Members of the youth ministry in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Quezon City in the Philippine capital performs the traditional “Way of the Cross” on Good Friday, Apr 15, 2022 (Photo by Jire Carreon)

By Father Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M.

Mar 28 2024

A young mother who was quite disturbed by the seemingly weird ‘theological’ questions of her seven-year-old son once told me this story. It was Holy Week and they were making the stations of the cross in the church. On their way home, the boy asked his mother why Jesus died.

The devout mother replied with the classic answer from our catechism: Jesus died to save us from our sins. The son replied: “I don’t believe you. I think he has done something wrong. Otherwise, they would not have killed him.”

The mother was so bothered that she wrote me. I told her that her son’s objection was the deepest theological insight I have heard from a seven-year-old.

The boy’s answer was referring to the socio-political model I am trying to elaborate on here. In short, this framework says that Jesus really did something “wrong” in the eyes of the powers that be. That is why they killed him.

His commitment to the kingdom of equality, freedom, and justice made him say and do things that put into question the social, political, and religious structures of his society. His crucifixion was the necessary consequence of such a commitment.

One Latin American theologian, Ignacio Ellacuria, who was also murdered by the military forces of his country; El Salvador; for defending the oppressed, once wrote an article entitled “Why was Jesus killed?” He said that our question should shift from “Why did Jesus die” (satisfaction model which I explained earlier) to “Why was Jesus killed” (the historical question on the socio-politics of Jesus’ time).

 

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