Why was Jesus killed?
This was, it seems, a big issue for the first Christians - I mean, to explain why Jesus Christ, who claimed to be divine and was regarded as the Messiah, nonetheless died... Very shortly after making this claim; and apparently powerlessly - indeed agonizingly and ignominiously.
Surely, if He had really been divine, He would not have allowed this? If He had been Messiah he would have led his nation to victory and worldly-bliss?
This is a matter that we modern Christians find it hard to understand - not least, because Jesus's death on the cross is just about the first thing we ever learned about Him; so we see things the other way around from contemporaries.
Furthermore, it is not clear to us what the Messiah meant to Jews before Jesus - because we see the business from the opposite end, and as Christians.
But it recently dawned on me, with an unprecedented clarity; how exactly Jesus's death and mode of death reinforced the next-worldly core message of the Fourth Gospel: which is Jesus's offer of resurrected eternal life in Heaven to those who follow Him.
By allowing Himself to die in accordance with the unpredictable contingencies of This World; and yet to return resurrected and ascend to Heaven - Jesus showed that this world cannot affect the salvation He offers.
It is a teaching by example. By this understanding, the specific mode of Jesus's death is not essential - He might have died in any fashion - the point was that Jesus demonstrated in His own person the ways in which Mortal Man is 'helpless' before the overwhelming influences of human society and The World more generally - yet, ultimately, this does not matter.
We as individuals cannot stop our fellow Men lying about us, unjustly convicting us; cannot prevent them inflicting horrible torments or killing us - and yet, we can still be resurrected if we choose it; and can still live eternally in Heaven.
It's not that this-world is un-important - Jesus takes the events of His Mortal life with great seriousness - but that eternal life beyond death is far more important.
Jesus is asking us to regard as secondary such considerations as a political Messiah setting-up a new, best-ever, religious state. And to recognize that Jesus - using 'divine superpowers' to escape the injustice of his crucifixion, would merely be to delay the inevitable death that awaits us all (i.e. in the absence of Christ's salvation).
One of the things that Jesus is teaching, via His crucifixion, is something like that: "Even a death as bad as mine - which I did not seek, but patiently endured - neither prevents nor refutes the Good News of salvation I bring to you".
Christianity is in essence a next-worldly business; and Jesus is showing us how to take a post-mortal, resurrected perspective.
Yet, at the same time, and especially by his teachings on love and friendship with the disciples - Jesus is making clear that this life matters, and vitally.
It is still very difficult for people to grasp both aspects of this teaching. In its mainstream public functioning; the modern world is 100% this-worldly and excludes and life beyond life.
But the 'oneness' spiritualties that some behaviourally-this-worldly Westerners nowadays adopt; goes the the opposite, and equally false, extreme of denying the importance of this life, and regarding it as an illusion (or a 'simulation', in more recent variants).
Jesus's way is Not any kind of 'middle ground' - but is instead both this-worldly and next-worldly; with this-world as an essential yet temporary phase - en route to the eternal.