You stand at the foot of the stake where Jesus of Nazareth hangs, nails driven through His hands and feet, a crown of thorns shoved upon His head. Roman soldiers gamble at the base of the stake. Suddenly, one of the legionaries picks up a spear and thrusts it into Jesus' side.
Who is responsible for the murder of Jesus? For many centuries some Christians condemned Jews as the murders of Jesus. This view spawned anti-Semitism and persecution by Christians. Should the blame be placed on the Roman soldiers? Was the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, an innocent man who was forced to condemn Jesus to death? Who should be put on trial for the murder of the greatest man to walk this earth? On Beyond Today we're going to answer the question, "Who Really Killed Christ?"
Two thousand years ago Jewish leaders dragged Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate accusing Jesus of sedition. Pilate's wife had a troubling dream about the Jewish teacher and begged her husband to spare Him. The governor did have a way out of condemning Jesus—it was the Jewish Passover season and Roman custom dictated that mercy be exhibited at the Passover by releasing a prisoner. Pilate offered the crowd gathered for the event a choice of Barabbas, a hardened criminal, or Jesus, the greatest man to ever walk the earth. The crowd chose Barabbas.
In the Gospel of Matthew we are told how, "Pilate said to them, 'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said to him, 'Let Him be crucified.'" The governor asked the crowd, "What evil has He done?" The crowd answered by chanting, "Let Him be crucified."
Matthew then writes, "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this Just person. You see to it.' And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and our children'" (Matthew 27:19-26). Pilate gave in and Jesus was led away to be beaten, tortured and crucified.
This passage has been used for centuries to claim that the Jewish people and their children throughout history are directly responsible for the death of Jesus. This belief spawned terrible crimes of anti-Semitism by Christians.
Well, who really killed Jesus? Should Jews be held responsible throughout their generations? Does the responsibility rest upon the Roman soldiers who beat Him and actually crucified Him? Should Pilate take the blame?
We'll come back to Jesus' death and reveal who really killed Jesus. But, to fully understand the answer, we have to look at events that happened the night before Jesus was killed, when He ate a Passover meal with His disciples.
Now the Jewish Passover is traced back to the time of Moses when God led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. Moses told pharaoh that God wanted him to let the Israelites go free. When pharaoh refused, God brought nine terrible plagues on the people and the land of Egypt. When again pharaoh refused, God said that He would kill all the firstborn.
Now the Israelites were told to smear the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses so that the Lord would pass over them and they would be spared. Generations of Israelites celebrate that night, when their ancestors listened to the horrible, terrible cries of Egyptians mourning their dead, and the Lord passed over their houses, by observing the Passover.
Now, let's move forward to the time of Jesus, which was more than 1400 years after that first Passover. On the tenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, we find Jewish families selecting lambs to be sacrificed four days later. On the fourteenth day of the month, they killed the lambs and ate a special meal of lamb, herbs and unleavened bread to commemorate God's mercy shown to their ancestors.
It was on the fourteenth day of the first month that Jesus was crucified. The night before His death, He ate a Passover meal with His leading disciples. Matthew tells us, "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said/saying, 'Take, eat, this is my body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sin" (Matthew 26:26-28).
To understand who killed Jesus, we must first understand something very important about His mission in God's plan of salvation.
There are a number of important issues in what Jesus told His disciples on that Passover eve in what we just read. When we look carefully at these verses in Matthew, we see that Jesus told His disciples that they must eat bread and drink wine as symbols of His body and blood. He carefully explained that what He was doing was the beginning of a new covenant; and what He was doing involved God's forgiveness of sins.
What did Jesus mean when He said that they must eat bread and drink wine as symbols of His body and His blood? How were these symbols involved in the forgiveness of sins? And why did He choose a Passover meal to give them these instructions?
Well the answers are found in ancient prophecies of the Old Testament. The prophets told of a coming Messiah, or Christ, who would establish God's Kingdom on the earth. Now there are also other prophecies about a great Servant of God who would suffer for the nations.
