Jesus Was Killed For National Security Reasons: Good Friday, Fear, and Muslim Surveillance

Why was Jesus killed?

There is no more important question to ask on this Good Friday. Christians have come up with many answers throughout the last 2,000 years. Some of those answers claim that Jesus was killed by the Father to assuage His wrath or reclaim His honor in the face of human sin.

But that’s the wrong answer. Jesus wasn’t killed to appease God. Jesus was killed because he was a threat to national security.

That’s the answer that the Gospels give. The great religious and political leader of the day, the high priest Caiaphas, explained why Jesus had to die. During a debate among other leaders, Caiaphas said,

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.

Caiaphas was right about one thing – Jesus was a national security threat. That’s why the political and religious elite killed him.

But let’s be clear – Jesus was not a threat to Israel’s national security because he was a violent revolutionary. No, Jesus was a threat because he challenged the whole political system of violence and death. Jesus preached a different way of life that he called the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t based on fear, death, or violence. Rather, it was based on faith, hope, and nonviolent love.

Caiaphas was a keen politician. Politics has always been based on the expediency of keeping people safe for national security. That’s their primary job. But in order to keep us safe, there has to be a threat, some enemy that has to be exiled or killed in order for us to be safe – lest the whole nation be destroyed!

Caiaphas wasn’t particularly evil. He was simply doing what humans have always done. He was channeling national fears and anxieties against a scapegoat. Two thousand years ago it was Jesus, but we continue the practice of political scapegoating today. Currently in the United States, we have presidential candidates who are channeling our cultural fears and anxieties against Muslims. In the wake of the Jihadist terror attacks in Brussels, leading candidates are suggesting that police need to patrol “Muslim neighborhoods,” because, you know, all Muslims are a threat to our national security…

Did you know that during the 15 years since 9/11, Jihadists have attacked the United States nine times, killing 45 people? My Muslims friends agree that those terrorist attacks are tragedies that never should have happened. But do those statistics reveal that Jihadists, let alone peaceful, law abiding Muslims citizens, are such a massive threat to our safety and security that police need to spend extra time and resources patrolling Muslim neighborhoods?

In comparison, “There are nearly 12,000 gun murders a year in the US.” American gun violence is a far bigger threat to us than Jihadists. But there’s an even bigger threat to our safety and security than guns. More than 30,000 people killed every year by car accidents.

If something killed 30,000 Americans a year, would we call it a national security threat? Of course we would! We would demand that police spend more time and resources patrolling neighborhoods, making sure people were safe from such a threat.

So, are Jihadist the great threat we are making them out to be? If so, the Obama Administration is doing a damn good job keeping us safe! But personally, I don’t think they are. After all, you have far more reason to fear the car coming down the street than any Jihadist, let alone peaceful Muslims.

Of course, it would be irrational for you to fear every car that came down the street. And it is just as irrational for you to fear your Muslim neighbor.

What do Caiaphas and our political leaders have in common? They attempt to channel our fears against a common enemy in the name of national security. But ultimately, they distract us from bigger problems. Our biggest problem is the cycle of scapegoating. Caiaphas blamed Jesus. Our politicians are blaming Muslims. And Christians should know better than to fall for the fearful suspicion directed against Muslims. Good Friday teaches us that when we live by fear, even fearing for our national security, we end up channeling our fear, anxiety, and violence against a scapegoat. In other words, we participate in the violent logic that killed Jesus.

On Good Friday, Jesus reveals that we don’t have to live by the politics of fear. In fact, he frees us from fear, even the fear of death. Faith in Jesus means that we no longer have to kill or exclude others for the sake of national security. Rather, faith means trusting in Jesus, the one who calls us to love and forgive our neighbors, including those we call our enemies.

Photo: Flick: Patrick Keller, Crucifixion INRI – St. Peter’s Cemetery, St. Charles, MO, Creative Commons Licence, some changes made

12 replies
  1. Andrew McKenna
    Andrew McKenna says:

    WE have a politics of fear, because it attracts attention, among other reasons. The passage from fear to scapegoating is made admirably clear in Adam’s remarks. What goes unsaid in our politics are the words of Caiphas, which candidates dare not utter.

  2. Richard Ilnicki
    Richard Ilnicki says:

    There is a great deal of truth to what you have written, and I agree about our scapegoating paranoia. It is not what Christ would expect, however, if we believe what Caiphas spoke we must believe what John the baptist spoke when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Thank you.

  3. Roger Wolsey
    Roger Wolsey says:

    Excellent, timely, needed. Well done. See also “…In sum, Jesus’ execution was the inevitable consequence of someone living so radically, loving so unconditionally, and teaching so many subversive and counter-cultural things that defied the ruling powers that be — esp. after the disturbing scene he caused in the temple courtyard where he called out the hypocrisy and collusion of the temple leaders and Rome. Authentic Christian discipleship should come with a warning label.” “Why They Killed Jesus”

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

  4. Ellen Corcella
    Ellen Corcella says:

    Adam. Thanks for identifying the elephant in the room of those who would scapegoat “Muslims,” the lack of any evidence that Muslims are a threat. At the heart of scapegoating is the lie-that the scapegoat is the cause of society’s disorder, when, in fact, we must look to ourselves, our cultures and our leaders to find the culprit. Here, in Indianapolis, the state capital, the Governor refuses to allow state funds to help Syrian refugees. At the same time, the city had a record breaking number of homicides-140. The real threat lies in the failure of government to make us safe-and pointing at the other-allows so many to take the focus off themselves. Again, thank you.

  5. Chris P.
    Chris P. says:

    I think you folks have your hearts in the right place, but I also think you’re living in a fantasy world. You’re actually suggesting our fear of Muslims is our own creation (scapegoating) and not the result of their own violent behavior? (Daily attacks in Israel, the Ivory Coast, San Bernadino, Paris, Brussels, the bombing today in Pakistan that killed 65 Christians on Easter Sunday) and this is just the more recent ones. Don’t forget 9/11. Of course it’s wrong to lump all Muslims together but it’s also wrong to assume innocent people brought this upon themselves by “scapegoating”. You are ignoring the real elephant in the room that ISLAM HAS ONE HELL OF A PROBLEM THAT ONLY ISLAM CAN FIX. Jesus willfully went to the cross of his own free will because he knew it was the will of the father and the only way to pay the price for our sins. Guns, car deaths etc are separate issues that need attention as well but stop letting Islam off the hook. Why not demand change within Islam so that it can be rescued from the extremists that have hijacked it?

    • Sheima Salam Sumer
      Sheima Salam Sumer says:

      I understand your points, Chris P. As a Muslim myself I would like to suggest that you say Muslims are having problems, not Islam. Islam does not allow terrorism, killing noncombatants, and all of the injustice that is happening. I would like to add that extremist Muslims are killing more Muslims than any other group. If you would like specific quotes from Islamic sources, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I would gladly share some more info with you.


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