Who killed Jesus?
We need to examine some of our cherished ideas of the Christian life in the light of the Bible rather than tradition
The word ‘chutzpah’ has entered the English language from Hebrew and Yiddish. It means ‘impudence’.
More commonly, we might say, “You’ve got a cheek”, but we could equally say, “That’s chutzpah.”
Jews illustrate the meaning of the term through the story of a boy who murdered his parents, and then asked to be pardoned because he was an orphan.
This may seem like a strange way to open the question of “Who killed Jesus?”, but do keep reading.
Various individuals, or groups of people, were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary:
- Pontius Pilate
The first, obviously, was Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Israel who sentenced Jesus to death, even though he knew that the evidence against Him was false [Luke 23:4,13-15,22-23].
Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined Him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against Him. Neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; as you can see, He has done nothing to deserve death.”
For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in Him no grounds for the death penalty.”×
- The Roman soldiers
Next responsibility lies with the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution [John 19:16-18].
Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Hebrew is called Golgotha). Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.×
- The leaders and people of Israel, as a group
The next, as a group, were the leaders and people of Israel. The gospel accounts, written by Jews, make this assertion [Matthew 27:25]. Also, the apostle Peter, a Jew, accused his own people, as a nation, of condemning Jesus to death [Acts 2:22-23 and Acts 4:10].
All the people answered, “Let His blood be on us and on our children!”×
“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.“
“… then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you ….”×
- God the Father
However, the Bible says that it was also the will of God the Father that Jesus pay the price for the sin of the world [Acts 2:23 and Mark 14:35-36].
“This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and …”
Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”×
- Jesus Himself
Having said all this, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was not a helpless “victim”. He willingly laid down His life [John 10:14-18].
“I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.×
- My sin crucified Jesus
It is now important to make clear: I crucified Jesus. It was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. I am guilty, and Jesus was paying the price for my sin.
- The sin of the whole world
Finally, it was to pay the price for the sin of the whole world that Jesus died. Everyone has sinned [Romans 3:23). Everyone is guilty.
… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God×
- Your sin
That being true, I dare say that you killed Jesus too. Of course, if you do not see yourself as being a sinner, then you have no need of a Saviour [1 John 1:8-10].
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.×
Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice for the sin of the world.
One of the saddest facts of church history is that, at certain times, the Jews have been accused of being “Christ killers”. They are guilty – but no more so than everyone else. Staggering persecutions have fallen on Israel because hyper-religious Christians have said that the Jews are guilty of deicide – of killing God. Anyone who points that finger, without qualification, fails to recognise their own culpability. And that, I might say, is real chutzpah.
Jesus died on the cross. His death was a sacrifice for the sin of the world. The wonderful part of the story is that death could not hold Him down. He rose from the grave. And, praise God, there is forgiveness of sin, for Jew and Gentile, for everyone who turns to Him and who believes in Him and who calls on His name.