I always find questions that begin “What Would Jesus Do?” rather obnoxious for two reasons. First, because they are usually posed by people absolutely certain that Jesus follows their views in lockstep, and second, because Christ of course is God and the mind of the All-Mighty is unknowable to us. As Lincoln put it so well in his Second Inaugural:
Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.
So questions that begin “What Would Jesus Do”?, strike me as presumptuous at best and blasphemous at worst.
Johnathan Merritt at The Atlantic seems very confident as to the position of Jesus on the death penalty. He would be against it:
Many forget that Jesus once served as a one-man jury on a death-penalty case. In a famous New Testament story, an adulterous woman was dragged to Jesus’ feet. The woman was guilty of a capital offense and had been caught in the act by at least one witness. The law mandated her death but Jesus prescribed a different response: “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” He was teaching that only a perfect being—only God—should have power over death and life.
Go here to read the rest. Of course this ignores the fact that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity and God had absolutely no problem, according to the Old Testament, mandating the death penalty for a whole host of offences. Additionally, when Christ wished to prohibit something allowed in the Old Testament He had no difficulty saying so plainly: Divorce is the prime example of this, but ritual purity laws also enter in. If Christ were opposed to the death penalty and wished to use the woman caught in adultery as an example of this opposition, presumably He would have said as much. One would also have thought that the Apostles would have mandated an anti-death penalty stance for the Church, which they did not. Christ could very well have viewed this application of the death penalty as unjust based on His knowledge of the hearts and souls of the accused and her accusers, and not intended for it to convey an objection by Him to executions in general.
None of this of course is to claim that I know the mind of Christ on the death penalty. I do not. However those who glibly assert they do, also do not, and they should be called on it when they falsely claim that they do.