Reading the New Testament I am struck by just how many times it records the hostility of the Jewish leaders towards Jesus. There was already enmity between the Pharisees and John the Baptist (Jn 1:24-25),with the questioning of John’s right to preach repentance. They were so intent on protecting their own authority, that the Jewish leaders were thus also riled from the moment Jesus’ ministry began, at first just hostile (Mk 2:6-7, Mk 3:2, Jn 2:18) and then, very early on, bringing the knives out (Jn 5:18, Luke 4:28-29).
The Gospel record of this murderous intent of the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law is extensive:
Matt 12:14; 16:21; 17:12; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 26:45; 26:59; 26:66; 27:1;27:20; 27:22; 27:23; 27:25.
Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:1; 14:10-11; 14:41; 14:55; 14:64; 15:12-13; 15:14.
Luke 9:21; 13:31; 17:25; 18:32; 19:47; 20:19; 22:2; 22:4; 23:10; 23:21; 23:23; 23:33-34; 24:7.
John 5:18; 10:31; 10:39; 11:53; 13:2;18:31; 18:35; 19:6; 19:7; 19:12; 19:15.
Sinful man wickedly schemed, plotted, falsely accused, unjustly tried, and then executed the Son of God.
It is therefore unsettling how many ignore this New Testament narrative, and fight to lay accountability back on the Father himself.
Simply by examining how the Apostles presented the events of Good Friday, we see the accountability clearly and consistently laid at man’s feet:
Acts 2:36; 3:13; 3:15; 4:10; 4:27; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:28;
Epistles: 1 Cor 2:8; 1 Thess 2:15; Heb 12:3; 1 Pet 2:4.
And God’s action of raising Christ from the dead is presented in direct contrast to our unlawful act of murder. We have been accused, and found guilty.
Our crime was utterly predictable. Long before Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, philosophers had deduced that evil men hate the upright, and seek their demise.
Plato recognised that unjust men would torture and impale a truly just man were one ever to walk the earth (Plato’s Republic, Book 2, Section 362a). Solomon’s wisdom had taught him the very same (Prov 29:10,27)
Jesus knew the duplicitous heart of man (John 2:24-25). Talking to the chief priests and elders Jesus foretold, by parable, his upcoming murder at their hands (Matthew 21: 30-45). He warned his disciples of his upcoming betrayal and death (Mk 8:31). He knew he would be betrayed into the hands of sinners (Mark 14:41).
God delivered Jesus over, entrusting him to us, even knowing what we would do because God could do the impossible – he could use our very crime to redeem us (Acts 2:23). But the bitter, cruel, brutal crime was all ours.
The moment Jesus became incarnate his death warrant was signed…. and yet he still came.
This is how we know what love is.