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Through the centuries, the Jews have been blamed as being the ones who were responsible for Christ’s crucifixion. Did the Jews really kill Christ? No doubt the accusers of Christ were Jews, but it would be absurd to point to all the Jews in Judea at the time as being accusers of Christ. Let’s not forget that “ multitudes,” had followed and had seen 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 Christ’s accusations and condemnations and, according to the Gospels, wished to get rid of Him in any way they could (Matthew 12:14).
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 Christ.
The moneychangers had their tables overturned By Christ (Matthew 21:12). They, most certainly, would have liked to get revenge as well.
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).
Furthermore, when Christ was brought to the Sanhedrin, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that “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, 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 Christ, they vehemently insisted that He 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 above three groups were there. Others present were probably locals who may have known little about Christ and who blindly followed the religious leaders and took their accusations as reliable.
Were all the Jews, therefore, guilty of Christ’s death? Absolutely not. Were most of the religious leaders guilty? According to the Gospel story, they appear to be. They plotted to capture 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 aims were accomplished.
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, 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 Christ’s innocence, and though he tried to dissuade the priests and the crowd from their aim to see Christ dead, he finally relented to the blood-thirsty religious leaders. We may safely speculate that the reasons for Pilate’s decision may have been to simply keep the leaders happy so as to prevent a potential revolt they might have inspired.
Nonetheless, even though Pilate had the power to prevent 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.
Satan was no doubt the major force behind the whole gruesome scenario. He had attempted to neutralize and destroy Christ from the start, by tempting Him and trying to bring about His spiritual destruction. He continued tempting Christ 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 crowds to request the death penalty by a gruesome crucifixion. He wanted Christ to be traumatized beyond endurance, hoping to see Him 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.
THE SINS OF THE WORLD
Many theologians would claim that the real culprit for Christ’s death was the sins of humanity and man’s need for redemption. Humans sinned from the beginning and have needed redemption since then. 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 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 Lhe Law (Romans 6:23).
To prevent such dramatic end for all of humanity, there was a need for a sacrifice that could suffice as payment for all our sins. Only a Divine Being could be such a sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-15).
The Son of God was the only sufficient payment for the sins of the world. Thus, it is justified to say that our sins killed Christ.
THE ULTIMATE CAUSE
So far we have seen that there are several contributors to the death of Christ. Pilate, the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem, Satan, the sins of the world. All can be listed as valid contributors to the final verdict. But is this all there is to this story?
Let’s look closely at some aspects that have not yet been considered.
God the Father and 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 simply started again from scratch. God did not have to send Christ to die for the sins of Mankind. He did not have to see 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 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 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 Christ then? Was it Pilate, or the Jewish leaders, or Satan, or our sins?
IT WAS THE LOVE OF GOD AND CHRIST THAT ULTIMATELY KILLED 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 for Him. Yet, He was greatly encouraged by the fact that his future suffering would bring about salvation for all of humanity.
"John 6: 51 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."
This is love -- unfathomable love.
Who, therefore, killed Jesus Christ?
The answer should now be clear: 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 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 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.