WHO KILLED JESUS CHRIST?

Was it the Jews? Pontius Pilate? Satan? Our Sins? or was it something else altogether?

The Passion of Christ is one of the most controversial movies of all times. The movie makes evident, in gruesome details, the horrific flagellation and crucifixion endured by Jesus Christ before His death.

Many Christians applaud Gibson’s efforts and see the movie as a very useful tool in enlightening the masses about what Jesus Christ has done to save the world. On the other hand, Jews, understandably, fear that the movie might ignite more anti-Semitism and persecution.

Recently, a major network reviewed the events that led to Jesus Christ’s death, with the help of four Biblical scholars. At the end of the documentary, the four scholars were asked to give their viewpoint on who killed Jesus Christ. The unanimous answer was: “Pilate and the Romans.

Who really killed Jesus Christ? Different people hold differing views. Some are firm on the idea that the Jews were primarily responsible. Others insist that the real culprit was Pontius Pilate. Some may argue that Satan was the force that inspired the whole scenario. Many Christians would, instead, yell out: “We did it! Our sins killed Jesus Christ!”

Though all the above points of view have merit, there is another critical and enlightening dimension that must be included to fully comprehend who really killed Jesus Christ. But first let’s analyze the extent to which the main participants contributed to  Jesus Christ’s death.

 

DID THE JEWS KILL JESUS CHRIST?

 

Through the centuries, the Jews have been blamed as being the ones who were responsible for Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Did the Jews really kill  Jesus Christ? No doubt the accusers of Jesus Christ were Jews, but it would be absurd to point to all the Jews in Judea as being accusers of Jesus Christ. Let’s not forget that “multitudes,”  had followed and had seen Jesus Christ’s miracles over his 3 ½ years of preaching (Matthew 15:29-31). A great many had been healed from incurable diseases. Some had been brought back from the dead. A lot of Jews, consequently, felt nothing but gratitude toward this young miraculous preacher. Many religious leaders, on the other hand, were filled with envy and bitterness, because of Jesus Christ’s accusations and condemnations and, according to the Gospels, wished to get rid of Him in any way they could (Matthew 12:14).

Jesus Christ, on several occasions,  called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers,” and He described them as untrustworthy leaders in front of huge crowds (Matthew 23). Their status within the nation had been undermined publicly by someone the crowds looked up to and believed in. This was a great and unacceptable humiliation. Therefore, the Pharisees were always on the lookout for opportunities that would allow them to accuse and kill Jesus Christ.

Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of the sellers of doves (Matthew 21:12).  Both groups, most certainly, would have thirsted for revenge as well. No doubt, when the opportunity came to get even, they were ready to make Jesus Christ pay for the affront.

The top religious leaders refused to share the limelight with the young man from Nazareth and feared that He would have become the acclaimed leader of the people. They, most of all, plotted to find fault in Him, so as to get Him killed: “Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the High Priest, who was called Caiphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him" (Matthew 26:4).

It is interesting to note that they were conscious of the fact that the majority of the people liked Jesus and, therefore, decided not to kill Him “…during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26: 1-5). They knew that the masses had to be handled carefully, to keep them from turning against them. Thus, their plan had to be skilfully conceived so as to convince the people that Jesus Christ was a blasphemer and that He deserved death.

Furthermore, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that when Jesus Christ was brought to the Sanhedrin, “The Chief Priest, the elders, and the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death” (26: 59-61), and found several. Finally, Jesus Christ’s own words were found sufficient to condemn Him to death. Thus, in the morning, “...all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death” (27:1). Later, when Pilate tried to release Jesus Christ, they vehemently insisted that He had to be killed, and the angry crowd that was present, as well as the priests, finally prevailed (Luke 23: 23).

Who was, therefore, present when Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted Jesus freed or killed? We can safely assume that the aforementioned groups were there. Others present were probably locals who may have known little about Jesus Christ and who blindly followed the religious leaders and took their accusations as trustworthy.

Were all the Jews, therefore, guilty of Jesus Christ’s death? Absolutely not. Were most of the religious leaders guilty? According to the Gospel story, they were. They plotted to capture Jesus Christ, they found false witnesses to inculpate Him, and they refused to believe His word, though His mighty works supported His claims. The religious leaders wanted Him dead and did not cease until their aim to have him killed was accomplished.

 

DID PONTIUS PILATE KILL JESUS CHRIST?

 

Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea. He was Caesar’s representative and, as such, was the greatest authority in the land. He had power over life and death. Thus, in the morning, Jesus Christ was brought to him for the final verdict. Pilate interviewed Christ and made his power clear to Him: "Do you not know that I have power to crucify You and power to release You" (John 19:10). Afterwards, he shared his obvious conclusion with the chief priests: “I find no fault in him.” (Luke 23:4).

Though he was convinced of Jesus Christ’s innocence, and though he tried to dissuade the priests and the crowd from their aim to have Christ killed, he finally relented to the blood-thirsty religious leaders: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it" (Matthew 27:24). The reason why he surrendered to the will of the angry crowd is given to us in the Gospel of John: "The Jews insisted, we have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid..."(John 19:7-8).

