The Crucifixion

In the first century, Roman crucifixion was the most brutal, shameful, despicable way to die — the most severe punishment.  Why was Jesus crucified?  What did he do and say that led to be condemned to death by the Jewish leaders and executed by the Roman authorities?

Many scholars emphasize that any truly investigation of the life of Jesus should explain why he was crucified.  The Jews leaders condemn Jesus to death because of who he claims to be.  Jews was condemned for blasphemy by the high priest Caiaphas in the presence of the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders.





The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.    Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging,  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.’  ”Even so their testimony did not agree.  The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”  But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”    Then Jesus answered, “I am;

and ‘you will see the Son of Man
    seated at the right hand of the Power
    and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”

At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”  They all condemned him as deserving to die.  (Mark 14:55-64)


Jesus openly claims to be the Messiah in his first response to Caiaphas.  Jesus was reluctant to explicitly identify himself as the Messiah during his public ministry, but now he formally affirms his messianic identity when the end of his life is at hand.  Jesus answers Caiaphas’ question about his identity quoting two passages from the Old Testament in which the Messiah appears to be divine.  Jesus uses the Scriptures to reveal that he is not just the Messiah, but the divine Son of God. Caiaphas considered blasphemy the claim of divine Messiah.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven

One like a son of man.
When he reached the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him,
       He received dominion, splendor, and kingship;
    all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
    that shall not pass away,
    his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.  (Daniel 7:13-14)

A Psalm of David.

The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
while I make your enemies your footstool.”
The scepter of your might:
the Lord extends your strong scepter from Zion.
Have dominion over your enemies!
Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.
In holy splendor before the daystar,
like dew I begot you.  (Psalm 110-1-3)

The reaction of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin confirms the divine implications of Jesus’ answer.  Caiaphas immediately tears his garments and declares Jesus guilty of blasphemy.

At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses?”  (Mark 14:63)

The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus to death.

You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die. (Mark 14:64)

Jesus’ declaration before Caiaphas is not the first time Jesus is accused of blasphemy.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:6-7)

Jesus was condemned for blasphemy according to all four canonic gospels.  John’s gospel reports that the chief priests and the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy on the day of his crucifixion:

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (John 19:5-7)

What is the law the chief priests and the scribes are referring?  It is the biblical law about blasphemy:

Whoever utters the name of the Lord in a curse shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone that person; alien and native-born alike must be put to death for uttering the Lord’s name in a curse. (Leviticus 24:16)

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