Easter was celebrated in all Christendom at the weekend; it was rounded off on Monday. The occasion afforded us yet another opportunity to reflect once more on the life and times of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how we look at it, a moment descends on our soul which calls for sobriety. Despite efforts by science and free thinkers to blinker perceptions, most human beings are unable to move away from regarding the coming of Jesus Christ as unassailably and matchlessly high a mission. His departure from earthly life, in terms of what it represents, remains controversial. This is even more among His ardent followers who have come to believe in His coming, but alas have not come to a clear recognition of the significance of the coming. There is a marked difference between belief and recognition. Belief may arise from being told or it is the sing-song, the claim of a majority without one subjecting the claim to personal examination to arrive at its verity. On the contrary, recognition dawns from personal weighing and contemplating.
Today as it has been for more than 2,000 years, the general belief is that Christ came to die for the sins of mankind and that with the death on the Cross He washed away our sins with His blood. It has been drummed into children’s heads in schools and at Sunday school gatherings and it is carried into adulthood that He died for the forgiveness of our sins. It is hammered into children, especially in this season marking the anniversary of the Lord’s death: “Remember it, Christ died for our sins; for the forgiveness of our sins.” As I contemplated this subject, as if to further help clarify my thoughts, I stumbled on a writing which depicts the author’s own uneasiness about what the world believes the death of the Lord on the cross represents. Carefully captioned ‘The Crucifixion—a fictitious speech’, the writing goes as follows:x
“Moses gave the Ten Commandments of My Father. Therein is stated ‘Thou shall not kill!’ But for me I wish you to act differently. I have come to let you crucify me! Through this you are to recognise the love of your Creator. In order that you may be freed from your sins He gives you the opportunity to murder an innocent person! Do this with the utmost severity and cruelty, because with my suffering I shall take your sins away. The cross on which I will let myself be nailed should henceforth become the symbol of your belief in the redemption! Do not despise those who will betray me for money for they are necessary helpers in the fulfillment of the Divine Will. Without them your fate and mine could not be fulfilled. Never forget these words of mine even when they may appear unworthy of belief. The death on the cross is the meaning of my coming and the few decades of my earthly life serve only this event. In my sacrifice recognise the love of the Creator even though your own actions appear loveless to you. Believe, and do not brood over this, because only in this unconditional belief lies greatness. Never forget that to human beings the ways of the Lord are unfathomable.”
The paradox in the foregoing is unmistakable. I share the sentiments of the author when he goes on to state and I quote him: “In His teaching Jesus would have had to emphasize this and much more in order to convey the purpose of His mission as many today believe it to be. We must not forget that in the Roman Empire crucifixion was not only the most inhuman but also the most agonizing and dishonourable death sentence. The fixing of a body to the wooded structure caused lengthy death struggles. Within minutes the outstretched arms would lead to painful choking to death due to the sinking of the body; the victim is repeatedly trying to raise himself on his nailed feet until his body droops in exhaustion only, because of the threatened death by choking, to rear up again. All taking the most intense pain.”x
How can anyone say such hate, such cruelty, and crucifixion were a design of the Almighty Creator, Who is All-Love, for His Son, and we are not seeing what befell the Lord for what it was: Dastardly murder in the hands of puny creatures that we human beings are. Mankind, misusing their gift of free will to choose good from bad and evil from goodness, wrong from right, dared to lay hands on their Lord who had brought them Holy Peace and Light, and year after year it is celebrated! It could not have been the design of the Most High and perfect God that goodness and love should be repaid with hate, cruelty and murder, even of His Son.
The writer of the piece I earlier referred to goes on to add: “How can such a fate be categorised as an ‘Act of Divine Love?’ How could a more imprecise picture of a just and loving Creator be given than by attributing to Him the intention of leaving His innocent Son to suffer and die in this way and of intentionally tolerating such deluded murderous deeds for the sake of His plan of salvation.”
The mission of the Lord Christ, coming from the Highest Heights as the Truth and the Love Arm of the Trinity, was to draw the attention of mankind to their wrong way of living and to show them the only way to paradise, the eternal Kingdom of His Father. He pointed to the Will of His Father which is borne by the Natural Laws also called the Divine Laws. He emphasized in His Teachings the imperative of love for one’s neighbours. With love, one will not be entangled for with as small as the speck of dust a man may still carry, the gate of Paradise will not be opened for him. The dust is material which may arise through our actions, speeches or thoughts. Indeed, where all what we sow through thoughts are anchored is in a plane that is called Fine Gross Matter, while for speeches it is Medium Gross Matter because speech is heavier than thoughts. Actions, however, are in Coarse Gross Matter. We are told until we wash our linen clean, we cannot enter Paradise, the land of splendour and bliss; it is a Realm that does not permit of raiment with stains.x
The political and priestly Establishment found the Teachings of Christ irksome; they were different from what the Priests had been teaching the people of Israel. The political Establishment misinterpreting the prophecies had a different expectation of the prophesied Messiah who would liberate the Jews from the yoke of the Romans. It was the time the Roman Empire stretched from Caspian Sea to the Iberian Peninsula, covering all the Mediterranean countries. It was the time Rome was regarded as the capital of the world for over 700 years at gunpoint. The Jews fiercely resisted the all conquering forces of Pompey a Roman warrior.
