Yeshua (Jesus) and his entourage were easily outmaneuvered. The Romans swooped on them in the garden of Gethsemane while Jewish residents slept. John’s gospel claimed a cohort of soldiers was consigned to collar him:
“Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3 JB.) Judas had betrayed him to the Romans.
A cohort was six hundred Roman soldiers, one tenth of a legion. Pilate wouldn’t have sent this many men to arrest an agreeable, unarmed, peace-loving preacher who thought he was God. Yeshua was a big fish with an entourage of admirers, and a city packed with potential patrons, so he needed to be decisively dealt with before things got out of hand.
Some of his disciples were with him at the time of his arrest. One or more of them was supposed to be on watch. It must have been intimidating to have that many soldiers tramping toward you in the dead of night, torchlight reflecting off their swords and armor, shining up a silhouette of trees in the distance. It was no contest. There may have been a minor scuffle, but it’s obvious most of his mates dashed off into the dark, leaving him to his fate. They were taken by surprise, outplayed by a more experienced and professional opposition. Jesus would have been willing to fight, and seriously pissed off that his comrades ran away.
Jesus supposedly surrendered meekly. He was trumped before he’d made his master move, taken into custody and unable to issue instructions. His allies had let him down, and he must have known what was in store. Luke claimed he was sweating blood (Luke 22; 44,) which is not physiologically possible. He was trying to tell how terrified Jesus was about his impending crucifixion.
Jesus would’ve felt abandoned not only by his friends but also by his god. His work and dreams had come to nothing, and I imagine he may have played the last card of a wretched man by begging his god for a miracle.
Matthew claims Jesus was arrested because he claimed he was divine, but Yeshua didn’t fantasize he was God. Jews believed in only one god, Yahweh, and he wouldn’t have had any helpers if he’d made such a blasphemous claim. Nor could the Romans have cared less about a peasant’s delusions of grandeur. They were wise enough to never get involved in Jewish religious disputes unless they turned into a security issue. The high priest, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, Pilate and his army all knew Yeshua had hoped to start a rebellion against Rome.
“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23:2 NKJ.) Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the Jews and Jesus answered,
“It is as you say it” (Luke 23:3 NKJ.) This perfectly described the crux of the issue: Jesus was accused of undermining the government and the taxation system. He effectively signed his own death warrant by admitting he thought he was king of the Jews. Genuine Jewish kings didn’t pay Roman tax, so this contradicted Jesus’ earlier injunction to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (see Matthew 22:21.) (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/james_still/jesus_trial.html).
Luke was the only author who had Jesus appear before Herod, and related that Jesus refused to talk to him. Yeshua would have hated Herod, the man who had his cousin (John) killed. Herod allegedly found Jesus not guilty, which is impossible to believe, as the same author had earlier claimed Herod wanted him killed. (Luke 13:31.)
Then a Jewish crowd allegedly turned en masse against Jesus. Mark claimed,
“the chief priests however had incited the crowd” (Mark 15:11, NJB.) This poorly explained excuse was the only reason given in any of the Gospels for “the crowd” turning against Jesus. They shouted they wanted him crucified, and that they’d rather have Barabbas, a common criminal, freed in preference. No such custom of releasing the crowd’s favorite was ever recorded in any non-biblical document.
There was probably no public trial. A trial with a Jewish crowd in attendance at that time of year would be just asking for trouble.
It’s implied this crowd was made up from the people of Jerusalem, who had been earlier described as the “multitudes” that had welcomed their king as a hero in a ticker tape parade as he rode into the city. They’d allegedly thought he was a prophet and laid clothes and branches at his feet. The chief priests feared they’d create “an uproar” if Jesus was arrested. Can anyone imagine this crowd had a complete change of mind about their hero?
“I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4 KJV.) He tried to talk the angry Jews out of having Jesus crucified, but gave in to the public clamor, because
“in fact a riot was imminent” (Matt. 27:24.) So the crowd that was going to riot if Jesus was arrested (see Matt. 26:3–6) was now about to riot if he wasn’t crucified!
