So who killed Jesus? We don’t need to look too far... it is you, and I. Jesus died on the cross to atone for your sin and my sin. Romans 3:23-25 said it quite clearly: " for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood."
How can one man’s death pay the price for our sin? That is just how God set it up ever since he created the earth – that there is a price for sin and it is death. From the time of Adam and Eve, only the sacrifice of an animal could put us right with God again. The feast of Passover was so special and important because that this day signifies that a perfect lamb was sacrificed to deliver us and make amends for our sin. Jesus came as our sacrificial lamb.
So my friend, it is because of you and me that caused Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. But wait a minute! God presented him as a sacrifice.
God did it God let Jesus die this way. It is written..
Jesus, a willing sacrifice Yes, Jesus knew and let it happen.
In John 10:10-11 Jesus said: "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." He went on to declare in verse 18: "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
Wow! What a declaration. So it was not as if he was a helpless victim dragged to the cross and killed by a band of wicked men who were in control but that he willingly endured the events that unraveled before him and allowed them to happen. Accounts in John 12 through 18 leading to the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, reveal how aware Jesus was about what was to happen to him. He wanted to make sure that the disciples were prepared.
Even the angels of the LORD reminded Mary Magdalene and Joanna, in Luke 24:6-7: "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
Immediately after the Spirit of God was poured out on him and the people at Pentecost, Peter declared this in Acts 2:22-23: "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."
God – producer and director
God and the Son of God, Jesus, knew beforehand. It was predestined. It was by divine direction. Jesus came down to earth to save us, to do just this. The scenario was set before time. The date and time and place were set specifically. It could not have occurred at any other time than those specific hours, nor any where else, nor to any other nation or people. It had to be during Passover, during the hours of sacrifices of the atonement lamb observed by Jews in Jerusalem in the midst of the Jewish nation, called out of all nations.
Jesus the main Star
God was the master playwright who penned this drama; Jesus was his main star. The backdrop was set in ancient scripture. Jesus stood alone as the protagonist; only he knew, understood, and willingly and obediently followed the master script. “Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8.) There were no co-stars. And as Shakespeare would say, all the world’s a stage and the rest of the people were “merely players.”
Supporting cast – first, the good guys
So what about the Jews? Were they all involved?
We must drive home the point that NOT all Jews were involved in his death. Not all Jews were even in Jerusalem at the time (many were scattered in the Diaspora and the Mediterranean countries.) The Jewish cast:
The crowds Jesus was a hit star with the people even before the grand plan was played out. Great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan who heard about Jesus followed him ( Matthew 4:25, 8:10, Luke 5:15.) They were amazed by him ( Matthew 9:33, 12:23, Luke 11:14. ) They enjoyed listening to him ( Mark 12:37 ) and they rejoiced at all the wonderful things he did ( Luke 13:17 .) He was not only popular, but famous because of his miracles in healing ( Matthew 4:23-25, Luke 4:40 ) and people went out to meet him and flocked around him reaching out to touch him to be healed ( Matthew 9:21, Mark 3:10, Luke 18:15, John 12:18-19.) Then, there was that great crowd of Jewish pilgrims who had come for the Passover in Jerusalem. They set such hopes on him, they took palm branches, went out to meet him and hailed him as King of Israel ( John 12:12-15,) asking him to save them.
The disciples Many Jews were his disciples and they followed him wherever he went - with the crowds ( Matthew 23:1, Mark 8:1, 10:46) and privately ( Matthew 24:3, Mark 4:34.) Often he taught these disciples lessons that he did not share with the multitudes - on parables ( Mark 4:34, Matthew 13:36), on end times ( Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:3), and on casting out demons ( Matthew 17:19, Mark 9:28.) Some disciples were women who loved, supported and provided for Jesus and his group ( Luke 8: 2-3.)
His apostles He appointed twelve in his in-group ( Matthew 3:16, Mark 10:1) and except for Judas, these were the ones who continued to be loyal to his teaching to make disciples of all nations ( Matthew 28:19.) Because these Jews believed in Jesus they led 3,000 to the faith at Pentecost ( Acts 2:41), another 5,000 a few days later ( Acts 4:4), and many priests in Acts 6:7 after Jesus died and rose from the dead. From them, the church was built.
