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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus

Don Stewart :: Was the Death of Jesus Planned Ahead of Time?

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Was the Death of Jesus Planned Ahead of Time?

The Betrayal, Trial, and Death of Jesus – Question 4

Was the death of Jesus Christ something that happened without any planning? Or was it merely an afterthought among the Jews to kill Jesus? To the contrary, the death of Jesus had been planned for sometime. From the New Testament, we learn the following.

There Were a Number of Assassination Attempts on Jesus

There were a number of attempts to kill Jesus before His eventual crucifixion in Jerusalem. They include the following.

1. The Slaughter of the Innocents

There was an attempt on Jesus’ life as soon as He was born. We read about this episode in Matthew’s gospel:

When Herod found out that the wise men from the east had tricked him, he was very angry. He gave orders for his men to kill all the boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years old and younger. This was based on what he had learned from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16 CEV)

This attempt failed by the evil king Herod failed. He wanted to put to death any potential king that may oppose him. However, it was not to be.

2. An Early Attempt in Jerusalem

On an earlier trip to Jerusalem, before He died for the sins of the world, the religious leaders attempted to kill Jesus. John records what happened as follows:

Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:59 NASB)

Jesus would not allow Himself to be killed on this occasion. There was a specific time when He was to die and His time had not yet come.

3. There Was an Attempt on His Life at Nazareth

In the city of Nazareth, the place where Jesus was raised, the people tried to throw Him over a large cliff. Luke records this episode.

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:28-30 ESV)

Again, it was not His time to die. Therefore, He was able to somehow pass through their midst without being killed.

4. The Argument over the Sabbath Issue

Jesus’ breaking of the religious leaders’ traditions regarding the Sabbath, and His claim of equality with God the Father, caused them to want to kill Him. John records how they became more intent on killing Jesus. He wrote,

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:18, 19 NIV)

Their desire to fill Him continued to grow.

5. Herod Wanted to Kill Jesus

The Bible also says that King Herod plotted to kill Jesus:

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31 ESV)

He could not tolerate Jesus. He thought that he was the king.

6. The Plot in Jerusalem

There was a plot to kill Jesus when He came to Jerusalem on His last visit. Matthew records the plotting of the religious leaders:

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. (Matthew 26:3, 4 NRSV)

They wanted to kill Him; but they were not going to do it during the Passover. They did not want to cause a major uproar among the people. However, they were never in charge of when Jesus was going to die.

7. The Prediction of Caiaphas

The High Priest Caiaphas spoke of the necessity of Jesus’ death. We read of his unwitting prediction of Jesus’ death in John’s gospel:

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 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, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. (John 11:49-53 NASB)

Without realizing it he correctly predicted the reason for Jesus’ death; to die for the nation.

8. His Death Was Part of God’s Eternal Plan

The death of Jesus Christ is part of the eternal plan of God. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ death, the Apostle Peter declared that the death of Christ had been planned by God for all eternity. He said to the crowd that had gathered:

You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:22-24 NRSV)

This tells us that the death of Christ was not an accident, or an afterthought, in the plan of God. Indeed, it had been planned by God for all eternity. Therefore, we should never view the death of Jesus Christ as a tragic accident or something which happened by mere chance.

Summary – Question 4
Was the Death of Jesus Planned Ahead of Time?

The death of Jesus Christ was not a spontaneous tragedy or an historical mistake—it was in the predetermined program of God—planned before the foundation of the world. Indeed, it is a crucial element in God’s eternal plan to save humanity from their sins.

The New Testament tells us that a number of attempts were made on Jesus’ life before His death on the cross. This began as soon as He was born when the evil King Herod, known also as Herod the Great, ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem.

On one of His first visits to Jerusalem the religious leaders picked up stones to kill Jesus.

At Jesus’ hometown in Nazareth when He claimed an Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled by Him, there was also an attempt to murder Him.

When Jesus broke the traditions which the religious leaders added to the Sabbath they were constantly looking for a convenient time to kill Him.

The High Priest Caiaphas predicted the necessity of the death of Jesus. Unwittingly he predicted the purpose of Jesus’ death; to save the nation of Israel.

King Herod, the son of Herod the Great, also wanted Jesus dead. Yet, like his father he was unable to do this.

However, Jesus’ time had not yet come. On a human level, it was part of a pre-determined plot by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to put Him to death. Yet as we have emphasized, it was part of God’s eternal plan. Thus, we can truly say that the death of Jesus Christ was a planned event.

Why Did the Religious Leaders Want to Kill Jesus? ← Prior Section
Did Jesus Receive a Fair Trial? Next Section →
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