Jesus tells us in the gospel that ever since the coming of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and the violent are taking it by force. What does that mean? Scripture scholars are not sure; they offer several explanations.
Let me offer you mine, since the subject is open to interpretation. By original sin, Adam and Eve caused the gates of heaven to be closed and locked. It could be thought of as a strong city locked against its enemies, but totally impregnable. But it HAD to be opened if humankind was to be saved, that is, admitted into it. So, just as God had sent the young boy David to fight the Philistine giant and enemy Goliath, so now God sends one man to fight this battle, too.
Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, becomes a human being and comes into the world to do for mankind what it cannot do for itself: to reopen heaven which had been closed by man’s sin. He becomes a Jew, a member of God’s chosen people, to whom the promise of a Savior, a Messiah, had been repeatedly made. He told them: I am the Messiah; I am the promised Savior. But he didn’t fit into their concepts and expectations. They wanted a glorious, triumphant military leader who would defeat and drive out the occupying Romans, free the land of Israel, restore independence and autonomy to the Jews, and bring back the golden age of the kings, David and Solomon. It was obvious that Jesus was not going to do that; that was not his plan at all. So they felt the need to get rid of him.
They accused him before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate of claiming to be a king. That was totally false; he had never said or implied that. But it was the kind of accusation that would make a politician like Pilate sit up and take notice. Pilate asked him, “Are you a king?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” “So, then, you ARE a king!” That’s all that Pilate wanted to hear. If this Jesus would not say quite clearly: “No, I am not a king,” then in Pilate’s eyes, he was guilty of sedition and treason — and deserved to be killed.
Crucifixion is probably the most extreme form of violence that can be visited upon a human being, measured in terms of the suffering it causes. Jesus allowed them to kill him because his destiny was to reopen heaven, and he did this by making atonement for human sins. His sufferings and death were that atonement. So it is he who subjects the kingdom of heaven to the violence inflicted upon his own body, and by that terrible violence, he wins the battle of good against evil. David defeated Goliath with a stone; Jesus defeated Satan with his pain, his blood, his death.
Lord Jesus Christ, victim of violence for our salvation, we adore you and we thank you for reopening for us the gates of heaven. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.