Why Did People Want to Kill Jesus?

Why did people want to kill Jesus? Although there are few ways we could answer this, it might be helpful to try to discover THE event that make people want to bring Jesus to be tried and killed. For much of Jesus’ ministry, he encounters opposition, especially with the Jewish authorities. When we examine the Gospels, however, there seems to be a turning point in each of them where the decision is made by the authorities to have Jesus put to death. Jesus did something which was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, as the saying goes. So, what is this event? Remarkably, it depends on which Gospel you consult.
For the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the turning point in Jesus’ ministry that leads to his death is the cleansing of the Temple. When Jesus enters the Temple, he takes possession of it and begins teaching. The crowds who were there listened attentively to his words. The authorities were indignant. They began to ask Jesus where his authority came from. Who was this man - this carpenter from an unimportant town in the north - to come into the Temple in this way and teach?! The authorities tried to trick him. They asked him questions in order to make him look foolish in front of the people. Jesus, however, responded to all comers. In each round in the battle, he was undefeated. The crowds continued to grow in their acceptance of him. Because they could not overcome Jesus directly and in the open, the authorities sought one of his own to betray him, Judas. Eventually, they trumped up charges against Jesus, and brought him before Pilate. Some of the people who clung on Jesus’ teaching called for his death. 
John paints a different picture. In John’s Gospel, Jesus does not cleanse the Temple at the end of his ministry, but at the very beginning. For John, the event that leads to the death of Jesus, the turning point in the Gospel, is the raising of Lazarus. After Jesus performs this great event, crowds of Jews believe in him. This worries the Jewish authorities. They feel like they are losing control. Eventually they decide to try to have him put to death.
So, what is the answer? Did the cleansing of the Temple lead to Jesus’ death, or the raising of Lazarus? Both the Synoptics and John convey a true message. They are meant to be heard in unison. From a chronological standpoint, the Synoptic Gospels are probably correct. The Synoptics challenge us to consider how we can be like the crowds. Often we can enthusiastically follow Jesus and his teaching when things go well. At times, however, we too can betray Jesus and what he calls us to, especially when there is pressure from others to do so. John, however, is not wrong. He is trying to make a theological point rather that recount the exact order of events. In John’s Gospel, Jesus needs to cleanse the Temple first because he replaces the Temple. The Temple was the dwelling place of God. In John, however, we read that the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Before, God dwelt on earth in the Temple. Now, God dwells on earth in the person of Jesus. In John’s Gospel, having the raising of Lazarus lead to Jesus’ death conveys a profound message. Giving life to Lazarus leads to Jesus’ death. Jesus’ death in turn will give life to us all. John reminds us that salvation from Jesus is a gift. Regardless of the fact that we are weak and betray Jesus, he gives himself up for us as a free gift.

St Paul Outside the Walls


In this article, we conclude our series on Papal Basilicas with a look at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. The name of this Basilica is interesting. The first part, “St. Paul’s”, is straightforward. This Basilica was built to honour St. Paul and houses his physical remains, which are found in a sarcophagus beneath the altar. For almost 2000 years, this sarcophagus was hidden from view. Just after the Jubilee in 2000, the area under the altar was excavated in order to expose the sarcophagus. At this time, it was not opened, so we are not sure what is inside. However, long tradition has it that St. Paul’s body is inside, with the exception of his head, which according to another tradition is in St. John Lateran. The second part of the Basilica’s name, “Outside the Walls”, is less clear. Ultimately, it means that this Basilica was built outside the walls of the ancient city of Rome. The reason for this is that in ancient Rome bodies were not buried within the city limits. The city was for the living. The dead needed to be deposited in their own place, called a necropolis, which literally means “city of the dead”. For example, the place where St. Peter’s Basilica now stands was originally a necropolis in which St. Peter was buried. Though today St. Peter’s seems like a part of Rome, 2000 years ago this was considered outside the city limits since it was on the other side of the Tiber river. Similar to St. Peter, St. Paul was buried close to where he was martyred in a place specially designated for the dead outside the city boundaries. In the 4th century, Constantine build a Basilica over St. Paul’s burial place. Since this was outside the city walls, the name stuck.

The Basilica built by Constantine was soon expanded by Theodosius in the year 386. This structure remained substantially unchanged for almost 1500 years. For centuries, it was the only Papal Basilica that had maintained its ancient design as the others were significantly altered, or, in the case of St. Peter’s, completely rebuilt. In 1823, however, a worker fixing the roof of St. Paul’s set a fire which almost completely destroyed the building. Pope Leo XII ordered that the Basilica be rebuilt according to its original design, utilizing as many elements that had survived the fire as possible. This is why when visiting St. Paul’s one gets the feeling that one is in an ancient Roman Basilica, even though the structure itself is relatively recent. In addition to housing the body of St. Paul, the Basilica also is home to magnificent mosaics, notably the mosaic of Christ over the triumphal arch, which survived the fire and dates from the 5th century. A detail of the Basilica that is popular among pilgrims is the series of mosaics showing each of the Popes, which wraps around the Basilica’s interior. The translucent alabaster windows further enhance the space’s beauty.  This Basilica is truly a wonderful place to visit and contemplate the life of St. Paul the Apostle, who was beheaded just a few kilometers away.

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore (Pic Source)

In this column, we continue our series on the Papal Basilicas with a church that is dear to the heart of Pope Francis: Santa Maria Maggiore. Before and after each apostolic journey, our Holy Father arrives at this Basilica to lay a bouquet of flowers before an image of Our Lady, asking her intercession for a safe journey and a successful mission. Although various modifications have been made to the Basilica over the years, the core of the structure dates back to the early 5th c., making Santa Maria Maggiore perhaps the oldest church in the world that is dedicated to Our Lady.
Another title given to this Basilica is “Our Lady of the Snows”. This name derives from a legend that surrounds the initial building of the Church. In one version of the story, the Basilica was built on the site upon which snow miraculously fell during the height of the Roman summer, on August 5th. On this date, the Universal Church continues to celebrate the dedication of this ancient Church. During the ceremony each year that occurs in the Basilica itself, there is a very interesting custom. In the special Mass, during the Gloria, one of the ceiling panels above the altar is opened and white flower petals are released, cascading upon the congregants below. This is done to call to mind the snow that was reported to have fallen when construction on the Basilica began some 1500 years ago. After the Mass is completed, those who were at the Mass hurry to try to take some of the flower petals as a special souvenir! Another special, annual celebration that occurs at Santa Maria Maggiore is the Eucharistic Procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi. This procession begins at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. From there, the Holy Father accompanies a Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament along Via Merulana as far as Santa Maria Maggiore. There, the Pope gives the people a Benediction from the porch of the Basilica.
In addition to its long history, the Basilica is significant because of the art and relics found within. The Church is covered with many beautiful mosaics, some of which date from the 5th c. and were probably commissioned to celebrate Mary having been officially recognized with the title “Theotokos” or “God Bearer” at the Council of Ephesus in 431. At this Council, Mary was given this appellation in order to defend our belief in Jesus. Since we believe that Jesus was, from his conception, true God and true man, the child that Mary of Nazareth gave birth to was indeed God, making her the bearer of the Divine. In one of the side chapels is found the image of Our Lady called  Salus Populi Romani”. It is this image which Pope Francis normally visits before each major trip and is a particular object of devotion for the people of Rome. Finally, under the main altar is found a reliquary which contains wood that is believed to be from the crib in which Jesus was laid after his birth. This relic was brought to the Basilica sometime in the 6th c.
Each year, on August 5th, the entire Church celebrates the Feast of this great and important Basilica.