God sent Jesus primarily to regenerate Israel. His mission was to restore the true interpretation of the Torah, in particular, by giving its underlying wisdom. Later in the series we show why and how Paul's supporters edited Jesus' sermons from the synoptic Gospels and God knowing that this would happen required Jesus to preach in parables so that much of teachings might be preserved.
Briefly, four aspects of Jesus’ mission are apparent from his red-lined Gospel words: 1) The regeneration of Israel; 2) Prophesying about the antichrist rebellion (false prophet) that would appear after him during the lifetime of Jesus’ disciples whose followers would have a worldwide impact; 3) Prophesying about the coming of the Kingdom of God (explain in-depth in the book as the coming of Islam) through the coming after him of one greater than him - the Universal Sovereign; 4) His second advent as servant and messiah of the Universal Sovereign; an issue that relates to the modern era.
JESUS' MISSION AND MESSAGE
Did Jesus come to create a new religion?
The Pharisees conspired with the Herodians to kill Jesus—which they thought would also kill his message. They brought false religious charges against Jesus in the Sanhedrin (blasphemy and destroying & rebuilding the Temple) and political charges before Pilate (rebellion against Caesar ‘King of Jews’—refusing to pay taxes). The Jews admitted that the political charges were brought merely to kill Jesus (Jhn 18:31).
The Pharisees had to prove that Jesus was false–because killing the man would not necessarily kill the message. Their ingenious plan therefore was to kill him through crucifixion because according Deuteronomy, one who dies on a tree (i.e. a wooden cross) after having committed a sin worthy of death, would be deemed false and accursed. Obviously, Jesus could not then be the Messiah and their killing him would be God’s punishment:
Deu 21:22-23 KJV And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged [is] accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance.
Crucifixion was a form of hanging on wood and the Pharisees reasoned that they could justify murdering Jesus by convicting him of blasphemy... a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death…By killing him through crucifixion it would justify both his murder and prove his falsehood.
The Pharisees under one provision of Deuteronomy, namely an apostasy law, sought to murder Jesus and they used another provision to prove he was false, accursed and hence not the Messiah. Thus, the Pharisees sought to kill Jesus by crucifixion, and in one stroke, kill both the man and his message:
Jhn 11:50 KJV Nor consider, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
Jhn 18:14 KJV Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
They brought different false charges against Jesus in the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. Jesus escaped to the lost ten tribes of Israel after his survival from the crucifixion ordeal.
If Jesus had died by crucifixion, Jesus’ corpse was to be used as evidence of his accursed death under Deuteronomy, thereby justifying both their killing him and rejecting him as a false messiah. Instead, after his survival there were widespread reports among the Jewish masses that they saw Jesus alive:
Acts 13:31, KJV And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
Jesus’ followers told Paul about these facts in Acts since Paul was a Pharisee at the time and would not have known them. However, even Paul admits that more than five hundred people saw Jesus at one time after the crucifixion, which means that it was common knowledge that the Pharisee scheme to kill Jesus and his message by crucifixion, had failed. Now Jesus’ survival evidenced divine support and testified to his truth:
Acts 1:3-4 NLT During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.
It is implicit in …he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive…, that he had survived and had his same pre-crucifixion body. His eating with his disciples proves that he was not in the spirit form as Paul later alleged in his Atonement and Resurrection doctrines:
Luk 24:39-42 NLT Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don't have bodies, as you see that I do." 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
2Cor 5:16 KJV Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh…
That Jesus was not spirit is settled by his own words: ghosts do not have bodies, and by his eating broiled fish. Thus, whatever Christians may allege, Jesus was reported as alive in the sense of having survived and not because after death he was resurrected in the spirit. Jesus’ death and resurrection fiction has no basis other than Paul’s corruptions some twenty years later when he claimed that God revealed it to him as we detail in great length in the book.
Not only did this event energise Jesus’ disciples who became fearless in their preaching, the Jewish masses started to accept Jesus as the messiah. They viewed Jesus’ survival as a sign of divine support for his claim just as Jonah’s survival was a sign for the people of Nineveh:
Luk 11:29-30, 32 KJV And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. ...32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
We show that Jesus’ disciples did not believe in the Jesus’ literal death and resurrection. Jesus’ statement that he would rise from the dead or be raised from the dead merely meant he would rise from a comatose state from the place of the dead, i.e. the tomb. Jesus’ disciples therefore believed that Jesus survived his crucifixion ordeal. The Pharisee plan to kill Jesus had backfired spectacularly.
Did the Pharisees Want Jesus Dead, and Why?
Who was St. Stephen and why was he killed?
The Pharisees, fearing the growing Jesus movement, developed the charges against Jesus further and used them to justify Stephen’s murder by stoning—in which Paul took part. This also had an effect opposite to that which they anticipated. It too spurred the growth of the Jesus movement because Stephen’s martyrdom released the Jesus Jews from the fear of death because one of them had made the supreme sacrifice.
Stephen’s magnificent speech against the Pharisees was indicative of the high resolve and just defiance of Jesus’ followers. Like Jesus, Stephen berated them for failing to keep Moses’ commandments and he faced martyrdom with the courage and fortitude of all true followers of prophets. The Pharisee rage is palpable from: …they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth (Acts 7:51-58).
The Sanhedrin made Stephen’s trial and stoning a public spectacle to convince the Jewish masses that the Jesus Jews were apostates, i.e. renegades from Judaism. They brought false witnesses, alleging blasphemy against God, Moses, the Temple, and the Law and alleged that Jesus prophesied he would destroy the Temple and change Moses’ customs.
Stephen’s martyrdom accelerated conversion because he frustrated their goal by his speech in which he refuted their three additional allegations: i) Blasphemy against Moses—by treating him with utmost respect; ii) Blasphemy against the Law—by berating the Pharisees and accusing them of not keeping Moses’ Law while persecuting and killing the prophets; iii) Blasphemy against the Temple—by correcting their belief that a Temple was more sacred than God’s beloved Messengers.
Pious Jews must have been revolted at the barbarity of the spectacle of the murder of a virtuous soul like Stephen. The majority or at least the best among of the Orthodox Jews did not believe the false propaganda of the Sanhedrin’s charges because they lived with the Jesus Jews, and knew them to be of pious character, and indeed better Jews than themselves.
The increased persecution following Stephen’s martyrdom proves the Pharisee strategy had failed and that Jesus’ movement was winning the hearts and minds of righteous Jews. The Pharisee propaganda against the Jesus Jews had again failed to convince the masses. Their goal was to frighten the Jesus Jews into submission, but Stephen’s valiant martyrdom emboldened them instead. Because one of them unflinchingly offered the supreme sacrifice, their fear had left them.
Acts 8:2-4 KJV And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.