Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mea Culpa: I Killed Jesus

Mea Culpa. I confess. I did it. I killed Jesus. I have denied this for years, but I can do so no longer. The evidence is overwhelming. At least that is what this fellow told me the other day as I was trying to free my bicycle from an incredibly crammed bike rack at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Why did you Jews reject Jesus,” he asked without even so much as a “Hello you damned Jew.”

“We didn’t,” I said. “Look at Palm Sunday we welcomed him with open arms.”

“Yeah, then why does John say, “He came to His own, and these who were His own did not receive Him,” (John 1:11)?”

“Well, John had an agenda when he wrote….”

“And why did you Jews kill Jesus?”

“We didn’t,” I said, “The Romans….”

“Then why does Acts say the “Men of Israel” nailed Him to a cross and put Him to death (Acts 2:22-23)? And why does Paul say, “the Jews…both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets” (Thessalonians 2:15)?”

“Name one prophet the Jews killed,” I said.

“Are you saying Paul is a liar?”

I was about to get into a real argument with this guy, but suddenly the wind just went out of my sails.

“You know,” I sighed, “you’re right. We killed Him. We rejected him and we killed him, and I for one am damn glad we did and so should you be as well, and if you aren’t grateful to me for killing Jesus you are insulting God and damning yourself to Hell for all eternity for rejecting God and God’s Son and the gift of redemption that He secured with His death.”

I think my confession confused him, and he just stared at me blankly. So I continued.

“Paul taught it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die and be resurrected (Acts 17:3). If you don’t die you don’t resurrect. And Acts says that Jesus was “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (2:22). This was God’s plan. The Jews did God’s work. If not for the Jews there would be no Jesus and if not for the Jews there would be no Christ. If you get into heaven it is because we Jews were willing to do what God demanded. Just as Abraham was willing to kill his son so were we, commanded by God, willing to kill God’s Son. We could have said ‘no.’ We could have said, “You want Him dead, then kill Him Yourself.” But we didn’t; we did what we were created to do: we killed God.

“You think killing God was easy. No, sir. You have it easy. All you have to do is believe. We had to do the dirty work. And then people like you have the audacity to attack, condemn, brutalize, and even murder the very people God chose to bring redemption to the world. Jesus came to die, the Jews were destined by God to kill Him; this is God’s plan and you, my friend, are insulting the very God whom you pretend to love. Shame on you! And you call yourself a Christian. You are no Christian for you deny the power of God to carry out His will, and you spit on the servants of God who are tasked with doing His will. You are going to Hell for your blasphemy, and I pity you your fate. We Jews are going to heaven for our loyalty. And we will be embraced by the still bleeding hands of Jesus and the blood from His side will stain our newly white robes and we will have to find a place to wash them or perhaps a discount store where we might purchase new ones for we are destined to stand before God as the chosen servants of God who did His will by killing His Son so that people like you could have a chance at salvation which you have just blown by insulting me.”

It was a masterful speech, and, with its conclusion, I mounted my bike as if it were one of the four horses of the Apocalypse, and peddled away calling back over my shoulder, “Woe to you, blasphemer of God, woe to you and your seed and your seed’s seed’s seed’s seed unto a thousand generations of seed which is a lot of seed if you are lucky which you will not be for God hateth those who mocketh His will and those who carry it out. Woe to you, O Blasphemer, woe. And forgeteth not that this will go on thy permanent record. Woe!”

I didn’t look back but I imagined this poor fellow falling to his knees and asking Jesus for forgiveness. Most likely, however, he just went looking for another Jew.


Karen said...

Hallelujah! Thank you for single-handedly saving all of our souls!!!

Seriously, however, thank you for sharing this story. It illustrates much about our society, our relationships to one another, our listening (in)abilities, our (lack of) understanding about the stories in the Bible/interpertations of them, etc. I have learned alot from your blogs, and I appreciate their illuminations into my own thinking!

Patti said...

Whoa, Rami, I love you - but I would hate to be on the receiving end when your sails are full of wind. ;0)

All good stuff though. It reminds me of our "should we apologize for slavery" conversation not too long ago. You make the argument, in a round about way, that yes they should. That Christians should be thankful that the Jews did what God called them to do. Should Jews of today be held responsible for the death of Jesus, just as the whites of today should apologize for slavery? Am I making huge leaps here???

Rabbi Rami said...

Sometimes humor overshadows the facts. The facts are these: "the Jews" didn't kill Jesus. The Romans did. Were there Jews in the pocket of Rome who collaborated with this endeavor? Mostly likely, but the Jews themselves, as a group, had nothing to do with it.

In fact I would argue that Jerusalem's Jews, having welcomed Jesus with open arms on Palm Sunday tried to have Jesus freed from Pontius Pilate's prison after his arrest.

The Gospel of John tells us that Pilate held two prisoners, Jesus who claimed to be the Son of the Father (God) and a revolutionary named Barabbas. Some versions of John add that Barabbas' first name was also Jesus. John's telling of this story is aimed at a Gentile reader who does now Aramaic, because Barabbas is Aramaic for Son of the Father.

Could it be that Pilate had two prisoners both of whom were called Jesus Son of the Father? Of course not. John invents Barabbas as a separate character so that when the Jews storm the palace demanding the release of Jesus Barabbas, Jesus Son of the Father, John can claim they were rejecting Jesus and siding with the revolutionary. There was only one Jesus in Pilate's prison at the time, and that was Jesus and he was a revolutionary. And the Jews who came to Pilate came to save Jesus not crucify him.

