Most Remarkable Weekend

Was Jesus inconsistent? This used to bother me. Jesus was so strong and “in control” throughout his life[1], but then seems to go limp and weak the last day or two in Jerusalem. He lost all fight. Becomes a “lamb being led to the slaughter.” Offers no resistance, no fight, not even a cry for help! I say this used to bother me, it doesn’t anymore, because with further study I learned something startling. [2]

Jesus was an accessory[3] to his own murder![4]

Could this be? Was Jesus involved in the plot to have himself murdered? Read on!

Jesus many times predicted the events of his arrest, trial, and murder. He knew “in detail” what needed to happen. “‘Listen,’ he said, ‘we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.’” (Matt 20:18-19, see also Matt 16:21; 17:22; 26:1-2).

He not only predicted it, he purposely infuriated the religious leaders and forced their hand to do it! “When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done [removed corruption from inside the temple], they began planning how to kill him.” (Mark 11:18). “The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them– they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.” (Mark 12:12).

A slight problem

Yes, there was a problem. Jesus stated the time that his crucifixion must take place. “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matt 26:2). Jesus played his cards right, but the powers in charge were weak and scared. They were afraid to do it during the Passover feast, because too many people were around. “At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the Passover celebration,’ they agreed, ‘or the people may riot.’” (Matt 26:3-5).

This murder had to happen on the Passover;[5] the leaders wanted to wait until afterwards, so Jesus worked on the one option that could speed things up: If the leaders could arrest Jesus without creating a commotion (i.e., with no one around to create a fuss), then they could try-and-condemn him in private, twist the arm of the governor to allow crucifixion, then they could have him on a cross on “skull-mountain” before most people realized what was happening.[6]

So, Jesus egged Judas to do the dirty work.

  1. Jesus upset him by correcting him in front of the others (and even in front of a woman!).[7] “But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, ‘That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.’ … Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’” (John 12:4-8).
  2. Jesus made the secret plot public. “While they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’ Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, ‘Am I the one, Lord?’” (Matt 26:21-22). And he even revealed the perpetrator. “Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, ‘Rabbi, am I the one?’ And Jesus told him, ‘You have said it.’” (Matt 26:25).
  3. He even prompted the betrayer, when the time was right, and sent him off on his dastardly mission. “When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, ‘Hurry and do what you’re going to do.’” (John 13:27).

Priests Turned into Puppets

The Israelite nation was captive to the nation of Rome, but the people were led by the Chief Priests and the Great Sanhedrin (a religious and legislative body). There were sometimes severe conflicts between the Jewish leaders and the Roman appointed leaders, but the Sanhedrin often got its way because the Jewish people were so religions and loyal. It was a great honor and responsibility to be a member of the Sanhedrin.

Jesus manipulated and goaded these esteemed leaders.

  1. He answered their “difficult” questions leaving them stunned (Mat. 21:23-27; 22:15-22, 23-33).
  2. He posed questions the leaders were unable to answer (Mat. 22:41-46; 26:55-56).
  3. He told parables describing the leaders’ duplicity (read Mat. 21:33-46). “When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them–they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.” Mat. 21:45-46.
  4. He publicly scorched these proud peacocks, detailing their hypocrisy in vivid detail. “Everything they do is for show” (v. 5). “You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.” (v. 13). “You cross land and sea to make one convert, and they you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (v. 15). “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs — beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (v. 27). “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (v. 33).

The Lion becomes a Lamb

By deliberate choice (in obedience to His Father), Jesus changed his Modus operandi at the appropriate time.

No one could state this better than Prophet Isaiah: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away … He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal, he was put in a rich man’s grave.” Isa. 53:7-9.

He did this with eyes wide open and in full agreement with the Father: “But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.” Isa. 53:8-9.

Given the chance to defend himself and thereby escape death, [note how capable Jesus was in winning any argument] he kept silent. Jesus did not resist his death, because his murder was the very thing he knew needed to happen.

This is incredible. The Sanhedrin that condemned him to death, the Roman officials who authorized it (Pilot and Herod), the crowds who shouted for his crucifixion, and even the Roman soldiers who carried it out were all merely pawns in his hands. They were carrying out the plan long ago agreed upon by Father and Son in eternity. Rev. 13:8b.

Yes, Jesus was an accessory to his own murder. His death was not a surrender. Satan did not win a victory. He died entirely voluntarily. He did so, just like he lived his life, not for himself, but for those he loved. This includes you and everyone in your life.

This is the Jesus we love, worship and obey. This is the Jesus for whom we can invest everything – to know HIM better, to appreciate more fully, to love totally each day of our lives.

[1] Consider this. Alone, without food for 40 days, weakened in body, he overcame Satan’s cleverest of temptations. No one was able to compromise him. Mat. 4:1-11.

[2] The concepts behind this chapter were inspired by the following words penned by Philip Yancey. “The might of the world, the most sophisticated religious system of its time allied with the most powerful political empire, arrays itself against a solitary figure, the only perfect man who has ever lived. Though he is mocked by the powers and abandoned by his friends, yet the Gospels give the strong, ironic sense that he himself is overseeing the whole long process. He has resolutely set his face for Jerusalem, knowing the fate that awaits him. The cross has been his goal all along. Now, as death nears, he calls the shots.” The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1995. p. 188.

[3] In legal terms, the word “accessory” means “someone who is instrumental in making a crime take place.”

[4] The High Priests and Sanhedrin were guilty of murder to the first degree, “To intentionally plot and cause the death of an innocent person.”

[5] The Divine plan and schedule.

[6] They were fixated on getting rid of their greatest irritation but had to navigate (and manipulate) the Roman “authorities.” Once Jesus was on the cross early in the morning, they had the upper hand over the common people. The visual effect of seeing their “son of David” in a horrible state on the cross was more than enough to cause the crowds to lose all hope in their “would-be” Messiah.

[7] Men were rather inflated back then.

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