“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this Just person. You see to it.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be upon us and on our children.’ (Matthew 27:24–25)
Let’s think for a while about the personalities and the forces driving the events leading to the trial and crucifixion.
From the very beginning, it was the “Establishment” which drove the events. The well-established RELIGIOUS establishment which first viewed Jesus as a nuisance, then a threat. But as their suspicion and fear grew it developed into paranoid hatred and when hatred is full grown it frequently leads to murder. The sadness and travesty in this case was horribly multiplied because it was sanctioned and propelled by the “best” civilized society had at that time.
If you see similarities between that “system” and any other ever devised by man, your powers of observation are acute and accurate. The self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, self-preserving motive never has real “good” as its objective. And who’s to say that, given similar circumstances in our power hungry and power-polluted system we would not have arrived at the same conclusions? The same outcome. Who among us can honestly say we’d not have been driven along by the same tidal wave of hatred and evil?
If something big. . . really big. . . were happening downtown right now, would you stay home? Really? If you just ambled in and everyone was screaming something at the top of their voices, would you bravely step forward, calm them down and suggest a more reasoned approach? Even if that same angry crowd turned on you and told you to “Shut up, or Else?”
Don’t kid yourself. If any of us get caught up in the “herd mentality,” any one of us. . . and every one of us . . .can easily become subject to mass hysteria. I read a book some years ago entitled Rumor, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds. The central thesis was that, under the right circumstances, with the “right leader” any crowd is subjected to being manipulated. Whipped into a hysterical, insane frenzy. You don’t have to go far back into history to encounter Adolph Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich. Somehow, I cannot believe every single person who got swept along by that tsunami sized tide of evil was actually evil. Bit by tiny bit, they bought into a huge lie. They fell hook line and sinker for a line vomited from the mouth and mind of maniacal madman.
As you read the stories about Jesus’ life, you will recognize that early on he aroused the suspicion and ire of the religious leaders. “The Common People heard Jesus gladly.” Some of them said: “No (mere) man ever spoke like this Man.” He performed miracles, in addition to being a compelling speaker. He intimidated the “powers that be.” Then, He started saying things pretty clearly that people interpreted as Him saying He was the Son of God. Or even God (“He that has seen me has seen the Father.”). And he messed up one of their “profit centers,” turning over their tables, sending the synagogue profiteers scrambling for cover. The people must have loved it. And I have to confess I’d have been impressed seeing Jesus snortin’ fire and chasing religious thugs from the temple.
Admittedly, the ringleaders in this plot to do Jesus to death were the Jewish leaders. Admittedly, from their standpoint at least, they had reason to be upset. He was “messing” with their way of living. Encroaching on their “turf.” (Believe it or not, ministers can become very territorial!) Upsetting the people in general, and maybe attracting too much attention from the Romans garrisoned there. Israel was, you may recall, an occupied country at the time. An unruly, proud, very stubborn and almost ungovernable country. They hated being under the boot of Roman authority, and also feared that any uprising on their part would be cause for the iron fisted, full fury of Roman wrath to fall upon them. (In 70 A.D., their worst fears were realized.).
As you follow the career of Jesus, you can see these guys (or their spies) stalking Him constantly. Taking notes. Gathering false testimony. Exchanging knowing glances. Finding the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.” Making plans which would find culmination on Golgotha’s brow.
In light of this it is no wonder that Annias and Caiaphas were the architects and engineers of the farce of a trial, under cover of night, and before “normal office hours” on the Friday morning of the day Jesus was legally murdered. They were the jeer leaders. They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting feverishly:
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
“We will not have this Man rule over us!”
“Barrabbas! Release unto us Barrabbas!”
If you’re inclined toward prejudice, and if your reasoning powers are limited, you might be able to psych yourself into believing this was a “Jewish thing,” Before you seek to place blame, perhaps you should take an honest look in the mirror at the person whose face you wear. When I view the cross, I see very little occasion for pointing an accusing finger at anyone.