One prophecy that tells of this "suffering Servant" is found in Isaiah 52-53. In this prophecy, the Servant of God is beaten and "His visage marred more than any man." He is "wounded for our transgressions," "bruised for our iniquities," and made an "offering for sin." In his death He "bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors " (Isaiah 52:13-15 and Isaiah 53:1-12).
Now think about it. If the Messiah is supposed to conquer the nations and rule from Jerusalem, who is this suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah? How does He fit into God's plan of salvation? The key to understanding the identity of this suffering Servant is found in what Jesus did at the Passover meal and His suffering throughout that night and the next day.
So when we go back to the Passover night, where Jesus tells His disciples that they must eat His body and drink His blood, we need to remember that Jesus' disciples already believed that He was the prophesied Messiah. They fully expected Him to overthrow Rome and establish God's Kingdom from Jerusalem.
Can you imagine their disbelief and confusion when Jesus was allowed, and He allowed Himself, to be taken by the Romans? Can you imagine their despair when they watched Jesus die? Can you imagine their astonishment when He was resurrected from the dead and appeared to them three days and three nights later?
On one occasion after His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples. Now we pick up the story in Luke 24: "Then He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me"—about Christ—"in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them,"—Now listen to this—"'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and remission of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:44-47).
Jesus was telling His disciples that not only was He the prophesied Messiah, who would eventually establish God's Kingdom on the earth, but He was the suffering Servant who would bring repentance and forgiveness of sins. Jesus came the first time to fulfill God's plan to supply a Passover for human sin. He will return the second time to establish God's Kingdom on the earth.
Now we still haven't answered who really killed Jesus? We still a have few pieces of the puzzle to fit together. Before we explore the final pieces of the puzzle, and reveal the identity of the person who killed Jesus, let me tell you about Jesus Christ—the real story.
Now if you think you know everything about Jesus Christ, you need to read Jesus Christ: The Real Story in order to separate fact from myth. This free, detailed study guide explains how Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament; how He is more than just a good man; His basic teachings; there's even a chapter on "Who Killed Jesus? "
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Go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars " link to find a seminar near you and register to attend. Now each seminar covers new material, so even if you've attended in the past, you don't want to miss an upcoming seminar.
Who is really responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ?
Before we discover the identity of the murderer of Jesus, let's review what we discussed earlier about some of the events that took place during the evening before Jesus' crucifixion. On that evening, Jesus ate a Passover meal with His disciples.
The Passover is an important annual event from the Old Testament. It commemorates the time when God killed the firstborn of Egypt, but saved the firstborn of Israel. At the first Passover, the Israelites had been instructed to smear some lamb's blood on their doorposts and the Lord passed over their families.
Matthew tells us about what happened during a Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples almost 1400 years later, "As they were eating, Jesus took bread and broke it, and give it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat, this is my body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sin" (Matthew 26:26-28).
We also saw how, after His resurrection, Jesus taught His disciples that not only was He the prophesied Messiah who would establish God's Kingdom on earth, but that He was the "suffering Servant" who would be wounded for our transgressions and be made an offering for sin.
After Jesus was resurrected, His followers continued to observe the Passover, but with a new understanding. For the earliest Christians, the Passover was no longer just a celebration of how God saved ancient Israel from slavery and how the Lord passed over their firstborn.
The apostle Paul writes about this new understanding over 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when he writes to the church in the Greek city of Corinth. Now listen to this: "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). For the earliest Christians, Jesus was celebrated as the Passover Lamb. The Passover was about a person.
To understand the need you and I have—and I, the need... I really stress that—that you and I have for Jesus as our Passover, we must all face our own corrupted human nature and the fact that each of us is condemned to death by the law of God. Sin, rebellion against God, is at the core of many of our thoughts and actions.
God doesn't simply accept us the way we are. To have a relationship with God we must repent of the way we are and the consequences of our sins. Then, you, I, must accept our need for a Passover.