These people were hiding away from the authorities from the time of Jesus’ arrest and so obviously they had nothing to do with the death of Jesus (except Judas.) Therefore clearly, we should never say that Jews as a whole killed Jesus.
The villains --which Jews were accountable
There was a group of Jewish religious leaders who were out to get Jesus. They did not like this popular man who was renowned for his miracles and signs, who spoke words that were far beyond their wisdom ( Matthew 7:28,) and who came and messed up their temple business ( Matthew 21:12, 13.) Jesus became a threat to their political stability ( John 11:48) and they needed to get rid of him ( John 11:53). But all of them were just players in God’s salvation plan. Each had a specific role, each predestined by God. Let’s take a look at the rest of the Jewish cast. They were:
The religious authorities Throughout the gospels, we see the tension between this group – some of the religious teachers, and Pharisees, the Sadducees and scribes – and Jesus. In Matthew 21 and 22, we see how they tried to trap him with tricky hypothetical questions, were suspicious of his observance of Jewish laws ( John 9:16,) and challenged his authority ( Luke 20:1-2.) Jesus called them hypocrites. Seven times in Matthew 23, he scolded them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He chastised those who did not practice what they preached, they did deeds for show and they loved their status and position more than what was right ( Matthew 23:1-12.)
Chief priests, teachers, scribes, elders, the Sanhedrin They were the ones most threatened by Jesus – they feared that if everyone believed Jesus, the Romans would take away their position and power ( John 11:47-48.) So they kept looking for a way to arrest and kill him by stealth and under cover of darkness because they were afraid of the crowd’s response ( Matthew 26:3-4, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 19:45-48, John 18:14.) Together with temple police the temple officials were the ones who went and arrested Jesus ( Matthew 26:47, Mark 14:43, Luke 22:52.) They were involved in the interrogations ( Mark 14:53-65, Luke 22:66-71,) and they sent him to Pilate ( Matthew 27:1-2, Luke 23:1.) It was the assembly of chief priests, scribes and elders of the people ( Luke 22:66, Luke 23:1, 13) who instigated this assembly to tell Pilate to “Crucify him” ( Matthew 27:20, Mark 15:11-15, John 19:5.) Note that at no point do Scriptures show that this crowd is the same crowd of visitors to Jerusalem that welcomed Jesus.
Annas and Caiaphas They held key roles. Annas and Caiaphas were high priests since the time of John the Baptist. After Jesus was arrested he was taken first to Annas to be questioned and then sent bound to Caiaphas ( John 18:19-24). Caiaphas was the one who said (prophetically) that it was better to have one person die for the people than that the whole nation perish ( John 11:50, John 18:14.) It was at Caiaphas’ palace where his gang of chief priests and elders gathered to conspire to arrest Jesus by stealth, not during the festival for fear of rioting ( Matthew 26:3-5.) Jesus was led to this high priest’s house after his arrest ( Matthew 26:57-66.) It was before Caiaphas that he was “tried” and interrogated ( John 18:19) and in his house where they looked unsuccessfully for false testimony to put him to death ( Matthew 26:57, 59,) and then accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death ( verse 55-66.)
The high priests and elders played an important role in the stipulation of sacrificial requirements. A sacrifice must be brought before a priest and the priest must put it to death. Only the high priest could make sacrifices to atone for sin. In the sacrificing of Jesus as Passover sin offering, the chief priests were there in the plot to kill, they were there to seize and they were there when the decision was made that Jesus die. They and the council looked for evidence against Jesus but found none ( Matthew 26:59-60.) The high priest finally accused Jesus of claiming to be the Messiah, of blasphemy, and deserving to be sent to die ( Matthew 26:65-66, Mark 14:61-64,) but not before they had him beaten. The irony of it is that he is the Messiah and had to die. It is significant Jesus as the sacrifice was sent bound from one high priest Annas to another, Caiaphas ( John 18:24.) He was also bound by the chief priests after they decided to put him to death and led away to Pilate for execution ( Matthew 27:1-2.)
It is important to note here that under Jewish law, the high priest could have ordered the death of Jesus by stoning, if he was found guilty, (as in the example of Stephen in Acts 7) in which case, one might say that the Jews killed Jesus. But that was not the case. He was first of all not guilty and secondly, his death, as an appropriation sacrifice for the sin of all antions, had to include both the Jews and the Gentile in the total equation.
