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December 25, 2013
Column #1,687
Killing Jesus -- A Must Read
By Mike McManus

Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus, is a must read by all serious Christians.

What can O’Reilly (and his co-author, Martin Dugard) tell you about Jesus that you did not know? It describes the existing culture and profiles his enemies.

When Jesus at age 12 is confronted by his parents at the Temple, Mary asks him, “Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Jesus replies, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my father’s house?” If the Temple rabbis overheard that comment, they don’t let on. “If the boy is inferring that God is his actual father. then it is tantamount to blasphemy, being a claim to divinity,” writes O’Reilly.

Fortunately, he was not yet of age and isn’t responsible for his words. However, Jesus soon learns that calling himself the Son of God could lead “to a very public execution. The Jews would stone Jesus for such language and the Romans might kill him for suggesting he is their divine emperor’s equal.”

However, Jesus revealed himself at the outset of his ministry, according to John’s Gospel, when he entered the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, saying “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market?”

His miracles – the healing of lepers, the feeding of the 5,000 - quickly gain followers. His powerful preaching, such as his Sermon on the Mount – dazzle audiences. That also earns enemies among religious leaders, the Pharisees and especially the Temple high priest, Caiaphas. Lacking his skill as a preacher and unable to perform miracles, they view Jesus as a threat to their power.

“Jesus has become a victim of his own celebrity, and with every passing day, his life is more and more in danger. Many Galileans believe Jesus is the Christ – the anointed earthly king who will overthrow the Romans and rule his people as the king of the Jews, as David did a thousand years ago,” O’Reilly writes.

That makes him a threat to the Romans. However, Jesus is careful never to suggest that the people of Galilee rise up against Rome.

The Pharisees can’t simply kill him, but must find him guilty of violating religious law. That’s why a team of them follow him around to try to trap him. However, they’ve never encountered such a spiritual and intellectual rival who regularly outwits them.

For example, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, which Pharisees publicly condemn as a violation of religious law. Jesus deftly responds, “There is nothing unlawful about doing good.”

Jesus skillfully undermines their authority. “If allowed to flourish, his movement will destroy their way of life, stripping them of wealth and privilege,” the book asserts.

Religious leaders dress in expensive robes. By contrast, Jesus dresses like his followers. And Jesus attacks Pharisees directly: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites: `These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”

Caiaphas had been high priest for 12 years, unlike four predecessors serving only one year each. He builds a relationship with Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. “The last thing Pilate or Caiaphas needs is a messianic figure to upset this careful balance of power.”

Zechariah predicted 500 years earlier: “See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.”

When Jesus takes that step on Palm Sunday, he knows his days are numbered. Jesus predicts what will happen: The chief priests “will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.”

Once again, Jesus enters the Temple and overturns the money changers’ tables, saying “My house will be called a house of prayer,” quoting Isaiah. His arrest is now justifiable. He called the Temple his home – as if he were God. But they hesitate. The crowds love him

Judas asks for 30 silver coins – four months wages – to betray him. Jesus is interrogated illegally at night. Caiaphas asks, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes. It is as you say.”

Caiaphas replies, “He has spoken blasphemy.”

What’s disappointing about Killing Jesus is its doubt about Easter. It sneers, “Scripture puts forth that Jesus rose from the dead” and appeared 12 times to his followers. “Puts forth?”

O’Reilly and Dugard are Catholics who should know that without the Resurrection, Jesus was not the Messiah.

Nevertheless, the book superbly explains why he was killed.

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