What charges led Jesus to condemnation?

According to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, the religious group that most accused Jesus and led him to condemnation was that of the Pharisees. This party was formed by scholars and doctors, recognized as official interpreters of the Mosaic law, and these were charged with preserving the Doctrine, and the other Pharisees to promote their practice. However, the doctrine presented by Jesus, based essentially on love for God and neighbor, refutes the excessive attachment that this group had to the law, as well as the distortion of its purpose. It appears that, between chapters 2 and 15 of the Gospel of Saint Mark, in line with the Gospel of Matthew, from chapter 9 to 27, the accusations against Jesus are highlighted as an itinerary that lead to condemnation, but also they serve to clarify the primary aspects of His mission.

At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark (2,2-12), the leaders of this religious current are already evident in the episode of the cure of the paralytic, who is taken to Jesus by friends through the ceiling. The scholars who are present at the place think, in their thoughts, that Jesus has no power to forgive sins , since He healed the soul and then healed the paralytic’s body. Thus, the evangelist evidences the closing of this religious group towards the Person of Jesus, as well as the accusation that they raise inside, for the fact of not recognizing Him as God. In the Gospel of Matthew (9: 1-8), this same scene was described.

Illustrative photo: Mihály Munkácsy 1844-1900

The Gospel of Mark and Matthew make us reflect on the presence of Jesus

However, the two evangelists make it clear that, in this event, the opposition of the Pharisees arose, given that, in the tradition of this religious current, the power to forgive sins belongs only to God (cf. Ps 130,4; Ps 51,6) . In this narrative, both Mark and Matthew demonstrate that Jesus came, first, to cure the man of his most serious illness, which is sin and then the body, not being intimidated by the hostility of the Pharisees.

Evangelist Marcos continues the narrative of the accusations by describing Levi’s meal with Jesus, together with former professional colleagues and compatriots (Mk 2, 13-17). The accusation is narrated by Marcos in these terms: “The learned men of the Pharisaic party, watching him eat with sinners and collectors, said to the disciples -“ Why do you eat with collectors and sinners? ” (2.16). In this way, they implied that Jesus was a sinner like tax collectors. Evangelist Matthew (9, 9-13), in narrating the same event, also makes it clear that the Pharisees consider themselves guardians of purity; for this reason they categorically separate “the righteous from sinners”. The two evangelists show that Jesus came with a universal call for salvation, since all are sinners.

Then, Mark (2, 18-22) and Matthew (9, 14-17) present the controversy of the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees regarding fasting (cf. Zc 7,3-5 and Is 58). They object that they fast as an expression of repentance for sins, while Jesus’ disciples are free from this practice. According to the evangelists, Jesus’ answer is categorical: “Can the groom’s companions fast while the groom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast ”. Thus, it is emphasized the novelty that Jesus brings in Himself, which the old institutions cannot contain: Christ is the “bridegroom” and in Him the heavenly celebration has already begun. As they are centered only on penance, John’s disciples and the Pharisees are unable to understand and experience the joy granted by the “bridegroom”.

After this narrative, Mark (2, 23-28) and Matthew (12, 1-8) present the accusation of the Pharisees against Jesus’ disciples, who pluck ears on Saturday, considering that this observance was prescribed in the decalogue (cf. Ex 20.8). Through this hostility, the evangelists expose the response of Jesus, who reminds them of the account of David and his soldiers (cf. 1 Sam 21: 2-7), who, due to hunger, eat the consecrated bread on the Sabbath day. Thus, Jesus demonstrates that bread is as sacred as the Sabbath, to clarify the supremacy of man in relation to the law of the Sabbath.

The fifth episode of the charge against Jesus is narrated by Mark (3: 1-6) and Matthew (12, 9-14), which is the peak of the Pharisees’ tension. The event takes place in a synagogue, also on a Saturday, where a man with a paralyzed hand was present. Matthew highlights the censure of the Pharisees in this way: “They asked him, with the intention of accusing him, if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath”. Jesus clarifies to them that doing good on the Sabbath is not opposed to the rest described in the Mosaic law, and then heals the hand of man. From that event, the Pharisees sought out the Herodians to deliberate on how to kill him.

