Many years ago, in a class about the Bible, when studying the Gospel of Mark, my professor said the clearing of the temple was why Jesus was killed. Specifically, he pointed to this verse.

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Mark 11:18 (NIV)

My professor’s claim was that Jesus was killed over money. The inference is that if Jesus hadn’t cleared the temple and thus interfered with the flow of cash, he wouldn’t have been crucified. I was recently saved and not very well-versed in the Bible at the time, so I had nothing to say. However, as I grew in my faith and knowledge of the Bible, I realized that money was only part of why Jesus was crucified.

The key, I believe, to understanding why Jesus was crucified deals with the people who wanted to crucify him. Specifically, the groups of people who wanted him dead because not all of their motives were the same. Six groups of people wanted to kill Jesus: the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law (scribes), chief priests (priests), Herodians, and the Sanhedrin. When we examine the Scriptures, we can ascertain why each group wanted him dead.

Mark 3:6 is the first place in the Gospel of Mark where we read about someone wanting to kill Jesus.

Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Mark 3:6 (NIV)

Here we are introduced to the Pharisees and Herodians. In Mark 3:6, we see the result of Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath. While this would be an affront to the Pharisees, who were devoted followers of the law, and therefore providing a reason to kill Jesus, a law-breaker, it may not be clear why the Herodians would want to kill Jesus. Many Herodians saw Herod as a candidate for the position of Messiah. Herod was seen as a savior of sorts by working with the Roman government and giving political power to the Jews. At least to those who cooperated with the Romans.

Therefore, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus because he was a law-breaker, while the Herodians saw Jesus as a threat to their political power. We see this in John after Lazarus was raised from the dead when the Sanhedrin gathered to discuss the issue (John 11:45-57).

So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

John 11:53 (NIV)

The “they” in verse 53 is the Sanhedrin, a group of its own, comprised of four other groups that wanted Jesus dead; Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests (priests), and teachers of the law. I don’t expect that there were Herodians in the Sanhedrin.

The priests (high and chief) were from the line of Levi, meaning they were Levities. Caiaphas, who predicted Jesus’ death, was the high priest and part of the Sanhedrin.

The Sadducees didn’t believe in angels, demons, spirits, or the resurrection, but like the Pharisees, they kept the law of Moses. However, the Sadducees’ literal interpretation of all Scripture put them at odds with the Pharisees. Many of the chief priests fell into the category of Sadducees. Another factor that put the Sadducees at odds with the Pharisees was their support of Roman law and practices.

The teachers of the law, also known as scribes, studied, transcribed, and wrote commentaries about the law. Although these teachers knew the law, they made up their own interpretations of it through traditions. Therefore, when we read a passage like Mark 11:18 that tell us the teachers of the law wanted to kill Jesus, it’s because Jesus is usurping their authority by clarifying the law. Of course, the chief priests and teachers of the law profited from their perversions of the law.

In addition to Mark 3:6 and 11:18, John 11:48 gives us insight into why the different groups wanted Jesus dead.

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

John 11:48 (NIV)

While there were Pharisees who were teachers of the law and priests, there were no Pharisees who were Sadducees or Herodians. The apostle Paul was a Pharisee and probably a teacher of the law, but he wasn’t a priest because he wasn’t a Levite. Similarly, there were Sadducees who were teachers of the law, priests, and possibly Herodians. Caiaphas was the high priest, a Sadducee, and a member of the Sanhedrin.

For many of these groups, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the only thing they had in common was that Jesus and his teaching interfered with their perspectives on how things should be done. However, when we consider their separate reasons for wanting to kill Jesus, we can see that it wasn’t just money or the interpretation of the law; their pride wanted Jesus dead.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.