Yeshua/Jesus and “The Establishment”
You may have read about a recent incident at a high school basketball game in Newton, Mass. There is always a lot of emotion at sporting events as each side taunts the opposing team and fans. Most of the time it is all in fun. But the taunting at the game in Newton got out of hand.
Catholic Memorial high school was playing Newton North which is in a largely Jewish community. I have Jewish friends who live in Newton. If they read this blog I hope they know how much I love them.
When the Newton North fans taunted the all-male Catholic Memorial about the absence of girls at the school, some Catholic Memorial fans chanted back, “You Killed Jesus!” Whoa! This is not basketball, this is theology—bad theology that is preached every Easter and every Passover from Christian pulpits. The administration and students at Catholic Memorial quickly apologized for the anti-Semitic accusation that has been at the heart of Christian theology since the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
I know during Easter and at Passover, good, well-meaning Christian ministers will continue to preach the error that the “Jews Killed Christ.” Whenever this was preached in the Dark Ages of Europe, the uneducated hearing the sermon would leave their church service and go kill as many local Jews they could find because “they killed Jesus.” Since these people did not have a Bible and couldn’t read anyway, they had no idea that Jesus was a Jew.
So what is the truth? Who really killed Jesus? Christians understand the theological answer that Jesus died for our sins. I am not writing about the theological answer but the human answer. Were the Jews as a people responsible for killing Jesus? Were the Romans as a people responsible for killing Jesus? Who was responsible?
The short answer for who killed Jesus is two words—“The Establishment.” Now think about it. Prophets, revolutionaries and outsiders are always a threat to the establishment. Jesus was all three. He was a prophet, a spiritual revolutionary and certainly an outsider. His popularity with the masses, all Jews I might add, had grown so large that He was a threat to the establishment.
We only have to look at our current political election campaigns to see how much the political establishment hates those threatening their power and position. Furthermore, according to the political poles, the outsiders in both parties are very popular with a large number of the masses of Americans who are fed up with the greed and corruption of the political establishment. Our political establishment is in a panic. No doubt they are having secret meetings plotting and scheming to find a way to marginalize candidates they see as a threat. This is what was happening at Passover 2,000 years ago when the establishment plotted to kill Jesus when He came to Jerusalem.
The New Testament is clear that it was the Roman establishment represented by Pilate and the Sadducees Jewish establishment represented by Caiaphas whose power and control of the people was threatened by Jesus and His huge popularity among the people. (See for example Luke 23:24; Mark 15:9-10; John 11:53.)
Caiaphas was the Chief Priest who led the small Sadducee party that controlled the Temple and the sacrificial worship at the Temple. Their power and position and enormous wealth came from the Temple. They were the “upper-class” aristocratic group who were comfortable living in a Greco-Roman world. Like many with power, they bought their position from the Romans, were very corrupt, enriched themselves at the expense of the people and strong-armed anyone who threatened them. These were not godly leaders “defending the faith” but an evil ruling class protecting their position, their power and their purse.
It was a small group of religious and political leaders who desired to crucify Jesus because they were jealous of His fame and afraid He would upset the status quo. Like our modern politicians, the establishment met in secret and arrested Jesus and had a mock trial at night because they feared the people would revolt if they knew what they had done (Luke 20:19). The everyday people living in Jerusalem were in their homes preparing for Passover and had no idea what had happened. By the time they awoke the next morning, the establishment had already crucified Jesus. The people didn’t kill Jesus they loved Him.
We must understand the context and culture of the Bible or we will surely misunderstand it. For example, when the New Testament seems to speak negatively of the Jews, the writers are not talking about the Jews as a people group. They too were Jews. Jews who lived in northern Israel were called Galileans. They were hard-working country folk that the “big-city” arrogant establishment Jews in Jerusalem considered uncultured and unsophisticated. They even talked with a country twang. (See Matthew 26:73.) The Jews in the south were called Judeans. They were the cosmopolitan, high-bred, cultural sophisticates who looked down their nose at the “hicks from Galilee.”
When the New Testament writers speak about the “Jews doing this and the Jews doing that,” they are referring to a specific group. They mean the Judeans—the Jewish establishment running the affairs of state in league with the Romans. Specifically they mean the small Sadducee party that was in control of everything that took place in Jerusalem. When Jesus entered Jerusalem with 1,000’s of followers, the establishment realized they were losing control and had to put Jesus to death.
Christian ministers preach that this crowd turned against Jesus five days later and shouted “Crucify Him!” This is just not true. Caiaphas called together the Sadducee Temple priest who owed their living to him and instructed them to recruit some local thugs, a rent-a-crowd, and probably paid them and instructed them at the right time to join with them and shout, “Give us Barabbas.” (See Luke 23:13.) There may have been no more than fifty or so of these people. They spoke for the establishment not for the common people. Please don’t be naive. This happens all the time in our own country. Most of the groups who are rioting in the big cities of America are paid thugs who are brought from the outside to stir up violence locally.
When the nations of the world say, “The Americans did this and the Americans did that” they don’t mean the American people. They don’t mean me and you. They mean the American government—they mean “The Establishment” in Washington. While the establishment in Washington does not speak for everyday Americans, we all suffer the consequences of their decisions. Surely we understand this.
So it was when the Sadducee priests and “rent-a-crowd” shouted, “Let His blood be on us and our children” (Matthew 27:25), they were cursing themselves not the Jews as a people group. Their curse was fulfilled forty years later in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned down the Temple resulting in the death of the Jerusalem elite and the end of the Sadducees.
From a Christian standpoint, God allowed Jesus to pay the price for our sins so we would not have to pay it ourselves, As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Instead of blaming the Jews for “killing Christ” Christians should thank God for His redemptive love and stand with the Jewish people as God’s still chosen people and for the suffering they have endured throughout history mostly at the hands of Christendom. While we all know that Christians and Jews have theological differences, we don’t have to agree on theology in order to love one another. And if we can’t love one another, what good is our theology.
For further information on this subject, please order Dr. Booker’s book, How the Cross Became a Sword at www.rbooker.com or click on link.
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