Who Killed Jesus? Acts 3:13-18
This Easter season, read the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus in the four gospels. Then answer this question, “Who killed Him?” If you want to light a political-religious firestorm, just mention casually that you believe that Jews are responsible for killing Jesus. Then hold your breath!
Well, who did kill Jesus? Who gets the blame? And does it matter? Did Bill O'Reilly get it right in his book, “Killing Jesus”?
The Bible has something to say about this. Consider Peter’s second sermon recorded in Acts 3:13-18.
I. Several people or groups of people bear the actual responsibility for killing Jesus 13-17
1. The Jewish people (individuals and nation).
Peter is clearly addressing the people of Israel (“people” and “men of Israel” v 12) who were present.
Then, in v 13-15 he made a direct personal charge against them (2nd person plural verbs “you”). It is almost as if he pointed a finger in their faces. (In his first sermon he accused the “house of Israel”, Acts 2:36).
So they turned Christ over to the Roman authorities, denied Him, screamed for a murderer to be released instead of him, and then "put (him) to death". Wow, what an indictment!
2. The Jewish rulers. Peter narrows the culpability and pinpoints the religious leaders of the Jews - v17 “…just as your rulers did also.” Clearly they were the leaders in this criminal act.
3. Pilate. He was the presiding Roman official at the time. Even though he knew Jesus was an innocent man, Pilate responded to the crowds demand to crucify Jesus with, “Why, what evil has he done?” (Matthew 27:23). And even though he did have the authority to release Jesus ), he didn’t do so (John 19:10).
We also think of:
4.The Roman soldiers. And by extension the Roman government. These were the ones who actually drove the nails and thrust the spear.
5.Judas. His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver initiated that horrible night. It is shocking to recall that he was one of the Twelve. He knew Jesus intimately. If ever, we doubt the wickedness of men’s hearts, if ever we doubt man’s capacity to turn from God, just take another look at Judas.
The previous was obvious; now the not so obvious:
II. All believers bear conceptual responsibility for killing Jesus
Even though it is not mentioned in our text, there is plenty of evidence elsewhere in Scripture to substantiate the notion that believers bare responsibility for Jesus’ death.
NAS Galatians 2:20 "… I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” But why did he have to die for me? The answer is my sin against the Holy God! Listen…
NAS 1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Therefore, here is the deal. Jesus was killed because of me. Moreover, I need to make it very personal! I cannot point the finger at anyone else.
To recap, specific people actually killed Jesus; believers of all ages conceptually killed Jesus. I killed Jesus. But there is more….
III. God, the Father, is ultimately responsible for killing Jesus 18
Verse 18 makes an incredible direct statement, "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” The verb, “he fulfilled” refers to the Father! (Lenski 140), and means "fill up". Here the sense is something like "accomplishing completely" (Thayer 4268).
So, Jesus was killed by His Heavenly Father! This truth is hard to get our hands around! In fact, many Christians flatly reject it. But, Jesus’ death was part of the divine plan. It was no accident or divine defeat! The OT prophets announced the death of the Messiah and God Himself precisely brought it to pass at just the right time. It is not that He planned it and then left it alone to play out however it might happen.
Jesus Himself, said as much when he uttered his agonizing prayer in the Garden on the night of his arrest, "…My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Mat 26:39). Then, how can we forget his remarkable prayer-cry as he suffered beyond belief on the cross, “…My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46).
This introduces us to the colossal concept of immediate and remote causality. God uses men to accomplish his purposes and they are accountable for their acts in the doing. But men could not act to accomplish God’s purposes unless God determined it! The crucifixion of Jesus would be a tragic and meaningless event if it were dependent on the whims and dispositions of human behavior.
Peter clearly stated this concept in Acts 2:23 “this Man, delivered up by (dative of means) the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by (dia + genitive = through) the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
So, God determined in eternity past to offer his Son as the sacrifice for the sins of men. And then, at a point of time in history, he executed his plan. But, sinful men voluntarily did the act and bear the blame! Nonetheless, God did it!
Now we know what Jesus meant when he replied to Pilate’s overestimation of his own authority, NAS John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…"
We may ask, why did God kill Jesus, his Son? Hopefully you can quickly answer, “in order to save us”. Our sin against the holy God required His holy payment of the penalty for our sin. This was the only remedy for our sin!
But more than that, God killed Jesus in order to bring greatest glory to Himself. This is vividly depicted in the account of Abraham’s near killing of Isaac when he replied to Isaac’s question “…the fire, the wood, but where is the lamb?”. He declared, “…God shall provide FOR himself a lamb…” (Gen 22:8 ESV, NAU, NKJ correct KJV, NIV “God himself”). Almost universally, Bible students see this as a picture of the cross.
Salvation is God originated, God initiated, God accomplished, God interpreted, and for the benefit of God. Dear friend, salvation is all about God, not us!
Don’t miss this: the sins of sinful men nailed Jesus to the cross, yet he died for those sinful men. In fact, God the Father sent him to the cross to satisfy His own wrath against sinners!
And incredibly, it gets better. Think of it. If God can control the events of the passion of our Lord for his own glory, I suppose he can manage the paltry circumstances of my life for His glory as well!
And, if my heavenly Father, purposefully killed his own Son, I can assuredly conclude that I’m in good hands! NAU Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
I am not the center of the universe. I am not the center of the cross-work of Christ. But my God is! And one product of His sovereign direction of every event in history, including the cross, is my salvation.
Our Father really does have all the bases covered!