I went to the Missouri Synod church’s Good Friday service. There was no homily, but the pastor, select people, and the congregation were reading through the passion story in the Gospel of John, singing songs at intervals.
I usually write about the sermon, but, today, I will address a
passage that stood out to me. In John 19:7, the Jewish leaders say to
Pilate: “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made
himself the Son of God” (KJV).
Questions were in my mind. What did the Jewish leaders mean by “Son
of God”? Did they mean that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, since the
Davidic king was a son of God (II Samuel 7:13-16; Psalm 89:26-28)? Much
of John 19 relates to the claim that Jesus is a king. But would
claiming to be the Messiah merit the death penalty under the Torah? The
Roman authorities would certainly be concerned about such a claim, from
a political standpoint, but does it violate the Torah?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is accused by his opponents of claiming
to be equal to God, or even God (John 5:17-18; 10:30-39). Could that be
deemed a violation of the Torah?
G.R. Beasley-Murray, in his Word Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of
John, navigates through these issues. He claims that the Jewish
leaders were sticking with their charge that Jesus was a political
insurrectionist, but that they were adding an additional charge: that
Jesus violated the Jewish law by being a blasphemer. According to
Beasley-Murray, John may be echoing Mark 14:61-64, in which Jesus
confesses to be the Messiah, while also saying that he will be on the
right hand of Power, perhaps implying (in certain Jewish leaders’ eyes) a
parity with God. Beasley-Murray also refers to John 5:17-18 and
10:30-39. As far as charges go, Beasley-Murray states that the Jewish
leaders thought that Jesus violated the Torah by being a false prophet,
which merited the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13:1-6), as Jesus seemed to
claim parity with God and healed on the Sabbath. Beasley-Murray also
refers to Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a, in which Yeshu is hanged for
sorcery and enticing Israel towards apostasy.
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