Would Jesus Support the Death Penalty?

We have been discussing the idea of capital punishment. In my last posting I tried to answer some of the most common objections to the concept of capital punishment. On this posting, we want to look into the question of whether Jesus would approve of capital punishment. Most of the people that I posed this question to answered with a resounding no. They all expressed how loving and forgiving Jesus was, He would never approve of the idea of capital punishment. Before we begin to look into this question, it might be helpful to ask some philosophical questions regarding Jesus. In your opinion would Jesus have a difference of opinion with God the father regarding judicial sentencing? Do you think Jesus is more lenient than the father? Would Jesus alter God the father’s judicial verdicts? What judicial verdict would he give regarding heinous crimes? Our society is becoming more and more humanistic in its outlook. We need to be careful not to see Jesus through the lens of humanism. Otherwise we may end up with a Jesus after our own liking rather than the biblical Jesus. Most people that believe Jesus would not approve of capital punishment point to Jesus’s teaching on Sermon on the Mount. In Gospel of Matthew chapter 5:38 we read “you have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you……. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also.” Some people see in these verses that Jesus did away with the idea of just and equitable retribution. This conclusion is the result of misunderstanding the applicatory scope of these verses. These verses were never meant to be taken in a judiciary sense. It was meant to be taken in a personal way. We should not be a people who use these principals as an excuse for personal vengeance. Another example that is cited by those who oppose capital punishment is the example of the woman caught in the act of adultery. This story is found in the gospel of John chapter 8:3 the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They wanted to see what Jesus would say. On verse 6 it says “this they said to test him that they might have some charge to bring against him”. If Jesus told them to go ahead with the stoning, he would have violated the Roman law. Only the Romans could give death sentences. If he would have said release her, he would have violated the Law of Moses. On verse 7 Jesus shows his accusers were not qualified judges, their whole goal was to entrap Jesus not to uphold Moses’ Law. On verse 10 Jesus asks the question from the woman “has no one condemn you?” She said “no one Lord”. Then Jesus goes on to say “neither do I condemn you, go and from now on sin no more”. This was not a lawful normal judiciary procedure, it was an entrapment for Jesus. The question that needs to be asked is this, if Israel was an independent nation at that time and Jesus was the king, what kind of verdict would he give? Would he give the verdict of capital punishment command by the father, or would he as judge tell her its fine please don’t do this anymore? You be the judge.

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