Jesus encountered religious nationalists seeking to overthrow Rome during the final week of his life.
As the week progressed, these insurrectionists played a pivotal role in his execution.
After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, religious nationalists began to think an overthrow of Rome was plausible.
Jesus was immensely popular with the crowds. He connected with people, healing the sick, empowering the poor and welcoming the isolated. He quickly emerged as a symbol of hope for people.
When the crowds witnessed Jesus enter the temple and drive out corrupt bureaucrats after climbing down from the colt, they became even more convinced a revolution was unfolding before their eyes.
The chief priests and scribes, on the other hand, were not impressed. While they denounced their outside occupiers with their words, they secretly enjoyed the benefits and luxuries of Roman rule.
Religious leaders decided to entrap Jesus, hoping the crowds would turn on him, so they asked him about Roman taxation.
By baiting him with a question on taxes, the religious leaders knew any misstep on Jesus’ part would draw the ire of the crowds and the full weight of Roman authority.
However, Jesus skillfully answered their question, delineating between what belongs to God and what belongs to Rome.
One of Jesus’ disciples began to believe the moment for revolution was quickly approaching.
Judas Iscariot had recently grown frustrated with his rabbi. He respected and loved Jesus, but believed his Lord was wasting his opportunity to seize upon his popularity.
Like other Messiah figures before him, Judas felt as though Jesus needed to mount a violent revolt against Roman rule and temple corruption. In his mind, strength needed to be met with strength.
Therefore, Judas began to devise a plan to force Jesus’ hand that would certainly lead to an armed reaction.
If Jesus was arrested by Rome, then, surely, he would resist. At the very least, Peter would draw his sword in protection, as would the others.
Then, the revolution would be set into motion as the Palm Sunday crowd would join forces with the disciples.
Judas knew about the religious leaders’ hatred of Jesus, so he believed he could use them to enact his plan. He would offer to hand Jesus to them. Once Jesus was arrested, an armed uprising would surely follow.
On Thursday night, Judas enacted his plan. For 30 pieces of silver, Judas led authorities to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was praying.
Earlier in the night at dinner, Jesus had looked into Judas’ eyes, revealing that he knew his disciple was up to something that would betray him.
The intense drama of Thursday night cannot be understated. When the soldiers arrived in the garden, Judas watched with anticipation.
What would Jesus do? How would Peter react? Would the other disciples stand up?
Would a physical altercation turn into something more? Was it possible that Judas’ plan would work and the insurrection against Rome would begin?
When Peter unsheathed his sword and cut off the ear of a soldier, Judas was certain his plan was successful. Yet, Jesus squashed any hope for an armed revolt when he told Peter to put away his sword and said, “Those who live by the sword will also die by the sword.”
Early the next morning, after Jesus was condemned, Judas began to understand that the armed rebellion he hoped for was very unlikely.
Jesus was not going to overthrow Rome using violent force. There would be no Jewish armed revolution. Therefore, Judas returned the silver and hung himself.
The crowds that cheered for Jesus on Palm Sunday also began to realize the true nature of Jesus and his mission.
Jesus was not what the crowd wanted. He believed in advocating for justice but through nonviolent means.
They wanted someone who would use any means necessary to wreak havoc on Rome and its puppets. They wanted someone like Barabbas to enact revenge.
Therefore, when given the chance, the same crowds that cheered for Jesus on Sunday jeered at him on Friday.
Jesus was crucified by Roman authority, but he was brought to the cross by people filled with nationalistic ideals and hateful vengeance.
Jesus attempted to show them another way to live; a way built upon love and justice. He demonstrated how nonviolence can bring about justice, but they fell prey to the hate that engulfed their nationalistic ideals.
The church in the U.S. journeys through Holy Week after our own insurrection at the hands of Christian nationalists on January 6, 2021.
Our nation witnessed firsthand the vile nature of Christian nationalism, watching in horror as images of Christian faith were on display during the violent revolt.
People claiming Jesus as Lord unsheathed their swords, bringing chaos and death. They did not listen to or follow the example of Jesus. Instead, they gave in to hate.
Good Faith Media is proud to stand with other organizations denouncing Christian nationalism.
We firmly believe in the separation of church and state, a provision that protects religious liberty for all people.
In addition, we attempt to follow the example of Jesus as we advocate for justice through nonviolent means. We step out in love and speak up in truth, attempting to persuade the hearts and minds of those we encounter.
During this Holy Week, let’s make certain to follow the way of Jesus.
Don’t give in to the nationalistic ideals of the crowds. Don’t make your own plans for a violent revolt. Don’t wield weapons in hopes of using them.
Instead, walk in the way of Jesus. Yes, it will lead you to the cross, but it will also lead you to resurrection and life.
CEO of Good Faith Media.