In fact, in answer to one of Pilate’s proposals, trying to wriggle himself off the hook the Jewish crowd seemed to have been led in a self-incriminating shout “His blood be upon us. . .and upon our children.” This is one of those statements some people use to judge and condemn Jews. That is not a rational conclusion. Prejudice of any sort is emotional. It is wrong to hate anyone whom God created. Do you remember that later that same day Jesus prayed and said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now this raises a question. Not simply a rhetorical question. It deserves a carefully considered answer: “If the Person against whom the sin is committed asks forgiveness for the offenders. . . what room is left for anyone else to pass judgment?” Even if we think our claim is valid, what gives us any right to judge and condemn when the injured party says: “I forgive the offenders. They did not realize the gravity of their offense.”
Another unreasonable reason some people offer in attempting to justify anti-Semitism is the way they (the Jews. The entire nation of Israel) “hang together” so tightly. Even a casual observer of history can discover this. My personal opinion is they’ve had to do that for self-preservation. Through millenia no other nation o has ever been able to erase their identity. Not the snide, cutting remarks we make. Nor the Holocaust. Other peoples migrate and assimilate into almost any and every culture. We’ve prided ourselves in calling America the “Great Melting Pot.” While there are pockets of people here from every place on the planet, and while it may take generations for assimilation to fully take place, most are eventually absorbed in our culture and adopt our ways of thinking. The lone exception is the Jews who cling tenaciously to their faith, their distinctive, unmistakable Jewish identity.
Once I worked with the parents of Autistic Children. One of the things which impressed me early about them was that they were their own best and only friends in lots of instances. The enigmatic disorder their children had was so demanding, so cruel, that no one really understood what caused it. Much less could others understand the difficulties the families of autistic children had to face. In addition, a nearly Neanderthal German scientist had concluded the problem of autism was caused and promoted by what he called “Refrigerator mothers.” He was a “scholar.” And he stated his “findings and theories” so emphatically they were accepted by many as absolute fact. So, in addition to the incredible demands placed upon the families by the children, they were now faced with the added burden of feeling the problem was of their own making.
And every consideration they gained required that they fight. Hard. Together. Can you wonder why they drew so closely together, held tightly to that, and seldom allowed “outsiders” to see their pain.
Other minorities have endured the same kind of isolation. Often shut out of mainstream society, they had to find ways to preserve their way of life, as well as their very lives. What we view as arrogance or isolation may, in fact, be their means of self- preservation.
If you think the Jews in this scenario are evil, take a long, good, honest look in the mirror. The “sins” of which they were guilty are the same kinds of things we do every day. Every one of us. Every day. The Bible teaches that sin is what made Jesus’ death necessary. Not Jewish sin. Not White sin, or Black, or American sin. Sin. The same kinds we commit.
Just as Christ died so all may be forgiven, so all of us…and each of us…is culpable in His crucifixion. Why would anyone and everyone need to be “forgiven” if, in fact, they’d committed no offenses? The truth is it was the sinful human nature (Jew, Greek, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc., etc.) which did the Son of God to Death.
I believe it’s important to think about that. The Jews were no more the reason for Jesus’ death than I am. No more than you are. Their “sins” were no more, and no less, sinful than mine. Or yours. The truth of the matter is that He died for all of us because all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Think about the kinds of sins they committed. They were “religious” people. Not a murderer among them probably. Certainly none who’d committed financial thuggery of the AIG and Madoff proportions! They were the very best that their society had to offer. They were preserving their jobs. Their religion, their thought. Their traditions. Their way of life. And they fought the only way they knew how to fight.
If a light shines too brightly and hurts your eyes, you either adjust to it, or put it out. In this case, the Light of the World was simply so bright they had to adjust to the Truth. Or kill it. Being Jewish had little, if anything, to do with it. Being human, and therefore sinful, had everything to do with it.
Would you and I have handled the situation differently?
Do we handle it differently today?