Jesus looked like a dangerous man who had to be stopped. We will never understand Easter or freedom if we do not get that.
But what exactly is so dangerous about a good teacher whose message is, “God loves you,” or, “Be good,” or, “Repent so you can go to heaven when you die”? Nothing. Isn’t it amazing that the whole world thinks Jesus was a great teacher and almost the whole world fails to see him as a dangerous man?
The Jewish authorities saw the danger, and he never said to them, “Calm down. There is a huge misunderstanding here. I’m not dangerous.” He knew he was dangerous. Anyone who deliberately makes a nationwide declaration of a new day of freedom is dangerous, and during Freedom Week the powers that be could see that Jesus was getting more dangerous by the minute.
On his way to Jerusalem he had raised Lazarus, showing incredible spiritual power that the religious authorities lacked. On Sunday he won the popularity contest with his theatrical entry into Jerusalem. On Monday he won the moral high ground by getting the ripoff merchants out of the Temple. With all that momentum, the only thing left for him to do was to stand up and say flat-out for the first time in public, “I am the Messiah you have been waiting for.”
The instant he did that, the crowds would attack the Romans, and before you know it, Roman legions from all over the empire would converge to crush this peasant revolt in one of the great bloodbaths of history. The Jewish authorities could not let that happen. He had to be stopped somehow.
They tried the intellectual route. They publicly confronted him with some loaded and supposedly unanswerable questions about the resurrection of the dead and paying Roman taxes. The crowds loved it when he stunned his questioners with quick, concise, brilliant, and final answers to their questions, then went on to stump them with a question of his own about the “Son of David”. (Mt. 22.41-46) Their debate tactic blew up in their faces, Jesus walked away freer than ever, and his freedom drove them to their strategy of last resort—arrest him and try to convict him of something.
They had to make their pre-emptive strike before Thursday night, Passover night, because that or the next day would be the perfect day for a messiah to make his announcement. But they could not afford to risk it during the freedom celebration lest the Jesus-infatuated crowds turn on them. (Mt. 26.3-5)
In their desperation, it must have seemed like an absolute God-send when Judas showed up and offered to lead them to Jesus sometime when the crowds were not there to rally around him. That would be a trap he could not escape.
Affirmation: All those who try to make Jesus look bad will make themselves look bad. He is who he is, not who they are painting him to be.
Prayer: Lord, when I am under attack, give me your wisdom to say the right thing in the right way at the right time so I am not disgraced and you get the glory.