Pilate washed his hands of any responsibility for the decision to kill Jesus. This didn’t happen; it was theatrical propaganda, not real history. To pronounce a man innocent, then command your troops to kill him anyway, is preposterous.
Pilate’s job was to keep the peace and make sure Jews paid tax. From his perspective Yeshua was nothing more than a vagrant and a dangerous subversive, so he would have regarded him with contempt and couldn’t have found him innocent.
Pilate, the man described by secular historians, was notorious for his cruelty toward the Jews. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, writing in 41 CE, stated that Pilate’s tenure was associated with
“briberies, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injustices, constantly repeated executions without trial, and ceaseless and grievous cruelty” (Legatio ad Gaium, 301–302.) Josephus too reported several instances of Pilate flagrantly inciting an insurrection, which he then ruthlessly purged with his soldiers. In 36 CE, Vitellius, the Roman Syrian governor, removed Pilate from his office after a particularly violent attack on the Samaritans (Josephus, Antiquities 18.4.85.) He was ordered to Rome to face complaints of excessive cruelty against the Jews, found culpable, and exiled to Vienne, France. His true colors come across in secular history, not in the Gospels. He clearly wasn’t a character wracked with ambivalence about whether to crucify Yeshua.
The gospel authors couldn’t have Romans responsible for killing the son of God, because the Catholic Church became the Church of Rome. The solution was simple; they accused the anonymous Jewish rabble of wanting Jesus dead.
One of the authors of Matthew had Jews say,
“His blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:24–25, NJB.) Jews publically cursed themselves for being Christ-killers, which is highly improbable.
The Jewish passersby allegedly mocked him:
“The passersby jeered at him; they shook their heads and said ‘if you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’” (Matt. 27:39–40, NJB.) The crowd wouldn’t have been that callous to their own countryman. The average Jew would have been appalled that one of their own was dying such a degrading death.
What’s more, if Jews had wanted to kill him, he would’ve been stoned, which could only have happened if the Romans gave them permission. Crucifixion was an agonizing, demeaning, public death; one reserved for insurgents. It was used only by Romans to intimidate anyone who might undermine their authority. The Roman soldiers always nailed zealots up naked on a cross; it was part of the humiliation. The degrading death was designed to discourage other charismatic leaders from having their own dangerous dreams.
The sign or “titulus” (Latin for “inscription” or “label”) was the Roman way of exhibiting the explanation for the execution. It was written by Pilate, and read “King of the Jews,” a reflection of Jesus’ real crime.
“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NJB,) referring to the Roman soldiers who had just scourged, mocked and nailed him to a cross. Yeshua is more likely to have damned these soldiers with his dying breath.
A centurion supposedly said,
“In truth this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54, NJB.) Yet Christianity, which claimed Jesus was the son of God, had yet to be invented!
The men Yeshua was crucified with were labeled as “lestai,” incorrectly translated in some Bibles as “robbers.” In fact “lestai” was a derogatory term for insurrectionists, who, by armed action, opposed Roman rule (http://www.drabruzzi.com/jesus_movement.htm and http://haqol.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/the-updated-niv-translates-translates-lestai-rebel/). So Jesus was crucified between two zealots, but we’re told wasn’t one himself. I think informed readers are too perceptive to fall for that.
Roman law allowed no burial rights to those killed by crucifixion. Yeshua’s emaciated body would have been left for the scavenging birds and dogs as a deterrent to others who might disobey Rome, although it’s possible Pilate made an exception and gave permission for the body to be buried.
Jesus’ death was a deeply disheartening development. Any military muscle the movement may have mounted in Jerusalem had not come to anything, and their commander had been crucified. The kingdom of God must have seemed like an unattainable dream. Yet all was not lost. Yeshua was only one man. The Nazarenes could bounce back, just as they had after John’s demise. Someone charismatic needed to take control. That person was James, Yeshua’s brother.