Because John is writing at a time when the early church was anti-Jewish, and because his readers would not, by and large, be Aramaic speaking, he got away with this propagandistic canard.

So, I would say "no" to the idea that Jews should apologize for the death of Jesus since we did not kill him.

Patti said...

Phew! Usually I am not this thick. I have learned so much more "fill in the blanks" kind of detail from you than from Christians - that I had to stop and wonder. I thought I knew that the Romans killed Jesus, but then I no longer knew what I thought I knew - because you tend to know so much more.

Well, maybe I am that thick or just naive but you seem to be saying that John employed literary license in order to make the Jews look bad? Does this happen often in the Bible? Was John writing historical fiction, was he blind to his bias or did he purposefully set out to be anti-Semitic? Man…if you can’t trust John; the one that Jesus loved, (supposedly-maybe John made his prominence in Jesus’ life up also!) whom can you trust? Perhaps it is not an issue of trust…but of putting the truthiness down and picking up faith.

Rabbi Rami said...

All sacred texts, coming as they do through the hands of human beings, are political and reflect the limitations and biases of their authors, cultures, and times. I don't trust any text to be more than it can be: a window into its time.

Each of the Gospel writers imagined his own Jesus and gave a portrait of that Jesus. For me, the key to Jesus is found in the Q Gospel and the Gospel of Thomas. These are just Jesus' sayings and teachings without the distortion of the stories the Gospel writers draped around them.

If you haven't read Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg, I would highly recommend you do. It is a great book.

Patti said...

Ya Know, you just don't hear this kind of stuff in Christian circles! At least not mine. I love the down to earth, matter of fact way you look at sacred texts, yet you still hold them in great regard. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to reading Borg's book.

AaronHerschel said...

It's far too late to comment meaningfully on anything said here. I suppose I'd like to add, though, that the issue of whether the Jews killed Jesus is quite literally a misnomer. I doubt whether at any time in history there has ever been such an entity as The Jews. There are jews, and jews. And then other jews.

Broad categorizations of groups of people are made (broadly speaking) for two purposes, both propagandistic. One, to identify (and destroy) an enemy. Two, to create the fiction of a unified 'people' who can act together for political and economic gain. Either way, there is likely to be incredible variation in the population thus identified.

Were there Jews who wanted Jesus dead? I bet there were. Any one whose power base Jesus challenged would be a likely suspect for collaboration with Rome.

Were there Jews who loved Jesus and demanded his freedom? I bet there were. In fact, we know there were, or Jesus wouldn't have gotten in trouble with Rome in the first place. Remember, there were no Christians in Jesus' day. He and his followers were, wait for it... Jews.

Patti said...

Thanks Aaron. That was pretty hilarious!!

Kelliente said...

I once had one of these types come into the convenience store in the KUC, accuse me of being a "silver-tongued Pharisee" (presumably because my debate skills were better than his) then knock over an entire rack of Pringles & storm out without cleaning up his mess.
Two goth girls in black lipstick and pentacle necklaces who were behind him in line straightened the chip rack & picked up all the Pringles for me.

So there ya go.

Slightly more on topic: I always felt sorry for Judas.

Client said...

Jews killed Jesus. And yet the Holy scriptures state to those following, though you were grafted in by God, you can also be otherwise - so humble yourselves those calling themselves Christians. Caiphas was "Roman appointed", Caiphas ripped his garment and exclaimed he (Jesus) committed blasphemy, and it was the Sanhedrin which encouraged the Romans to act on killing Jesus based on "treason", because he said he was a King (and he is/was).

Next: the law of Moses states, Do Not Murder, so God did not commission the Jews to act against his son. He foretold they would based on his foresight. God would not commission the "Murder" of a righteous person. Though he is allowing you, I and everyone to exercise "Free Will". The Greek scriptures state, God cannot be tried with evil (period).

So the fact is, Jesus constantly exposed the arrogance of the Pharisees, and Sadducees. Since he broght a new command of love your enemy, he was not a "direct" threat to Rome.

2 Timothy 3:16 states - All scripture is inspired...thus, there are no flaws in writing. And every time someone says it is, they unearth something showing the bible was right. In fact that there are details of man's history ONLY found in the bible, which archeology has substantiated.

Rabbi, your arguement fell upon one which was still sipping scriptual milk. The Jews motivated the killing of Christ. True Christians do not walk around pointing fingers, no more than Michael brought rebuke against the Devil. In fact, you and the Jews of today did not kill Jesus anymore than you nor I ate of the fruit in the Garden. Thus, he died one time for ALL men.

Therefore, any Jew today, like any of peoples, tribes, nations, and tongues, (any people anywhere) can reconcile themselves to God and be saved by Faith which is "acted" upon by "keeping" God's commandments. Faith alone James stated is not enough.

Lastly, if Jesus also was not Christ as Jews of today state, then why do you not still sacrifice animals. Some Jews say, its because you don't have a temple: but neither did Abel of Moses. And if the Jews today are still under the law, why do you tell others, those in the same land as you (alien residents to you), to violate the Sabbath by telling them to turn off the lights, and open electrical doors, etc. Does not your law state to treat the alien resident as one of you as in accord with the law?

If you refuse Christ Jesus, the law which he was the fulfillment of will condemn you not for his direct death, but for not acknowledging and accepting him as Christ. For then what is your atonement based? As Gamaliel stated, "you may find yourself a fighter against God."

Have a good day.