew full well that he wasn’t God but made that claim anyway, or he really was and is God. Those are our only three options.”
If He was simply a great moral teacher, then how could His blood pay for man’s sins?
And, really, if Jesus is just a moral do-gooder, then so what? Why worship Him? Why serve Him? Really, why do anything different? And that’s the point. We can celebrate Jesus' goodness but, if He’s not God, then there is no authority to obey and no glory to worship. But Jesus does not leave us that option.
Look how Jesus responded to them, and then look at their response to Him.
John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” [who lived nearly 2000 years before Jesus.]
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.”
And in case you miss what He meant, the people’s response makes it clear!
59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself [passive] and went out of the temple.
Here’s the second time in John’s Gospel that the people wanted to kill Him.
What did Jesus do to upset them so? It’s not what He did but what He said. Before Abraham was born, Jesus said, I Am. Kind of strange. Even stranger that they want to kill Him over it. I could see them correcting His grammar but…
Jesus chose His words carefully. And they knew exactly what He meant.
This is awesome and important.
When the Israelites were slaves to Egypt, God called to Moses from a burning bush, and told Moses he would be God’s instrument to rescue the Israelites. Then Moses asked for God’s name. “Whom shall I say sent me?”
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am” [from YHWH. I Am. The Self-Existing One, the Pre-Existing Creator. Eternal. Immutable. Infinite!]; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you.” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD [YHWH, I Am], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This [YHWH, I Am] is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
This is the True God. Sovereign. Invincible. I Am who I Am. And when the people ask Jesus who the hell He makes Himself out to be, He said "before Abraham was born, I Am."
And they immediately tried to kill Jesus! Why? Because Jesus claimed to actually be the Great "I Am." I Am the God of your fathers. I Am the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. I Am in actuality the incarnation of the God they worshiped and served.
This is how Jesus meant it, and this is how the crowds took it.
John 8:59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him,
Not only because they were infuriated, but because the Mosaic Law called for the death penalty against anyone who blasphemed God. Why? Because God is holy and true. If Jesus is a mere man falsely leading people to worship another god, Leviticus 24:16 read, “The entire assembly must stone him!”
59 ... but Jesus hid Himself [passive tense: lit., Jesus was hidden from them] and went out of the temple.
Even the way He escapes their hands, shows God’s testimony about Him.
It was the Feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem, what we call Hanukkah.
John 10:24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
It's not that He didn't tell them. It's not that they didn't hear Him. But they did not believe Him.
John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
If you just blinked and missed it, realize, Jesus just did it again!]
John 10:31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.
When Jesus said “I and the Father are one” He didn’t mean we are in spirit. But we are one, like the number one. Not just in spirit, but one in essence.
Again, Jesus did a lot of things to upset the self-righteous. He didn’t follow their customs and laws. He hung out with the wrong people, drunkards, tax-collectors, sinful women. He loved them. He forgave their sins, brought them to God, changed their lives. He was popular. So they didn’t like Him.
But it wasn’t til He put Himself on the same level with God, and again when He claimed to be YHWH, the God of Abraham, that they sought to kill Him.
Here too. As they furiously grab for stones to pummel Him to death,
John 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy [for your words]; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
The man in front of them is the Creator of the cosmos.
Don’t believe it when people say Jesus never claimed to be God. The people who were with Him heard Him say it over and over. Jesus claimed to be YHWH, I Am, the Self-Existing, Pre-Existing, eternal, immutable, Holy, Holy, Holy God, the Almighty. And God backed it up through Jesus’ actions.
John 10:36 [Jesus asked again] Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
Jesus’ works verify who He is—He forgave sins on God’s behalf, which only God can do; He then healed the lame to verify His right to forgive. He rebuked a storm and it stopped, cast out thousands of terrifying demons, fed thousands of people by multiplying the little food that He had, healed the blind and lame, raised the dead. What man has ever done these things? They are all acts of God. Jesus says believe the works of God, and know I am God.
10:39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.
It’s very sad. People then and now don’t want God or anyone to have that say, that authority, that power, that majesty—gosh, that is scary. But when you realize the holy, loving character of Jesus, His goodness, His mercy…
People seem more comfortable with God being how we think He should be. We want to do what we want, and we want God to back what we do. Notice how most everyone feels God backs their political, social, and moral views.
But Jesus shows us God. I came from him, He sent me. I Am His Son. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. I Am far greater than you imagine.
As we enter Holy Week, we’ll be sending out a daily reading and thoughts on how awesome Jesus is. May His authority give you comfort. May Jesus Himself assure you and lead you.
When we read these accounts, and you see Jesus betrayed and arrested, abandoned by those He poured Himself into, we see God. When you read all that He suffered this week at the hands of those who do not want Him to reign over them, this is not a great guy, a holy man, this is the Creator God accepting hateful mistreatment, enduring the pain of emotional and physical abuse. Freely. For you. When you consider Jesus dying on the cross, that is God who went through this for you. It is not only a great man, but God Himself who rises from the dead and promises you eternal life with Him.