Who Killed Jesus?
Here’s how the life of Jesus Christ came to an end:
· He was an innocent man who was dragged before a tribunal on trumped up charges primarily because of jealously
· The trial was illegal according to Jewish law
· He was killed as a common criminal in the most inhumane manner conceivable
· The Roman soldiers admitted at the crucifixion that he was a “righteous man”
· Even Judas confessed that he had “betrayed innocent blood”
· The authorities bribed the guards to cover up the resurrection
· His followers were persecuted
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? The Bible gives us the answer in Acts 3:13-18.
I. Several people or groups of people bear the actual responsibility for the historical act of killing Jesus Christ 13-17
1. Individual Jews.
Peter is clearly addressing the people of Israel (“people” and “men of Israel” v 12) who flocked to see Peter and John after the healing of the lame man (vs 1-11). Then in v 13 he made a direct charge against them - "the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him." He had made this same statement during his first sermon only then he seems to broaden it to include the Jewish people at large, NAS Acts 2:36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-- this Jesus whom you crucified."
NAS John 18:35 Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You up to me; what have You done?"
NAS Mat 27:25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
If there is any doubt, Peter states exactly what happened, 13Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses."
So they turned Christ over to the Roman authorities, denied Him, they screamed for a murderer to be released instead, and then they destroyed him. Wow, what an indictment!
But maybe Peter sensed the heart of God when he suggested that they acted without knowing what they were doing- v 17 "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also."
Now Peter was being especially generous to the religious leaders who should have known that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the OT Scriptures. This also is a subtle picture of divine generosity to men. God offers a free pardon to all those who would repent of sin and believe in this Jesus – even to those who killed him in ignorance!
2. Jewish rulers.
Peter narrows the culpability and pinpoints the religious leaders of the Jews - v 17 "…just as your rulers did also." Clearly they were the leaders in this horrible act.
Remember what Jesus told Pilate during the infamous interview, NAS John 19:11 Jesus answered, "… for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin." So the question is, “who delivered him?”
The answer: NAS John 18:3 "Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons." From Judas to the religious leaders to the Romans. Matthew explains that they delivered Jesus because of “envy” (27:18).
He was the presiding Roman official at the time. Even though he knew Jesus was an innocent man (Mat 27:23 - Pilate responded to the crowds demand to crucify Jesus with, “Why, what evil has he done?”). And even though he did have the authority to release Jesus as he arrogantly told Jesus (John 19:10), he didn’t do so.
Furthermore, we are told that, in the end, Pilate bowed to political pressure. The tragic scene is recorded in John 19:12-16. What a pitiful figure!
4. The Roman soldiers.
And by extension the Roman government. These were the ones actually doing the dirty work. According to the various accounts of the crucifixion, they were the ones who stripped Jesus, mocked him, spit upon him, embedded the crown of thorns, compelled him to drag his cross, nailed his hands to the cross, and drove a spear into his side.
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.
So, we learn first that numerous people are to blame for killing Jesus. However, there is more…
II. Believers of all ages carry conceptual and blameworthy responsibility for killing Jesus
The previous was obvious; now the not so obvious. There is plenty of evidence elsewhere in Scripture to substantiate this even though it is not mentioned in our text.
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 Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
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."
NAS Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"- -
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. Everything else is a moot point.
The following account teaches us somewhat of this concept. It was February 1941, Auschwitz, Poland. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism. Months went by and in desperation an escape took place. The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and exposure as a lesson against future escape attempts.
Names were called. A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Wait, I have a wife and children!" Kolbe stepped forward and said, "I will take his place." Kolbe was marched into the cell with nine others where he managed to live until August 14.
This story was chronicled on an NBC news special several years ago. Gasovnachek, by this time 82, was shown telling this story while tears streamed down his cheeks. A mobile camera followed him around his little white house to a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE. HE DIED IN MY PLACE. Every day Gasovnachek lived since 1941, he lived with the knowledge, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he travels to Auschwitz in memory of Kolbe. (Source: Victor Knowles, Peace on Earth Ministries, from Crossroads Family Circle.)
To recap, specific people killed Jesus; believers of all ages killed Jesus. But there is more….
III. God Himself is ultimately responsible for killing Jesus 18
This is the part that is hard to swallow! Jesus was killed by His Heavenly Father! The crucifixion of Jesus would be a meaningless event if it were dependant on the whims and dispositions of human behavior. Verse 18 makes an incredible statement: "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
So Jesus’ death was a part of the divine plan. The OT prophets announced the death of the Messiah and God Himself brought it to pass. (Isa 53:1-12).
Jesus Himself, said as much when he uttered his agonizing prayer in the Garden on the night of his arrest. (Mat 26:39-42).
And, how can we forget his remarkable prayer-cry as suffered beyond belief on the cross, My God, My, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mat 26:46).
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!
Peter stated this concept in NAS Acts 2:23 "this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death."
So God determined in eternity pass to offer his Son as the sacrifice for the sins of men; but sinful men get the blame!
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 do this? Hopefully you can quickly answer, “in order to save us”. This was the only remedy for our sin! Our sin against the holy God required a holy payment of the penalty of sin, which was death.
But more than that, God killed Jesus in order to bring greatest glory to Himself. Never forget this mammouth truth! I think of Abraham’s reply to Issac’s question, “…the fire, the wood, but where is the lamb?”, was “God shall provide FOR himself a lamb.” (Gen 22:8).
Don’t miss this: the sins of sinful men nailed Jesus to the cross, yet he died for sinful men. In fact, God the Father sent him to the cross to satisfy his wrath against sinners!
With Peter, I beg of you to repent. NAS Acts 3:19 - "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
And don't miss this: the incredible truth of God’s sovereignty. Think of it. If God can control the events of the passion of our Lord for his glory, I suppose he can manage the paltry circumstances of my life for his glory as well!
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2015. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.