Why They Killed Jesus
By James Donahue
The Bible story of the trial and murder of Jesus is strangely lame when you think about it. An interesting
theory presented last year on the website Prison Planet probably makes about as much sense as any we have heard. They murdered
Jesus because he attacked the money changers.
The article quotes the Rev. Howard Bess, a retired Baptist minister and frequent columnist for various
Internet publications, as pointing out that the entire movement to kill Jesus stemmed from his assault on the money changers
operating in the temple.
"Jesus did not go to the temple to cleanse. He came to the temple to announce the destruction of a
whole way of life," Bess wrote. "Those who operated the temple had no power to silence Jesus and put him to death. Those powers
were held by the Roman retainers. . . In other words, Jesus wasn’t sentenced to death until he challenged the money
Bess notes that for both the Roman power figures and the Jewish merchants, "It was the temple incident
that took Jesus from being an irritating, but harmless country rebel from the rural north to a nuisance in a city that controlled
the great tradition."
Notice that in Matthew 21, the first thing that Jesus did after riding into Jerusalem on an ass on
what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday, was enter the temple and turn over the tables where the money changers were doing business.
Jesus didn’t stop there. He went into the temple and preached to the multitudes, severely condemning
the practices of the scribes and Pharisees and the way they were gaining personal wealth at the expense of the poor, and ignoring
their duties as leaders of the Jewish faith. He said: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of
mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to
have done, and not to leave the other undone."
It didn’t take long for the power figures in the city to respond to the attack. Within only
days, Jesus was brought before Pilot to stand against accusations of general insurrection. They accused Jesus of non-payment
of taxes, threatening to destroy the temple, and claiming to be a king. All of the charges, of course, were unfounded. But
the mere accusations by the wealthy power structure of the community were enough to force Pilot to do something. Thus Jesus
was condemned to die as an example to the others who might have been moved by the things Jesus had told them.
It is important to note that Jesus never declared himself to be the Son of God, and he was not attempting
to launch a new religion. His purpose was to attempt to change the twisted ways of the leadership within the Hebrew temple
and set Judaism back on a correct course.
From what he told his disciples during that last week before he was killed, Jesus devoted nearly all
of his time teaching his followers how to correctly live, with love and compassion for one another. Matthew recorded some
of Jesus’ most important messages in those chapters leading up to the arrest, trial and killing.
In the end, it wasn’t the fact that Jesus was teaching love that brought about his death. It
was all about money.