The Question of the Week
The Questions of the Week have come from young people who visit Kidspace before worship. They have been tough questions. I have tried to answer them in words kids understand. This is the last one from this Spring. I’ll be looking for questions again starting August 5 after my sabbatical.
“Why did they choose to crucify Jesus?”
The religious leaders in Jerusalem were afraid. They didn’t like what Jesus was saying and doing. Jesus believed God wanted all people to be in his family. The religious leaders didn’t think Jesus had the right to invite new people into God’s family. Because lots of people liked Jesus, the religious leaders were afraid that Jesus was going to go right on inviting new people into God’s family.
When We’re Afraid, We Run Away or We Fight
Scientists teach us that when we’re afraid we only want to do one of two things: run away or fight. When we’re afraid, running away is sometimes a good idea. But not always. If you see a bear you should not run away. A bear will want to chase you. A bear will think you’re an enemy. Especially if the bear’s children are around. You can’t run faster than a bear. Turns out the best thing to do when you see a bear is get behind your mom or dad and pretend that you are all bigger than the bear. Then the bear will be afraid, and the bear will run away.
The religious leaders in Jerusalem could not run away.
They thought they were right and Jesus was wrong. They thought they were defending the Bible. But they also couldn’t fight Jesus, because he was loved by so many people. Still, they thought they had to stop Jesus. But they had to think of a way to stop Jesus that wouldn’t make the people mad at them. Which is why they tried to get Pontius Pilate mad at Jesus, so Pilate would stop Jesus. Then the people would be mad at Pilate.
Pontius Pilate was the governor of the area around Jerusalem. He worked for the Roman Empire. In Jesus’ day, the Roman Empire ruled over most of the people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman Empire did not like people who were their enemies. The Roman Empire killed people who were their enemies by crucifying them, so everyone would see what happened to their enemies. Because the Roman Empire crucified their enemies, people were afraid of the Roman Empire. The religious leaders in Jerusalem thought if the Roman Empire killed Jesus, everyone would be afraid to like Jesus. And again: if the Roman Empire killed Jesus, the people wouldn’t be mad at the religious leaders. Trying to get Pilate to crucify Jesus was a win – win idea for the religious leaders.
When We’re Afraid, We Lie
The Gospels say the religious leaders in Jerusalem lied to get Pontius Pilate to think Jesus was an enemy of the Roman Empire. They told Pilate that Jesus was leading God’s people astray by teaching them not to pay taxes to the Roman Empire and by telling people he was a king (Luke 23:2). The religious leaders knew Pilate wouldn’t like Jesus if he were teaching these things. Pilate had once crucified 2000 people for not paying taxes to the Roman Empire. And Pilate thought there was only one king: the King of Rome, the Emperor, Pilate’s boss. If the Emperor found out that Pilate was letting people run around saying they were king, Pilate would be crucified!
Nothing Good Comes from Living a Life of Fear
The Gospels say Pilate knew the religious leaders in Jerusalem were jealous of Jesus and afraid of him (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10). The Gospels say Pilate tried to help Jesus. The Gospels say that after a while, the religious leaders got angry at Pilate (Matthew 27:22-24, Mark 15:12-14, Luke 23:18-23). Pilate was afraid of them. Pilate was afraid of the Emperor. Pilate gave in to his fear and had Jesus crucified.
The religious leaders and Pilate were afraid. They all felt like they were in danger. Their fear made them lie and kill. But they felt like crucifying Jesus would keep them safe. Fear still makes people lie and kill. Nothing good comes from always being afraid. Always being afraid is always putting ourselves first.
What Jesus Teaches
Jesus didn’t teach us to put ourselves first. Jesus teaches us to put God first. This is the greatest commandment. The next greatest commandment is to love our neighbors in the same way that we love ourselves. But where does love come from? “Everyone who loves is born of God” (1 John 3:7). How are we “born of God?” “In the waters of baptism we are reborn children of God… As we live with God and with his people, we grow: in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God” (Baptism in the Hymnal).
Everything Good Comes from Living a Life of Love
Love makes us strong. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4.18). Leaders of the Roman Empire like Pilate thought the Roman Empire was the strongest Empire ever. And they tried to prove it by hurting people like Jesus. But they were wrong. Love is strong. Everything good comes from living a life of love.