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Don Stewart :: Why Did the Religious Leaders Want to Kill Jesus?

Don Stewart

The New Testament records that the religious leaders hated Jesus to the point that they arrested Him, tried Him, and brought Him to Pilate for a sentence of death. What made them so angry at Jesus that they wanted to see Him dead?

There Are Many Reasons They Wanted Jesus Dead

There were a number of things about Jesus that infuriated the religious leaders. These included.

  1. The claims that He made.
  2. The deeds that He did.
  3. His threat to their religious system.
  4. His threat to their way of life.
  5. The people with whom He socialized.
  6. The lack of respect He had for their religious traditions.

These six things caused outraged among the religious rulers. Consequently they wanted to see Jesus dead. We will consider each of these reasons.

1. Jesus' Claims Outweighed Their Authority

When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah it meant His authority outweighed their authority. The religious leaders did not believe His claims and were angry that some of the people did. They said,

Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed (John 7:48,49).

The religious leaders assumed that the belief of some of the crowd was due to ignorance. But the attention Jesus was getting brought out the leaders' hatred and jealousy. The jealousy of the religious leaders caused them to want Jesus dead.

2. His Deeds Outraged The Religious Rulers

The deeds of Jesus also angered the religious leaders. After seeing Jesus heal a demon-possessed man some of the multitude questioned if Jesus could be the Messiah:

And some of the multitudes were amazed and said, 'Could this be the Son of David [the Messiah]?' But when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons' (Matthew 12:23,24).

The miracle was undeniable, for the man was blind and mute as well as demon-possessed. Rather than believe Jesus to be the Messiah, these religious rulers attributed Jesus' power to the devil. Thus their "official" explanation was that Jesus' power came from Satan. This was another cause for which they wanted Him dead.

3. Jesus Was A Threat To Their Religious System

Jesus was also a threat to their religious system. He pointed out the hypocrisy that was connected with their practice. The Bible records that on two different occasions He came into the temple precincts and drove out the moneychangers.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And he made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves he said, "Take these things away; stop making my Father's house a place of business." His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me (John 2:13-17).

4. Jesus Was A Threat To Their Way Of Life

There were political reasons that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. There was an unstable situation between the Jews and the Romans. The thought of a Messiah who may lead an uprising against Rome

5. The People With Whom He Socialized Outraged The Religious Rulers

The religious leaders were filled with pride and arrogance. They were particularly proud that they did not socialize with "sinners." They did not believe that the Messiah would socialize with such a crowd. When one Pharisee saw Jesus allow a woman to wash His feet, he said,

This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner (Luke 7:39).

Jesus noted their opinion of Him.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Matthew 11:19).

The religious rulers believed themselves to be righteous by avoiding sinners. When Jesus kept company with these individuals, it infuriated the proud Pharisees and other religious rulers.

6. Jesus Had A Lack Of Respect For Their Traditions

As much as anything, the lack of respect that Jesus had for their religious traditions incensed the religious leaders. Jesus ignored these traditions, which they observed so minutely. He knew they were human-made rules that had not come from God. And it was Jesus' disregard for their traditions concerning the Sabbath that caused the most outrage. God had commanded the Sabbath to be a day of rest from labors and a time to worship Him. The religious leaders added all types of restrictions to the Sabbath making it difficult, if not impossible to observe.

Jesus was grieved and angry at the way they had perverted the Sabbath observance. He asked the religious leaders,

Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? But they kept silent. So when he had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:4,5).

Jesus then healed a man in their presence. This healing on the Sabbath was more than they could endure. They concluded that the genuine Messiah would not dare do such a thing. Their response was immediate:

Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him (Mark 3:6).

They were convinced that Jesus had to die.

They Had No Godly Or Righteous Motive

It was not for anything godly or righteous that the religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death. It was their hypocrisy, pride and arrogance that caused them to bring Jesus before Pilate to be crucified. They did not want to hear the truth of God.

Summary

The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead for a number of reasons-none of the reasons were righteous. First, the claims that he made demonstrated that his authority was greater than theirs. The religious leaders could not accept this. The miraculous deeds that he, which demonstrated his superior authority, was also a reason they wanted him dead. Jesus was also a threat to their religious system. He went the temple and condemned the practices. They also considered him a threat to their way of life. They were worried how the Romans would respond. The people with whom Jesus socialized offended the pride of the religious leaders. Above all, it was the lack of respect for their religious traditions that caused them to desire to kill him. This is particularly true of Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath. All of these things contributed to their evil desire to want Jesus dead.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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