The resistance was put down, the fortress of Jerusalem was destroyed and their King, Aristobulus was taken as prisoner to Rome. This was in 63 B.C. The tax administration was by a prefect appointed or sent from Rome. It was in this climate that expectation of the Messiah thought would liberate the Jews from the Roman overlord was heightened. “But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.” That was the revelation of Prophet Micah. And by Moses: “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out Israel.” (Numbers 24, 17).
The prophecies were a guidance to prepare the Chosen people for the incarnation of a Light Envoy in their midst, to keep them awake and for them to ennoble themselves. The coming of the Light in their midst was in consequence of the Jews being the first race to recognise that there is only One God through Abraham in 1800 B.C. and later by Moses 1250 B. C. The Jews saw the revelations from the earthly point of view. When of the 18 Benedictions said to be often recited, the 12th one spoke of “Dominion of arrogance do thou uproot and crush…” it was believed the reference was to the Roman Empire and that the Messiah would deal with Rome and end its arrogance. Despite the sufferings they were going through, they were breathlessly in expectation of a hero emerging from amongst them that would put an end to the dominion of the Romans whom they saw as barbarians. But to the Lord, the Son of the Most High, the thought of earthly liberation was alien; he had no such earthly desires as national pride, political influence, the craving and angling for power, all of which he considered futile and fleeting. His coming was urgent, it was to arrest the sharp fall of the whole of human race so mankind would not sink into perdition. The Lord Christ was concerned with every human being living aright to be able to ascend to Paradise.x
The expectation not being met led to both the political arm and the priestly establishment allying and planning to get rid of the Son of God. The priestly authority saw His emergence as a threat to their influence and power. They saw the Teachings as undermining them because in their rigidity they had taught differently from The Word of Truth from the Lord. “If our people will keep but one Sabbath with all strictness, the Messiah will come immediately,” that was the unceasing assurance of the Rabbis. But Christ severely censored their rigidity and hypocrisy. The healings, the restoring of sight to the blind and particularly the raising of Lazarus stunned the priestly circles and it was the talk of the town. The activities of the Christ constituted irritancy to the priestly circles. “Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? Or who is he that gave thee this authority?”
The commission of enquiry comprising High Priests, scribes and elders, put the question to Him, in the hope that from His answers they would extract materials to robe Him in and to prosecute Him. Even when they could not get any source material to implicate Him, they accused Him of blasphemy, for calling Himself the Son of God. They inflamed passion among the masses. Much as they tried to denigrate Him, describing Him as a mere son of a carpenter, son of Mary so they could make Him an outcast and referring to Him as unlearned, yet they could not fathom the depth and breadth of His Knowledge and His disarming primordial wisdom. In the end through the manipulation of Caiaphas, the High Priest, the Great Sanhedrin, of which he was president, the 70-man highest court, sentenced Christ to death. Caiaphas invoked certain articles of the Jewish laws in order to procure the perverse sentence, the most troubling being the following:x
Article 6: The Great Sanhedrin in the Temple of Jerusalem dispenses justice in the full authority of God. God Himself respects these judicial decisions;
Article 13: He who rebels against the officiating clergy in Jerusalem is deserving of death;
Article 52: A pseudo-prophet is a renegade preacher who seeks by means of visions, false oracles, magic, exorcism, hallucinations or genuine miracles to seduce Israel to apostasy;
Article 55: A pseudo-prophet must be judged by the Great Sanhedrin, and be executed in Jerusalem.
Article 76: The President of the Great Sanhedrin has the right in exceptional cases to pass over any obstructive regulations in order to put a swift and radical end to apostasy. Such an action is called Horaath Schaah, an action according to the end of the moment.
Article 82: Even the execution of an innocent person can serve in the maintenance of law and order, and the salvation of God’s people.
As we can see from the foregoing, from the hate, entrapment, humiliation and denigration, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ could not have been willed by His Father Who is Love and Justice. Indeed as I gathered my thoughts on Easter reflections, my attention was drawn to a sight in which is featured what is referred to as ‘Pontius Pilates Letter to Tiberius Caesar Relating His Encounter With Jesus.’ It is described as Historical document: Pontius Pilate’s letter to Tiberius Caesar verifying his sympathy for Jesus Christ and exposing the treachery of the Jews. It is said to be from The Archko Volume, or The Archeological Writings of the Sanhedrin and Talmuds of the Jews, entered into the Congressional Record in the year 1887. It was republished in 1975 by Keats Publishing Inc….USA.x
“To Noble Tiberius Caesar, Emperor of Rome”, it reads a little, just a tip of the revealing epistle:
“Greeting: The event of the last few days in my province have been of such a character that I will give the details in full as they occurred, as I should not be surprised if, in the course of time they may change the destiny of our nation, for it seems of late that all the gods have ceased to be propitious. I am almost ready to say, cursed be the day that I succeeded Vallerius Flaceus in the government of Judea; for since then my life has been one of continual uneasiness and distress.”
The letter goes to corroborate the point that mankind of their own design rejected the Messiah and crucified Him. Salvation lies only in His Holy Word, that is living according to His Teachings that point to the Will of God in His Creation.
The letter will be run in full next week.
Note: A book on The Guardian is being presented to the public today in Lagos in honour of its founding publisher and chairman, Dr. Alexander U. Ibru, more simply addressed as Mr. Alex Ibru. The Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and some governors have indicated their intention to grace the occasion. I had promised to run my comment on the Kwara State Government’s response to this column’s position on Muslim students wearing Hijab to mission grant-aided schools. As a mark of respect for the governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who will be present as a guest at The Guardian affair, I am stepping down my response—for today.