Chapter 22j - Nations of the World

Continued from Chapter 22i

53:5: “But he [Israel] was wounded as a result of our [the nations of the world] transgressions, he was crushed as a result of our iniquities.”

Christian renderings of the Hebrew text attempt to convey the message that the servant vicariously took upon himself the sins of the people, and this caused him, and not them, to suffer the consequences. 

This conclusion is arrived at by a distortion of the text. That is, they claim the servant took on the iniquities of others and thereby, allowed their sins to be expiated through his suffering. This is a distortion of the meaning of the text that attempts to evade the real reason Jesus was executed. A correct rendering of the text reveals that the nations of the world come to the realization that the servant’s suffering stemmed from their actions and sinfulness toward him. (The singular used here for a plural collective community.) The realization here is that the servant’s pain is not because of his own sins. He (Israel) bears the pain inflicted on him by others. This verse reflects the nations’ realization that the servant (Israel as a corporate entity) suffered the consequences of their (the nations’) own persecution imposed in order to hide their own iniquities.

Why was Jesus arrested and executed?

Jesus was an apocalyptic revolutionary. His insurrectionist activities brought upon him Roman condemnation and execution. Jesus probably expected divine intervention with God sending His angels to annihilate the Roman’s. His execution by a method reserved for rebels is evidence that the Romans considered him a seditionist. Certainly, a movement with a messianic intimation and inherent kingship connotations raised concern among Roman officials entrusted with the maintenance of the Pax Roma (Roman Peace). John’s Jesus acknowledging that he considered himself a king (John 18:37) was an admission of guilt of a serious offense under Roman law. Under Roman law only the emperor could appoint a king.

The Gospels’ Jesus did not suffer because of the iniquity of others, but because he challenged Roman sovereignty over Judea. Pressing his messianic pretensions was, to the Roman administration of the country, a challenge to Roman rule. It was common knowledge, of which Pontius Pilate was certainly well aware, that anyone who claimed to be the Messiah must also claim to be king of the Jews. The Gospels’ Jesus challenged Roman rule by the way he is said to have entered into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:7-11, Mark 11:7-11, Luke 19:35-39, John 12:12-13). Jesus’ manner of entry into Jerusalem and the accompanying acclaim the Gospels say he received from the people was seen as the commission of an act of treason against the emperor. This assured his arrest and crucifixion.

From the moment Jesus was hailed as the son of David he was a marked man. The seizure of the Temple courtyard was also by its nature a subversive act against Rome (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:14-15). The Romans could not see Jesus’ offense as solely against the Jewish priesthood. They would understand it as directed against their control over the symbol of Jewish nationhood, the Temple. Pilate had no alternative but to treat Jesus as a political threat. Despite the evangelical attempt to exonerate Pilate (Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4; John 18:38, 19:4) by blaming the Jews (John 19:11) and thereby Rome from responsibility for the crucifixion, it must be remembered that this method of execution was reserved for political crimes against Rome. Blaming the Jewish people and their leaders for Jesus’ death was the early church’s response to widespread Jewish refusal to accept the false claims made on behalf of Jesus. Jesus was executed for his own challenge to the Roman Empire. He imagined himself to be the Messiah, the king of the Jews, and died for that mistake. Jesus’ death was not a vicarious sacrifice for the benefit of mankind in general or for the Jewish people in particular. Jesus’ death was the result of his own failure to recognize his limitations. One of the limitations Jesus had was that he did not qualify to be the servant.

© Gerald Sigal