Well at this point you may be saying, "But basically I'm a good person." But according to what God tells us in the Bible, none of us, none of us are good enough to earn God's favor. Only by accepting the smeared blood of Jesus, the Son of God who committed no evil, as the substitute for the penalty you deserve, I deserve, can we be passed over instead of suffering the death penalty required by the law of God.
Remember something. The Israelites who celebrated the first Passover smeared the blood of a lamb on their door posts and ate the lamb to commemorate the mercy and power of God who freed them from slavery and death. They had no way to free themselves or save themselves. They couldn't get out of slavery. They couldn't get out of their own death.
Christians are to celebrate the Passover by partaking of the symbols of Christ's body and blood. Just like the ancient Israelites, you and I have no way to save ourselves from the slavery of sin or eternal death, unless it is through the blood of the Lamb of God. I mean, if you think you can save yourself then tell me something: how can you die and then resurrect yourself?
Let's return to 1 Corinthians where Paul writes, "For often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Once a year, on the anniversary of the Passover that Jesus kept with His disciples, Christians should gather to proclaim the Lord's death. It is a profound experience to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus as the Passover in the manner and on the same night that He did with His disciples so many centuries ago.
Which brings us back to our original question, who really killed Jesus? Who should be put on trial? You know Pilate wasn't the good guy of this story. All he was concerned with was politics and maintaining Roman rule. The Roman soldiers were pagans who could not have cared less about a Jewish Messiah. The Jewish leaders thought they were serving God, doing His will. Even many of Jesus' own disciples denied Him that night during His greatest time of need.
So let's transport ourselves back to the scene at the feet of where Jesus has been crucified. The Roman soldier who has just thrust the spear into the side of Jesus slowly turns towards you. You now have an opportunity to look into the face of the murderer of the Son of God. He turns. He takes his helmet off, and you find yourself staring into your own reflection.
My purpose in making this statement is not just an attempt at theatrics. Here's the point, Christianity would be a fake religion unless Jesus, the Son of God, came from heaven to live as a man, died for the sins of all humanity, and was resurrected three days and three nights later. To become a true follower of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life, you and I must accept something very important. We must accept that His death was a substitute for what we deserve. This is the foundational truth of what it is to be a Christian. Once you accept that you deserve death, and God sacrificed a Passover for you, then you can begin to respond to God.
Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers who drove the spikes into His hands and feet, you, I, we are all guilty of the blood of the Son of God.
Less than two months after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, Peter was speaking to a large crowd in Jerusalem. The people were shocked when Peter told them that God had "glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up in the presence of Pilate..." Peter then told them that they had "killed the Prince of life..." (Acts 3:13-14).
In his oration, Peter used Old Testament scriptures to show that Jesus was prophesied to suffer and be resurrected. He told those present, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
Many of those listening to Peter had heard Jesus teach. They had seen His miracles. They had been disappointed when He was crucified. Through the teachings of Peter, John and others many people turned to God and accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
The Passover isn't just an Old Testament observance. It is a profound annual observance for Christians who accept Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Observing the New Testament Passover links God's deliverance of ancient Israel together with our deliverance from sin.
The New Testament Passover no longer involves killing a lamb and smearing the blood on a doorpost, but recognizing Jesus Christ as the ultimate Passover Lamb.
Observing the New Testament Passover on the night Jesus instituted taking bread and wine as symbols of His body and blood takes us back to that dark night when the light of the world was about to shine on all humanity.
The New Testament Passover ties together the blood of the lamb that signaled the Lord to pass over the firstborn of ancient Israel, and the blood of the Lamb that offers eternal life to all who turn to God.
Now, in the next segment we'll talk about why we observe the New Testament Passover and why this annual observance is important for all Christians.
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Well we're joined by fellow Beyond Today co-hosts; Steve Myers, Darris McNeely. Why is the annual observance of the Passover—and we all observe the Passover annually, on the night that Jesus did—why is that so often ignored in the Christian world?
