The Crucifixion that Almost Was

24 Sep
Crucifixion - 2

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I wonder if Jesus could have been crucified one year earlier than when that event actually took place, which, according to my understanding, took place in 31 AD. Could God have permitted the event to occur one year earlier, and would this have made a difference afterward, as far as the preaching of the Gospel was concerned? The fact is, that Jesus does seem to indicate that the crucifixion could have occurred one year prior to when it actually took place. Nevertheless, it was delayed because Jesus prayed to his Father. I was surprised to see this possible eventuality and almost missed it. Would it have changed anything, if Jesus was crucified at another time? Perhaps matters such as this can never be known with certainty, but it is encouraging to understand that Jesus prays for us, and our heavenly Father listens to Jesus and always answers his prayers (John 11:41; cf. 1John 5:15).

Notice that some folks who were present at that time told Jesus about the Galileans who were slain by Pilate (Luke 13:1). Why do you suppose they would mention something like this? Certainly, it would have been well known by this time and Jesus would have already heard about it. He may have even witnessed it.

At face value, the statement is inflammatory, because, almost certainly other pilgrims were present besides Galileans. At first thought, one expects a corresponding response from Jesus, who was a Galilean and had been making Messianic statements about himself. Therefore, it is almost certain that the remark challenges Jesus to respond as the Messiah / Savior and do to Pilate as Pilate had done to the Messiah’s countrymen. In fact, it was probably because of this very matter that Herod Antipas had a quarrel with Pilate, and they had reconciled only after Pilate had sent Jesus, a Galilean, to Herod for judgment (cf. Luke 23:7, 11-12). Herod would have considered it an insult to his government when Pilate had indiscriminately slain Galileans without consulting him.

Luke tells us that Pilate had mingled the blood of certain Galileans with their sacrifices. Many commentaries draw from this statement in Luke 13:1 that Pilate did this, while they were presenting their sacrifices in the Temple, but this doesn’t seem likely. Had Pilate done so, especially during the Passover season, the millions of pilgrims that would have been present might have rose up against their oppressor, causing a major sedition, which surely would have reached the ears of Rome.

Josephus records that tens of thousands of pilgrims demonstrated before Pilate against his using Temple funds to supply a new aqueduct for the city of Jerusalem. When Pilate learned of the demonstration before the Antonia, he told some of his soldiers to disguise themselves and mingle with the crowd of people. At his signal they were to beat those causing the disturbance. However, the soldiers upon receiving the signal treated the curious with the same hatred as those guilty of seditious behavior, and killed or wounded both.

The place of demonstration would have been between the Temple and the Antonia, where Pilate officiated, while he was in Jerusalem. This is the same place where Jesus was brought to Pilate by the chief priests one year later, and where Pilate brought Jesus out before the people. No doubt many of the pilgrims would have been carrying their lambs (for Passover) to sacrifice at the Temple, so, being indiscriminate in their punishment, the Roman soldiers would have killed the lambs with their owners and the blood of men and animals would have mingled together upon the streets of Jerusalem.[1]

We cannot ignore the idea that those who told Jesus about the demonstration and the inevitable carnage that followed were put up to it by Jesus’ enemies (Luke 11:53-54; cf. 12:13). Just as it would prove to be so one year later when they sought to entrap him (Luke 20:21-26), and later would bring false witnesses accuse Jesus of wrongdoing both before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:60) and before the governor (Luke 23:2). It is, therefore, possible that the folks who told Jesus about the death of the Galileans at the hand of Pilate, sought to involve him in a seditious affair which would certainly have ended in his crucifixion, and, if Pilate did find Jesus guilty of involvement in the sedition that had most recently occurred, then, most assuredly, Jesus’ disciples would have been pursued by Rome from the very beginning as rebels threatening the power of Rome.


[1] See Josephus: Antiquities 18.3.2 and Wars 2.9.4. That this event occurred near a Passover seems to be admitted by Josephus when he erroneously puts the event at the time of Jesus’ death (see: Antiquities 18.3.3).

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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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