Easter is fast approaching and for Christians, it’s a glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, proclaiming his victory over sin and death, and paving the way for all believers to receive forgiveness and salvation.
But to gain a better understanding of the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for us by his death on the cross, it makes good sense to reflect on his final days in Jerusalem — days marked by his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Last week we looked at the importance and significance of the Last Supper and how the sacrifice of Jesus correlates with Passover. This week however, we’ll concentrate on why he was arrested.
There were many events leading up to the arrest of Jesus, especially during the last week of his life. There was the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, the clearing of the temple on Monday, as well as the parable teachings by Jesus on Tuesday. And although each group of religious leaders had their own reasons, both the Sadducees and Pharisees wanted to see Jesus put to death.
But why? After all, Scripture describes Jesus as peaceful, loving, and compassionate. Why would anyone want to see him dead?
There were a number of things about Jesus that enraged the religious leaders but mostly, they feared him. He was a threat to their whole way of life, a threat that needed to be permanently removed.
For example, Jesus was a threat to the Jewish religious system. He repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy, pride, and arrogance among both the Sadducee and Pharisee leaders, which in turn threatened their religious status and influence among the Jewish people — and they vehemently resented it (Matthew 5-7).
He was also a threat to Jewish traditions. Jesus knew the religious leaders added all types of rules and restrictions for the people to follow — man-made rules that did not come from God. In fact, on several occasions he confronted the religious leaders with these burdensome rules which only infuriated them further. (Mark 3:4-6).
But mainly, Jesus was a threat when he declared himself Messiah and placed himself alongside the God of Israel. Of course the religious leaders didn’t believe his claim, but they did recognize that his actions might bring the wrath of Rome on both the temple and the nation of Israel (John 10:30-33).
However, it was the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders in the temple that ultimately sealed his fate (Mark 11-12). Jesus spoke with such authority in open debate that the religious leaders planned to bring about his arrest and destruction once and for all (Luke 22:1-6).
Although the religious leaders tried to find a legitimate reason to arrest Jesus, they couldn’t find one (Matthew 26:59). Jesus perfectly obeyed the law, but he was a dangerous force; a force that needed to be dealt with quickly and efficiently. So through the cover of darkness the religious leaders secretly arrest Jesus anyway.
But what we can take away from this account is this: Jesus knew he was going to be arrested and killed yet he still went to Jerusalem. He didn’t run, he didn’t stand in defiance when they came for him, nor did he beg for his life; he willingly gave himself up for each and every one of us (Ephesians 5:2).
He followed through with exactly why he was sent here; to rescue people from their sin.
And as his followers, we should do the same. Like Jesus, we also need to show others compassion, patience, and love with the goal of guiding lost people towards a relationship with our Savior — no matter what the cost.
After all, that’s why Jesus went to the cross in the first place.
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.