Clearly Pilate’s decision was motivated by the fear of a potential revolt.  Therefore, to keep the leaders happy, and to prevent a dangerous rebellion, he relented to their request. Thus, though Pilate had the power to prevent  Jesus Christ’s death, he chose to sacrifice an innocent man to keep the peace. Pilate, therefore, was a willing participant and contributed to Christ’s death.

 

DID SATAN KILL JESUS CHRIST?

 

Satan was no doubt the major force behind the whole gruesome scenario. He had attempted to neutralize and destroy Jesus Christ from the start, by tempting Him and by trying to bring about His spiritual destruction. He continued tempting Jesus all the way to the end.

No doubt, Satan nurtured the spirit of envy and bitterness in the religious leaders; no doubt he influenced Pilate’s decision to have Him scourged mercilessly. Without any doubt, Satan moved the unrelenting crowds to request the death penalty by a gruesome crucifixion. He wanted  Jesus Christ to be traumatized beyond endurance, hoping that He would finally give up and surrender.

Though it may be difficult to know the exact extent of Satan's contribution, he was there and he was heavily involved.

 

DID THE SINS OF THE WORLD KILL JESUS CHRIST?

 

Many theologians would claim that the real culprit for Jesus Christ’s death were the sins of humanity and man’s need for redemption. Humans sinned from the beginning and have needed redemption ever since. During the time of ancient of Israel, God instituted a sacrificial system meant to emphasize the seriousness of sin and its demand for payment. Capital sins, related to the transgression of most of the Ten Commandments, could not be paid for by any sacrifice; the penalty was death. In fact, the Bible is quite dogmatic about the fact that the penalty of sin is death, with or without the Law (Romans 6:23).

To prevent such dramatic end for all of humanity, there was a need for a sacrifice that would suffice as payment for all our sins. Only a Divine Being could be such a sacrifice, as Paul explains in the Book of Hebrews 10:1-14.

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin."

 5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:  Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and   sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God.’

8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them ” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

The Son of God was the only sufficient payment for the sins of the world. Therefore, it is justified to say that our sins killed Jesus Christ.

 

THE ULTIMATE CAUSE

 

So far we have seen that there are several contributors to the death of Jesus Christ. Pilate, the religious leaders, Satan, the sins of the world. All can be listed as valid contributors to the final verdict. But is this all there is to the story? Let’s look closely at some aspects that have not yet been considered.

God the Father and Jesus Christ did not have to go through the gruesome experience of the flagellation and crucifixion of Christ. They could have simply allowed humanity to reap the fruits of its doing and could have moved on without humanity. God did not have to send Jesus to die for the sins of Mankind. He did not have to watch His “beloved Son" go through an agonizing flagellation and a horrific death on the cross.

Jesus Christ did not have to offer Himself for anyone. He had it all. Yet, He divested Himself of power and glory, came to live as a man and went through the agony of abuse and humiliation. He also suffered excruciating pain through the flagellation and agonized for six hours hanging from a cross.

AND HE DID NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH ANY OF IT!

Yet, these two perplexing beings chose the path of anguish so as to manifest their love for all of us.  They chose to deliver us from the death penalty and eternal extinction, though it would have meant anguish they had never experienced before.

Who ultimately killed Jesus Christ then? Was it Pilate, or the Jewish leaders, Satan, or our sins?

IT WAS GOD'S AND CHRIST'S LOVE FOR HUMANITY THAT ULTIMATELY KILLED JESUS CHRIST.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whomsoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God the Father loves us humans so much that He was willing to go through unfathomable anguish for us, by offering His only Son to be scourged and then to be nailed to a cross. It was His love that prevented our merited extinction. It was His love that brought us unmerited forgiveness and opened the possibility of eternal life for all humans.

Jesus Christ agreed to do God's will, fully conscious of the horrific ramifications that His decision would have had for Him. Yet, He was greatly encouraged by the fact that his future suffering would have brought about salvation for all of humanity: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6: 51).

This is love -- unfathomable love.

Who, therefore, killed Jesus Christ? The answer should be clear by now: The Jewish leaders wished it; Pilate could have, but did not prevent it; Satan incited it; our sins demanded it. Most of all, though, it was God the Father who willed it, and it was Jesus Christ who willingly offered himself to be sacrificed -- for the Jewish leaders who wanted Him killed, for Pilate who washed his hands, for the Roman soldiers who scourged and crucified Him, for you and for me, and for all of humanity that He and the Father love so deeply.

Therefore, as you watch Mel Gibson’s movie, please remember that God the Father willed and allowed the gruesome sufferings of Jesus Christ. Remember also that Jesus Christ willingly became a part of the horrendous ordeal. Most of all, consider how much God and Christ love you, that they would be willing to go through so much for your sake so that you and I, and the whole world, would not experience eternal destruction.

What an honor and blessing it is to have a Father and a Brother who love us this much.

Michael Caputo

  We would like to make this article available in various languages. If you're willing to volunteer to translate this article into your language, so as to bring the good news of God and Christ's love to your people, let us know. (email: mcaputo4163@rogers.com)  

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