[Steve] I think part of the reason it's ignored is because it doesn't sound Christian.
[Gary] People think it's Jewish.
[Steve] Yeah, so many Christians assume that the Lord's Supper is something that we should keep and get it confused with what the New Testament actually says about the Passover. And there's such an observance of the Passover and normally you come to that time of the year and you see observances on the television. They usually cover the Jewish Passover and somehow it just gets all confused together I think. And people assume it's not Christian when in actuality, it is a Christian celebration.
[Gary] Well, how would you do, how should we keep the Passover then, this once a year observance? How should we do that?
[Steve] Well Paul gave some very specific instructions. In the book of 1 Corinthians, you quoted a little bit of it before, but sometimes we forget what that letter was written for, and one of the reasons was he was correcting them in proper observance in one case of the Passover, the Passover itself, because they were abusing it. They didn't understand it. They missed the point so many times. They thought well maybe some meal had a connection to it.
Confused things about the Lord's Supper when in actuality he points them to the fact that here in 1 Corinthians 11:23 he says, I received from the Lord. So where did his instructions come from? It came from the Lord Himself and what was it? He said that on the night, the same night in fact is the word he uses, the same night in which He was betrayed He took bread and then later He talks about the wine. So on that very same night is when the Passover is observed, the New Testament Passover, with that new symbolism that Jesus Christ Himself gave it.
[Gary]...Which He is the Passover.
[Steve] And He is that Passover.
[Darris] You asked how should a Christian do it? Very simply, basically, according to the manner in which Jesus did it. You read that scripture from 1 Corinthians 11 Steve, but it is a very simple ceremony yet very powerful and profound.
To sit down in a very quiet manner with fellow believers in a way to take the symbols of the bread and the wine, that symbolize the perfect body of Jesus Christ and the wine which is a symbol of the shed blood of Christ for our sins, and to take those in remembrance of Christ and to understand the deep significance of that sacrifice, and then to sing a hymn to close the evening. It's a very dignified, very solemn, very special occasion but yet profound and beautiful in its implications.
[Gary] Doing this ceremony on the night that Jesus did it, commemorating that event every year, how has that shaped your Christianity?
[Steve] In every way. I think in every way. When we understand the significance of the death of Christ and that very fact that you brought out; that I caused His death, I am a sinner and I need the sacrifice of Christ to cover that sin. And that reminder comes back and that, and then by extension that rededication in my life. That He is my Savior. I am dedicated to Him and I want to live by His example. And that reminder year after year refocuses me so that I need to have that Savior. Then I need to go forth and I need to do His will and I need to be that example and let Him live His life through me. So, it affects everything.
[Darris] I think Gary, that for me, it's an opportunity every year to just to go through a very deep self-examination. And go through the symbols, take those and then walk out of that room with a sense of hope that I've got a clean slate and I can start over again and hopefully make it a better year—my relationship with God and my other relationships with other people. It's that hope of a new slate that really has shaped by Christianity and my walk with God.
[Gary] Keeping that night in the way that Jesus did is one of the most profound experiences that you can go through and tying your life directly into that of our Savior—the One who is our Passover. Because all the symbols, all the New Testament, point to the Passover as a person and that person is Jesus Christ.
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We also want to remind you that Beyond Today and the United Church of God will be conducting Kingdom of God Seminars across the United States, Canada and around the globe. If you would like to know more about the return of Jesus Christ to set up His Kingdom or God's Kingdom, His Father's Kingdom here on this earth then you need to attend one of these free seminars.
Go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link to find a seminar near you and register to attend. Each seminar covers new material, so even if you've attended in the past, you don't want to miss this upcoming event.
The Passover is not just an Old Testament observance. It is a celebration of the foundational event of Christianity—the first coming of the Messiah as the suffering Servant to suffer and die for the sins of humanity. I urge all of you to study what the Gospels teach about that Passover that Jesus kept with His disciples and to follow His example.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also to invite you to join us in continually praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today, I'm Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.