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Horrific, but planned from the start.

What exactly did Jesus do that would get him executed? The details are quite interesting—first, they are historical fact and second they are so telling

of the nature of human beings, bent on winning, bent on having our way at any cost. An all-wise God has the detailed facts covered in the gospels for a reason: we are meant to be familiar with the last hours of Jesus’ precious life because they matter.

Turning the page to the 15th chapter of the gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus was on trial for his life – all the while we know that it was according to the plan of God that Jesus would die. From the moment the first humans sinned in the Garden of Eden, choosing to disobey God because they wanted to satisfy themselves1, God began to make a way to restore us to himself. Horrible as the events were, the Father knew all about them and he permitted what took place, the inhumane treatment of the Son of God.

Getting our bearings, beginning late Thursday night of Passover week, Jesus shared what we call the Last Supper in the Upper Room. Then he went out across the Kidron Valley to pray under the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was betrayed by Judas to the Temple guards. Held in the pit of Caiaphas’ house, (pictured-though it is tough to see perspective), Jesus faced the Jewish leaders for the first of three religious trials. They broke their 18 specific rules from the Mishnah which included no trial at night, testimony by witnesses only, all trials to take place in public, no trials during a (religious) festival—just four of the 18 that they ignored.

Side note: ‘The Mishnah?’ Lisa Nowak asks. ‘What is that exactly and why does it matter?’ First, as followers of Christ, we ought not be ignorant about the fact that Christianity came out of Judaism. Jesus was born from the line of Abraham and David2, he observed the Jewish laws, customs, observances, and celebrations. Why, the first Christians were all Jewish! Therefore, we do well to have some understanding of Judaism – especially in Jesus’ day. The religious writings commanded the Jewish way of life and should have dictated the trials of Jesus in Jerusalem. What were/are the Jewish writings? First, there was the Torah, the Law – the first five books of Moses, given to him by God. 613 points of Law.3 Whereas the Tanakh was the entire Old Testament. Never short on words, the Jews then had the oral law handed down over the centuries—rules about the laws, commentaries, and decisions by different rabbis, eventually codified as the Mishnah, and the Talmud recorded the interpretations of those laws for all of Jewish life.

With that understanding, we look to the wee hours of Friday morning when Jesus was tried by Annas, then his son-in-law the high priest, Caiaphas, and finally by the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, a council of 70+ men. Trials 1, 2, 3. Verdict? “Guilty” of blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God. Though the Jews could find him guilty of blasphemy, they could not kill him. Being under Roman rule, they had to send Jesus to a civil court to get him executed. They did so by telling the governor, Pilate, that Jesus was claiming to be the King of the Jews—this would be considered seditious and a threat to Rome. This would be cause for putting Jesus to death.

Mark 15 picks up the story: And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. Trial no. 4. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.4

Luke, the historian records in chapter 23 that Pontius Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod, Trial no. 5. Just the thought of Jesus standing before the debauched, lascivious Herod is awful… Jesus’ fate in the hands of that man? No, no – always only in the hands of God. Herod--who hoped to see Jesus do some magic, questioned Jesus--who gave no reply, and sent him back to Pilate.

So our Lord now stands back in front of Pilate. Trial no. 6. Mark writes, “Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.5

We read right past the words: ‘crucify him’, Barabbas, and scourged Jesus . . . not so fast. I cannot help but wonder who was in the crowd that day yelling ‘crucify him’. Why, not even a week before Jesus had come into town and the crowd was shouting his praises, waving palm branches, laying their robes down for his donkey to walk across. Was this the power of first century peer pressure or whatever social media there was in the day?

And Barabbas? The name in Hebrew means ‘son of’ a ‘father’. Ironic? The people were given the choice between son of a father and Son of the Father? They chose a known murderer to be released rather than the one who had loved them, healed them, set demoniacs and epileptics free, taught them as no other teacher? How. Could. That. Be.?

And scourged Jesus. Truly, it would be easier to read right over it, but then we could miss this inhumane treatment. No one would have done this to their recalcitrant animal, yet they did it to the perfect Son of God. A scourging involved Jesus stretched out, hands tied, the skin on his back and muscles taut--two men, ‘lictors’, whips in hand, leather tongs with lead and glass embedded in them… dragging the whips across his back diagonally until tissue was torn, etc.

"And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him."6

Jesus, Son of God, Friend of sinners, our Good Shepherd scourged within an inch of his life, paraded through the city, to die. It leaves me with one question:

What kind of love is this?

One to which I must be connected daily.


"If I Got Jesus" from this guy:

His name is Ben Fuller....what a story, brief:

~in the footsteps of Jesus, gospel of Mark #50,


^^the steps leading up to Caiaphas' house - Jesus would have walked these. ^^

1 – Genesis 3.1-7,

2 – See Matthew chapter one:

3 – A list of 613 Mitzvot:

4 - Mark 15.1-5

5 - Mark 15.6-15

6 - Mark 15.16-20

Christine DiGiacomo

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