I went to the Missouri Synod church’s Good Friday service. There was no homily, but the pastor, select people, and the congregation were reading through the passion story in the Gospel of John, singing songs at intervals.
I usually write about the sermon, but, today, I will address a passage that stood out to me. In John 19:7, the Jewish leaders say to Pilate: “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (KJV).
Questions were in my mind. What did the Jewish leaders mean by “Son of God”? Did they mean that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, since the Davidic king was a son of God (II Samuel 7:13-16; Psalm 89:26-28)? Much of John 19 relates to the claim that Jesus is a king. But would claiming to be the Messiah merit the death penalty under the Torah? The Roman authorities would certainly be concerned about such a claim, from a political standpoint, but does it violate the Torah?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is accused by his opponents of claiming to be equal to God, or even God (John 5:17-18; 10:30-39). Could that be deemed a violation of the Torah?
G.R. Beasley-Murray, in his Word Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of John, navigates through these issues. He claims that the Jewish leaders were sticking with their charge that Jesus was a political insurrectionist, but that they were adding an additional charge: that Jesus violated the Jewish law by being a blasphemer. According to Beasley-Murray, John may be echoing Mark 14:61-64, in which Jesus confesses to be the Messiah, while also saying that he will be on the right hand of Power, perhaps implying (in certain Jewish leaders’ eyes) a parity with God. Beasley-Murray also refers to John 5:17-18 and 10:30-39. As far as charges go, Beasley-Murray states that the Jewish leaders thought that Jesus violated the Torah by being a false prophet, which merited the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13:1-6), as Jesus seemed to claim parity with God and healed on the Sabbath. Beasley-Murray also refers to Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a, in which Yeshu is hanged for sorcery and enticing Israel towards apostasy.