The execution of Jesus was a consequence of his preaching and behavior. He preached and acted in fidelity to God, with all the radical consequences this had for social and religious institutions and this led to confrontation with those in power. He preached a God of the outcast and sinner, and this led to his own death outside the city, as one of the godless. His death came as a result of a life lived in fidelity to the demands of love. The cross was the final expression of the unconditional character of Jesus’ commitment. He so identified himself with God, and this God’s concern for humanity, that he accepted the consequences, the experience of profound failure, desertion by most of his community, and even seeming abandonment by the God in whom he trusted. Suffering and death “for others” expressed the unconditional nature of Jesus’ life lived “for others”. Jesus was executed by the Romans as a troublemaker and a political rebel, in spite of his rejection of the revolutionaries’ program. This shameful death should have meant the end of him as a force to be reckoned with. But history shows otherwise.
Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
Meditate on Jesus’ life and the consequences of his integrity. Compare it with the lives of those who have lived with the same unconditional commitment to God’s love and justice. What does it mean for you?
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, told them, “You don’t know anything! You don’t realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation. So from that day on they resolved to put him to death.
As Mark tells the story was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as we all know, it killed him.
The New Covenant in Christ Jesus is the committment, even to the point of death, to God’s cause–to the holiness, health, and wholesomeness that blossoms in a society of equals where all are welcome and all are fed around the table of God’s justice.
Now we see played out in full brutality what happens when human collective darkness is cut loose from any moorings in individual conscience and simply runs its own blind course.
It is highly unlikely that the actual Jesus who lived interpreted his death in terms of the models later developed by the New Testament such as reconciliation, sacrifice or redemption. In radical fidelity to God and in service to the people whom he loved, he stayed on course and was crucified to death. Doctrinal interpretation came later, and was then retrojected into the way the story of Jesus was told. It is vitally important not to rob his life of its real historical character, the worries and creative decisions, the joy and final terror.