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Jesus of Nazareth: That’s Why They Killed Him

April 6th, 2012by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk

In what Jesus taught and did people found a new hope and a new freedom. If God’s love is as abundant as Jesus said, if every human creature, even the seemingly unimportant, has a special dignity, if all are called to participate in the kingdom of God which has already begun, then Jesus was presenting a whole new world. People no longer needed to be ashamed of themselves, to feel the oppression of not really belonging or the despair of not knowing where to turn in their sinfulness.

True, there was still sin in the world, there were still injustices to be dealt with, there was still the hypocrisy of the self-righteous to be healed, but the kingdom that Jesus preached put all this into a new perspective. What he was proclaiming and practicing was nothing less than a revolution—not the revolution of the terrorist or the political activist but a revolution of one who spoke for God, a revolution which would reorient the whole of creation.

That’s why they killed him. The life and teaching of Jesus seemed so radical, so dangerous to the religious and civil authorities that they arranged to have him executed on false charges. Jesus was put to death as a criminal.

The death of Jesus was not just an injustice, not just the brutal termination of one more human life. The death of Jesus was a real act of witness. He was put to death precisely because of what he had taught and done. He was a martyr to his own lifestyle, to his own teaching.

If he had been willing to compromise, to tone down what he was saying, to tell the people that they had misunderstood him, he might have saved himself from death on the cross. After all, the attack on him from the leaders of the people did not come as a surprise. Jesus saw it coming for a long time. Yet he remained faithful to his calling, faithful to his teaching mission, faithful to what he knew God expected from his human life.

Jesus was a human being who lived a human life like ours, a life that began with birth, that evolved through a certain number of years and that ended with death. That fact is essential to the meaning of his story.

To say that Jesus lived a human life is absolutely correct and theologically precise. But in view of the significance of that life in the story of ongoing creation and in the story of God’s human creatures, we could also say that Jesus lived not just a human life but the human life, the human life par excellence.

But all this is only the beginning. There are other facets of the reality of Jesus still more wonderful, still more significant. His life and his mission did not end with the cross. In a way, they only began there.


(Excerpt from Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice, and Think, pgs. 31-33 (Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, 2006)

photo credit: Flickr/John-Morgan

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk

This article is excerpted with permission from Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyks book, Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice and Think (Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, 2006). Listen on to Sharing the Word, a daily, 90-second radio homily by Archbishop Pilarczyk based on the readings used at Mass each weekday.