This is holy week. This Friday through Sunday we celebrate the central event of human history. In one sense, as Jesus said Himself, “no one took His life from Him; He willingly laid it down.” As the sovereign God of the universe, without His voluntary sacrifice of Himself for our sake, He would never have been able to have been killed as unjustly as He was. He could have prevented the entire thing, sending legions of angels to destroy His adversaries with ease. He chose to die. Nonetheless, those who killed Him are fully culpable for what they did [Acts 2:23].
From a human perspective and from the vantage point of those who sought to kill Him, why were they so convinced that He needed to be destroyed? There are two main reasons. From the perspective of the existing religious power structure, He had to go to satisfy their envy and to protect their business.
The first of these motivations is identified as envy [Matt. 27:18; Mk. 15:10]. Envy is an interesting thing. It is unable to rejoice in the blessing of others because it seeks the blessings that others enjoy for itself and at their expense. It has often been inferred that Lucifer’s original sin was pride. That may be correct. But, envy was just as present. He envied the unique place of worship that God alone enjoyed and sought to receive the same. When he thought within himself, “I will be like God,” it was envy that ruled his heart. Envy wants what someone else rightly has and it wants it at the price of their destruction. Examples abound of this deadly path. Cain envied Abel and his acceptance with God. Abel needed to die. Joseph’s brothers envied his special relationship with the father and his unique relationship with God. Joseph needed to die. Saul envied David’s acclaim among the people. David needed to die. Haman envied Mordecai’s influence. He needed to die. The religious leadership envied Jesus authority, His piety, His authenticity, His influence among “their people.” He needed to die.
The second motivation is that He was rightly understood as a threat to business. Quite simply, He took on the status quo and had the audacity to call into question the corrupt practices of the religious establishment. The lavish lifestyle of Annas and Caiphas, father and son-in-law in the family business, and their entourage was at stake. They had parlayed their positions of authority into a comfortable lifestyle. They could not allow Him to successfully convert the Temple back to a house of prayer, ruining their chief profit center. They had built a highly successful business on the backs of faithful pilgrims for years and they were not about to give that up as a result of an upstart rabbi from the Galilee.
Because they felt the need to eliminate the threat to the family business and envied His popularity among the people, these wicked men conspired to crucify the Lord of glory. This holy week, as we contemplate the wonder of God’s ability to turn the greatest injustice ever perpetrated into the ground of our redemption, let us also consider the seeds of the same evil that conspired unto His death in our own hearts.
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? [Prov. 27:4]