The Romans executed Jesus for treason in the early first century. Jesus annoyed the Romans and Jewish authorities. He presented a threat to order and challenge to Jewish doctrine. According to tradition, Jesus surrendered himself for execution to suffer for the world’s sins. However, it is more likely he had a death wish and craved martyrdom. He challenged the Jewish authorities with his ministry, committed blasphemy, and pushed the Romans with threats of disorder. Jesus’ actions leave no doubt that he tried to get executed.
Jesus Christ was one of many itinerant preachers wandering Palestine in the first century. He embraced society’s outsiders and challenged the establishment. The rabbi embraced lepers, prostitutes, and the poor. Jewish authorities looked down on these groups out of fear, disgust, arrogance, and pure snobbery. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus takes a clear shot at the Temple with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A priest and Levite both walk past the man refusing to help. Eventually, a Samaritan helps the victim. Jews and Samaritans hated each other, so Jesus’ use of a Samaritan in the parable shocked his audience and rebuked the Temple. Jesus was building a coalition. He incorporated society’s forgotten people, crafted a distinctly Jewish message, and wrapped it all in political overtones.
The rabbi’s message touched a nerve. Many people believed the Temple corrupt and contemptible. Jesus might have been ignored and perhaps forgotten, but he pushed the bounds of acceptable political discourse and charged headlong into blasphemy. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah to rescue them from Roman bondage. Several pretenders appeared throughout the century to claim the title, but failed. Jesus played the messiah role as portrayed in Jewish tradition. He went as far as riding a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as foretold in the legend.
The Romans would have considered Jesus a nuisance until his appearance in Jerusalem. Many people swarmed to Christ during his entry into the city. Citizens placed their cloaks and palm tree branches before the donkey as homage to royalty. Some proclaimed him the king or the messiah. At the same time, the simple donkey and rags on his back emphasized his connection to the people as opposed to the Temple, Roman authorities, or monarchy. Then, Jesus chased the money changers from the Temple. He overturned tables in an act of political violence. He accused the money changers of turning the Temple into a house of ill repute. The violence and population’s response to Jesus’ entry worried Roman authorities. They viewed the messiah legend through the lens of Spartacus’ revolt.
In the first century B.C., an insurrection threatened Rome itself. Spartacus led his slave army throughout Italy, defeated several Roman armies, and killed thousands. The rebels could have escaped, but were betrayed by pirates. This betrayal trapped the former slaves on the Italian peninsula. Eventually, the Romans defeated the uprising and crucified the survivors. When Jews began comparing Jesus to the messiah, the Romans saw Spartacus.
In addition to playing into the messiah role, Jesus claimed to be the son of the Jewish god. In the Gospel of John, he claimed the Temple was his “father’s house.” The violence provided the Temple and the Romans an excuse to arrest Jesus. During his interrogation, he admitted to being the son of god. This provided the Temple authorities the excuse to eliminate Jesus. The messiah-Spartacus comparison led to Roman concurrence.
Jesus knew his actions would lead to his death. He could have escaped, but refused. In fact, he seemed to have conspired with Judas to ensure his arrest, trial, and execution. Assuming the Biblical explanation is not correct, and Jesus did not die for humanity’s sins, then the only logical explanation is Jesus had a death wish. Jesus wanted to die. He wanted martyrdom.