by Young Oon Kim
Who Led Him To The Cross?
When Jesus proclaimed the coming of God's kingdom, how was he received? To quote the Fourth Gospel, he came to his own and his own received him not (1:10,11). Although the light of the world was revealed on earth, men preferred darkness. God's painstaking preparation of Israel for the messianic advent was tragically frustrated.
Jesus aroused intense opposition and implacable hatred. Who kept Jesus from being acclaimed as the champion of God? Of course, Satan was the Messiah's chief opponent. As prince of this world, he was determined to retain his apparent sovereignty over mankind. Therefore, Satan always found human instruments who willingly or ignorantly opposed the will of God.
John the Baptist, for example, unintentionally obstructed God's plans. Rather than uniting with Jesus, he continued on his separate way. Thus, the Baptist failed to be Jesus' herald and advocate. Because the principal forerunner of the Messiah laid no adequate foundation for God's New Age, Jesus himself had to withstand attacks by Satan throughout forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness, Divine Principle tells us.
Next, one should mention the lack of support Jesus received from his family. Many Biblical scholars feel that neither Mary nor James, the brother of Jesus, became supporters of the Christian movement until after the resurrection. In any case, the New Testament contains one clear piece of evidence and several hints that Jesus' family remained unconvinced of his messianic vocation. The oldest Gospel records an incident that is surely authentic. When Jesus' fame as a faith-healer spread, scribes arrived from Jerusalem to investigate the phenomenon. They announced that Jesus' exorcisms proved that he derived his supernatural power from the prince of demons. Distraught by this verdict, Mary and Jesus' brothers decided that he had lost his mind. Upset by their lack of faith, Jesus refused to see his family, declaring that his followers were his true brothers, sisters and mother (Mk. 3:20-35).
Besides this passage, there are several hints that Jesus faced unbelief, skepticism and opposition from his closest relatives. Luke's special infancy story about the boy Jesus in the temple suggests that Mary and Joseph did not understand Jesus' religious vocation. "Did you not know that I would be in my [heavenly] Father's house?" the boy Jesus exclaims when the anxious adults find him in the temple. Luke notes that the parents could not understand their son's attitude (Lk. 2:49). Also, there may well have been great disharmony in Jesus' home.
Even though Joseph had been told in a dream that Mary's child was a gift of the Holy Spirit, he must have often wondered how such a thing was possible. Consequently he might have tormented her and mistreated her child. Some scholars claim that when the New Testament occasion ally describes Jesus as "the son of Mary' " this was the customary derogatory manner of saying he was an illegitimate child. Furthermore, in Cana Jesus remarks, "What have I to do with you, woman!" as if he was alienated from his mother (Jn. 2:4). Whether the Fourth Gospel has any historical foundation continues to be one of the hotly debated questions of New Testament criticism. As the sensational miracle of Cana has no corroborative support in the early Gospels, many scholars doubt its historicity. However, the disparaging comment about Mary may rest on a factual base, simply because such an attitude would never have been invented by the later Christian community where the prevailing tendency was to exalt Mary to ever-greater heights. In any case, it seems reasonably certain that Jesus was rejected by his family.
Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus' family recognized the messianic authority of Jesus. In addition he faced numerous religious critics. For a variety of reasons, Jesus' movement ran counter to the religious attitudes of every known Jewish group in first-century Palestine. What Jesus stood for was alien to the outlooks of such disparate groups as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians and Hellenizers. Some disagreed with his apocalyptic message. Some were opposed to his life-style. Some were irritated by his social and political attitudes, while others were angered by the authority he assumed. For these reasons, Jesus has often been described as a victim of religious narrow-mindedness and ecclesiastical ultra-conservatism.
Finally, among Jesus' foes there were those who feared him or were suspicious because of the tense political situation. Herod Antipas would have suspected Jesus because of the latter's association with John the Baptist whom the tetrarch had imprisoned and beheaded. Jesus warned his disciples against "the leaven of Herod" (Mk. 8:15) and condemned the ruler as "that fox" (Lk. 13:32). Then there were the Roman occupation authorities. Since Palestine was seething with rebellion, Pilate and his Sadducean collaborationists would be wary of any prophet who might fan the flames of revolt.
Notice that we have not called the Jews as a whole enemies of Jesus. There are many New Testament passages which seem to blame "the Jews" for Jesus' crucifixion. 76 In recent years, the churches have tried to eradicate anti-Semitism. Surely to attack present-day Jews for the crime of "deicide" or to ascribe the crucifixion to the unfaithfulness of Jews as a group is to misinterpret the Passion narratives. According to the most reliable Synoptic traditions, the plot against Jesus was instigated by some leading Pharisees who opposed him because of his disregard of the Torah. He was interrogated by the high priest Caiaphas on charges of blasphemy. The Sanhedrin found Jesus guilty in a probably illegal night meeting, and they handed him over to Pilate who executed him as a politically dangerous messianic pretender.
Rather than blaming the Jews for Jesus' troubles, Christians should recognize that all men are guilty of the sins which led to the cross. When the black spiritual asks, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" the answer, of course, is that we were all there. How often we Christians have resembled Peter or Judas, Pilate or the Pharisees! How often we too have been men of little faith who deny, betray or are blind to God's providence!
Hence, Unificationists do not glory in the cross and rather insist that for Jesus the cross only aroused feelings of extreme bitterness and sorrow. It was not something to be proud of but something terribly shameful.
For God, Jesus' crucifixion was as heartbreaking as the Fall of Adam and Eve. He must have felt like turning His face away from man and abandoning him to his fate after two frustrating efforts to save him.
How grief-stricken, how bitter God must have felt towards man, as He saw His Son nailed to the cross!
Unification thought diametrically contradicts the Fundamentalist view that Jesus' sole mission was to atone for the sins of mankind by dying on the cross. If God had sent His only-begotten Son to be punished and killed in place of sinful man, He is not at all the fatherly God Jesus believed in. Worse is the view of those theologians who assert that Adam's fall was predestined in order that Christ could come to redeem men by his vicarious suffering.
76 Especially in the Gospel of John. Cf. C. Klein, Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology (1978) and G. Vermes. Jesus the Jew (1974).
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