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However, the accusations are still more heated. According to Mark (3,20-30) and Matthew (Mt 12,22-32), through the healing that Jesus performs in a demoniac blind and dumb, the people are amazed and ask if it would be the Messiah. The Pharisees, having no way to deny this evidence, try to discredit their mission from the base, declaring that they act under the command of Beelzebub, the demon leader. The messianic testimony of Jesus, bearer of divine authority, contradicts the accusation of the Pharisees, demonstrating that the Spirit who acts in His Person confirms the presence of God in the world. Show them that you are stronger than Satan and how a divided kingdom cannot stand. In this narrative, it can be seen that the hostility of this religious party comes to blasphemy, to the point of attributing to the forces of evil the action of God. In this way, they close themselves to theGod’s forgiveness for which Satan would overcome.

The next objection of the literate Pharisees against Jesus concerns the purification ritual before food. Bearing in mind that Jesus’ disciples did not follow such observances, they challenge their Master as to how they proceed. Mark (7,1-13) and Matthew (15,1-9) underscore Jesus ‘response: “How well Isaiah prophesied of your hypocrisy when he wrote:’ This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me ; the worship they render to me is useless, because the doctrine they teach is human precepts’ ”. Jesus shows that the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Mosaic law promoted a ritualistic and merely external religion, favoring the pride of observers who despised others. In short, it makes it clear that the disagreement between the interior and the exterior expressed the hypocrisy in which they lived submerged.

Jesus lived a painful process until His crucifixion

All this arduous journey that Jesus faced culminated in His death on the cross. Marcos (14,53-65) and Mateus (26,57-63) narrate the last moments of His life in the presence of the high priest and the assembled Sanhedrin, who, at all costs, try to accuse him with false testimonies to aggravate and end the unfair conviction process. They present the accusation about the destruction of the temple, which is aggravating due to its great relevance to the Jews. The evangelist Marcos expresses the narration as follows: “We heard him say: ‘I will destroy this temple, built by human hands, and in three days I will build another one, not made with human hands’”. However, as there was no climate for dialogue and because it is a true statement, however, on a higher plane, Jesus remains silent through the accusation. Mark shows that condemnation is sanctioned when the high priest asks him if he is the Messiah, and Jesus reveals himself: “I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Majesty of God and arriving among the clouds of heaven ”. Jesus’ words are considered blasphemy and deserve the death penalty. This context is highlighted by Benito Marconcini in these terms:

Accepting Jesus as Messiah, who placed the just and sinful face to face, through forgiveness, not considering the law as an absolute when it was not in favor of man and admitting the pagan to salvation was tantamount to destroying the Jewish system: either He died or the Pharisaic religion. (MARCONCINI, 2001, p. 247).

The various accusations against Jesus come to an end before Governor Pilate, the last being narrated by Matthew (27: 11-14) and Mark (15: 15-15) regarding His reign. Pilate, aware that the Pharisees handed him over out of envy, knows that he is facing an innocent man. However, he wonders if he is, in fact, the King of the Jews, obtaining from Jesus only the answer: “You say so.” Through this accusation and the crime it represented, New Testament expert Raymond E. Brown (2011, p. 863), states that “many biblical scholars assume that the claim to be king deserved the death penalty, as it was an offense against Lex Iulia de maiestade. Despite not recognizing, in this accusation, the true basis of the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish authorities, the governor gives in, under organized pressure and gives him up to be crucified.

Thus, it can be seen that any antagonism that Jesus suffered throughout his public life on the part of the Pharisees demonstrates that the sentence of condemnation was previously decided, and the Sanhedrin in this context, tried at all costs to justify it.


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