Gentile actors -- Roman leader also guilty
The cast included Pilate, Herod, the soldiers and centurion.
Pilate The key player was Pilate, 5th procurator of Judea who alone had the authority to give the death sentence. Pilate interrogated Jesus on the charges brought by the chief priests and leaders (Matthew 27:11-14, John 18:29-38.) He realized that the chief priests handed Jesus over out of jealousy ( Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10.) After questioning Jesus, he did not find him guilty of the charges and had no case against him ( Luke 23:13-14, John 18:38.) It is interesting that this Roman representative really did not want to have anything to do with this whole drama ( Matthew 27:24) and he was afraid ( John 19:8). He was only a player in a script written by God. Yet, he had Jesus flogged, thinking it would appease the group ( Luke 23:16.) Afterwards, he tried to release Jesus ( John 19:12) but demands of the crowd of chief priests, leaders and elders prevailed. Pilate handed Jesus to be crucified ( Mark 15:15, John 19:16) by the soldiers of the governor ( Matthew 27:27, Mark 15:16, John 19:23.)
It is significant that when the temple officials blindfolded Jesus and beat him they mocked him as the Messiah. When the Roman soldiers flogged, taunted and put a crown of thorns on him, they mocked and hailed him King of the Jews. Players acting out the divine script.
It is significant that Jesus was interrogated twice, firstly by the Jewish religious leaders and then by the Roman governor. The chief priests and whole council looked for false testimony ( Matthew 26:59-60) but found none. Pilate had no grounds to find Jesus guilty. Neither did Herod ( Luke 23:15.) And yet, Jesus was scourged (to fulfill scriptures Isaiah 53:5) and was crucified. This is important to note because it underlines that Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice – innocent and unblemished, perfect and worthy. Only the high priest could bind him and send him for slaughter. The very hours Jesus hung on the cross – between 9 am - the third hour ( Mark 15:25 ) to 3 pm - the nineth hour ( Matthew 27:46) - were the hours the high priest were making Passover sacrifices, including the sacrifice for the atonement of sin.
It is significant to note that he was “tried” (in a trial that did not follow any law) not only by the Jewish but also Gentile highest authorities. Herod had the title of “Tetrarch” – a prince, and Pilate was the governor. This again drives home the point that it cannot be said that only the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, as history has unfairly charged. The Romans were also involved equally. Both groups beat and scourged him, then gave the death sentence.
It may also be said that because the Romans had a hand in it, they stood as proxy for all Gentiles (the Hebrew word for Gentile is Goyim which commonly translated simply denotes "nations" or anyone other than Jews) to be partakers of this death, so to speak, thereby opening the way so that all nations, too, were partakers of the sacrifice and thus could also have their sins atoned through the death of this Passover Lamb. They represented all of us who were unable to attend as proxies and witnesses of the act. Both Jews and non-Jews were involved.
It is interesting to note John 11:51-53; “as high priest that year, he (Caiaphas) had prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”
Reality show –your turn to act
Finally, Jesus' death isn't only just about a person, or a group of people, or even a nation that happened 2000 years ago. God forbid! Everything that happened that day, every detail that fit so perfectly into a cosmic plan points to God’s very existence and omnipotence. That day marked the turning point for all time. The Jews were chosen and were faithful to hold on to God’s teaching that led to that day. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was necessary and by divine plan, the Gentiles – you and I - have been included.
A Roman centurion right there at the cross recognized that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54.) This historic event demands our participation. We need to move from the curious to the convinced, and from the convinced to the committed. Its drama is still being played out today, right now. The death of Jesus was for every one of us. We need to be consciously aware of and be thankful to God for his mercy and grace, and Jesus for his faithfulness and willingness to die on the cross. What’s your rating on this truth?
The question for you is this: What are we going to do about Jesus' work on the cross? What part are you going to play? Paul in the Epistle Of Romans 4:24 - 5:2, 5:6-10 summarises:
24 but also for us, to whom
God will credit righteousness for us who believe in him
who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
25 He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man,
though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood,
how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
10 For if, when we were God's enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!
If you are convicted to the act of God’s love towards you and have never made a conscious decision before to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for you, here is your chance. We would love to stand witness along side you for this moment. If you wish to talk with someone regarding yourself, please feel free to leave us a contact here. We would love to hear from you.