Why was Jesus condemned to death? How is it that a man like this ended up on the cross? What were the motives of those responsible for Jesus' death? Who killed Jesus? What killed Jesus... and what vicious circles of violence continue to crucify him today among his brothers and sisters of the human family?
It is not possible to accept the complete innocence of the Jewish authorities in Christ's death and along with it the claim about the purely political nature of Christ's condemnation.
Religious authorities and political authorities, the heads of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman procurator, both participated, for different reasons, in Christ's condemnation. Jesus was condemned for religious reasons, which, however, were put into political terms to better convince the Roman procurator.
Anyone who tries to rewrite history or rewrite the Gospel stories of Jesus' suffering and death is unfaithful to history and dishonest in applying lessons of the past to contemporary situations There is a haunting question about the meaning of Good Friday, a question that has resounded throughout history. Where was God in the midst of this disaster on Calvary? A question that even cried out from the wood of the cross, where are you? Have you really forgotten me? Elie Wiesel writes about that same question which was also asked in the death camp of Auschwitz. He describes the scene for us in his book, Night.
"The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed in the same moment within the nooses. 'Long live liberty!' cried two adults. But the child was silent. 'Where is God? Where is He?' someone behind me asked. At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. 'Bare your heads!' yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. 'Cover your heads!' Then the march past the dead men began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive ... For more than half an hour he stayed there struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking, 'Where is God? Here He is -- He is hanging on this gallows...'"
Good Friday shows us where God is: Hanging on the wood of the cross in Jerusalem, and on the crosses throughout the world where people are unjustly accused, are put to death out of anger, violence, jealousy, hatred. Jesus hangs on the cross -- the naked, broken body of a young man, a symbol of divine failure, vulnerability and loss, and from the cross, he stops the vicious cycle of evil and violence that we have continued for centuries.
We must learn from what happened to Jesus and ask ourselves not only about the identity of those who tried, condemned and killed Him long ago, but also what killed Jesus and what vicious circles of violence, brutality and hatred continue to crucify Him today in His brothers and sisters of the human family.
Our Christian faith tells us we are all responsible for Jesus' death with our sins. Jesus was and remains, despite everything, the greatest gift of Judaism to the world, a gift for which the Jews have paid an enormous price.
Christians and Jews who fail to deal with the scriptures in a mature way, and simply promote an ignorance of history do not help to build bridges and repair the real damage of anti-Semitism that is alive once again in the world.