Have you ever wondered what you might ask God if you could ask Him but one question?


I have. And, I know the answer.


“Why did it have to be Roman crucifixion? Couldn’t it have been easier?”


Okay, so that’s two questions, but they’re wrapped within each other and I’ll probably ask them so quickly the angels around the Throne will probably miss the question mark and, seeing the sincerity in my eyes, will not hit the “you goofed” buzzer.


Neither the Bible nor history makes any bones about it: Jesus of Nazareth suffered. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under the order of Pontius Pilate. As horrific as the details, this was—for sinful mankind—Good News.


A Quick Look Back


For several months we have studied both the Nicene and the Apostle’s Creed. We have recently begun to look at the life of the man we call Jesus, born of a virgin we call Mary who lived over two-thousand years ago in a small Galilean village of Israel. Mary (who as a Jewess would have been called Miriam, was engaged to a carpenter/stone mason named Joseph (Yosef).


Joseph and Mary raised Jesus (Yeshua) for awhile in Egypt and then, instructed by God, returned to Nazareth where Mary lived out her days as a wife and mother and Joseph trained his son in the skills of carpentry/stone masonry. (The Greek word translated to “carpenter” is Tekton, which is a craftsman of stone and wood…and even a “builder” of songs and stories. How interesting that before his years of ministry, Jesus worked to build things with his hands; with his ministry he built stories to draw people closer to the Father; and as Messiah, he built a bridge from a life of sin to eternal salvation. This is, of course, just a little side note from me to you.)


A Ruckus In Israel


Jesus had been stirring up trouble. And he meant to. For over three years he’d been walking the country, meeting with men and women, healing the sick, raising the dead, drawing little children into his lap, and bringing the words of His Heavenly Father to a world trapped in spiritual bondage.


To understand the times and the people means to first understand Pax Romana: The Peace of Rome,” which took place from 27 B. C. to 180 A. D. Of course peace to one man is not necessarily peace to another. Rome controlled both the land of Israel and her people.


Within those peoples were four sects or “schools of thought,” which included the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. A study of the four shows us the desperate spiritual, religious, and political situation of the time.


The Pharisees (from the Hebrew word perusion, and meaning “separated ones”) believed in the oral law and the Mosaic Law. They were champions of the people, but their teaching was ethical rather than theological. Quite often Jesus went toe-to-toe with the Pharisees. (See Matthew 23 for a rather explosive showdown.)


The Sadducees denied the oral law but were very exact with Levitical purity. Unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or an afterlife.