Who Killed Jesus Christ?

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Who Killed Jesus Christ?

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Many people, particularly in North America, accept that putting an incorrigibly wicked person to death is a justifiable act. Killing innocents, however, is universally condemned. Only a madman or someone saturated by evil would kill his own brother or friend. Crazy people do that sort of thing, not normal people like us.

History is full of stories of fascinating murders. Some are fictitious, such as the myth of Oedipus Rex, the ancient Greek tragedy in which Oedipus, king of Thebes, kills his father, Laius, unknowingly and marries his own mother. She, in turn, commits suicide when she discovers his identity.

Many murders are stranger and more fascinating than any fictional scenario. Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C., assassinated by his close friend and ally, Brutus, on the steps of the Roman senate. That slaying ended a career that had changed the course of history. Henry VIII beheaded his second wife, Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I. The hapless Anne was executed because, as the story goes, she did not bear Henry a male heir. He likewise had his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, put to death.

Some medieval and Renaissance popes had political and religious rivals murdered supposedly to preserve the peace of God—or, more likely, to assert political and religious control. One pope hired a hit man to try to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I to bring England back into the Catholic fold—for the peace of God, of course.

Then there is the profound account of the first murder in history. Cain, unable to control his jealousy, killed his brother, Abel, because God said Abel was right and Cain was wrong. Cain established an often-followed pattern for dealing with disagreements.

But no tragedy really compares with the miscarriage of justice that resulted in the murder and execution of Jesus of Nazareth in A.D. 31. From the betrayal by a kiss from a trusted friend to Peter’s denial of even knowing Him in His greatest hour of need, the facts of Jesus’ death transcend any other in meaning and consequence.

Why did Jesus have to die? Why was He accused as a criminal? Who was responsible for His death? What does His 2,000-year-old murder—disguised as an execution—have to do with us?

A tragic death’s tragic aftermath

The story of Jesus’ murder is dramatic enough in itself. But an attempt to affix the blame for His death leads to an account of what is arguably humanity’s greatest spiritual depravity of all time.

According to the Scriptures, Jesus was both divine and human. He was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. His mother was Jewish, but His message of love was universal. Jesus loved His people, the Jews, and wept for them. He also loved the gentiles with whom He dealt, breaking the taboos of some rabbis of the day. As He told Nicodemus: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17 John 3:17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
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An outrage of history is the justification the Nazis cited for the genocide of 6 million Jews less than 60 years ago. With no real respect for the teachings of Christ, Hitler and his followers declared that the Jewish race was solely and collectively responsible, in all generations, for killing the Son of God. This poisonous doctrine brainwashed the Führer’s followers into believing the Jews should themselves be exterminated for murdering the Savior of mankind.

The Bible does not support the idea of unique and total Jewish responsibility for Christ’s death. But sadly, this concept did not originate with the Nazis. For almost 2,000 years mainstream Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, took this same position—often accompanied by lethal brutality.

Religions bear responsibility

Thomas Lederer, a Roman Catholic scholar, wrote in 1998 that, “whether Hitler’s unspeakably in-human acts against Jews were inspired by ethnic hatred, religious prejudice, and/or by a heinous economic system, Catholics around the world today are being called by Pope John Paul II to accept some accountability for the religious pretense used by Nazi hatemongers. According to the Pope, it was much easier for Christians to turn away from the reality of gas chambers and death camps with preconceptions of Jewish responsibility for Christ’s death coursing through the veins of those transfused with early childhood Christian religious education.

“‘In the Christian world…the wrong and unjust interpretations of the New Testament relating to the Jewish people and their presumed guilt circulated for too long, contributing to feelings of hostility toward these people,’ said Pope John Paul II in an October 1997 address to theologians taking part in a Vatican symposium on the roots of anti-Semitism in Christian teachings. ‘This contributed to soothing consciences to the point that, when a wave of persecutions swept Europe fueled by pagan anti-Semitism…the spiritual resistance of many was not that which humanity expected…’” (“2000 Years: Relations Between Catholics and Jews Before and After Vatican II ”).

Race hate and violence against Jews or any other ethnic group were contrary to the doctrine of Jesus and His apostles. Far from being anti-Semitic, Jesus taught that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22 John 4:22You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
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). Furthermore, all over the ancient world Jesus’ disciples taught their Master’s doctrine of love toward all.

They were themselves witnesses of the horrendous effects of violence. They had seen the Messiah brutalized and killed. They remembered Jesus’ teaching about fighting. “My kingdom is not of this world,” He said before the Roman governor Pilate. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36 John 18:36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
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Deadly prejudice takes root

Within 50 years of the death of the last of the apostles, anti-Semitism had settled comfortably into the Christianity of Rome. Many of the traditions and teachings of Roman Christians differed from those of Jesus and the apostles. A major shift was taking place. Early theologians set in motion the ostensible justification for nearly 2,000 years of violence toward the Jewish people.

Around 150 the theologian Justin (ca. 100-165) said of the Jews: “The tribulations were justly imposed upon you, for you have murdered the Just One.”

Sister Pista of Darmstadt, Germany, writes that “third-century Christian theologians, including Hippolytus and Origen, elaborated on this theory” of the Jews’ unique responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ. By the fourth century “it was to dominate Christian thinking” (“The Guilt of Christianity Towards the Jewish People ”).

The proponents of virulent anti-Semitism were the intellectuals of postbiblical Roman Catholic, and subsequently Protestant, forms of Christianity.

Theologian Lederer again writes “what seemed to exacerbate the rift between the Jews of the first century and Christians to a point of no return was the accusation of ‘deicide,’ that by conspiring with the Romans to crucify Jesus, the Jews who did not embrace the prophesied Messiah had actually killed God on earth.”

The charge of killing God wasn’t levied solely against those Jews who were alive in Christ’s time, but against the entire Jewish race for all time. Sister Pista quotes the early Catholic theologian Chrysostom (344-407) as setting up the most murderous rationale for genocide. For their alleged deicide, the Jewish people’s fate in being butchered was forever justified. For this crime there is “no expiation possible, no indulgence, no pardon”; their “odious assassination of Christ” had brought this fate on them.

She continues: “Chrysostom wrote: ‘God hates you.’ These words of Chrysostom popularized Jew-hatred for centuries to come. Thus, to quote one historian: ‘The popular Christian doctrine has always been that anyone, whether pagan or Christian, who has at any time persecuted, tortured or massacred Jews has acted as an instrument of Divine wrath.’”

The torch passes

Protestants, by assuming the same perspective that guilt for Christ’s murder lay exclusively in Jewish hands, often were as anti-Semitic as their Catholic predecessors. Martin Luther (1483-1546) initially defended the Jewish people, but later stated: “All the blood kindred of Christ burn in hell, and they are rightly served, even according to their own words they spoke to Pilate…Verily a hopeless, wicked, venomous and devilish thing is the existence of these Jews, who for fourteen hundred years have been, and still are, our pest, torment and misfortune. They are just devils and nothing more” (Pista).

In 1542 Luther wrote: “Firstly, their synagogues should be set on fire…Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed…Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds…Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more…

“Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews…Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury…Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses…We ought to drive the rascally lazy bones out of our system…Therefore away with them…

“To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews” (Pista).

Sister Pista observes: “Hitler and the Nazis found in medieval Catholic anti-Jewish legislation a model for their own, and they read and reprinted Martin Luther’s virulently anti-Semitic writings. It is instructive that the Holocaust was unleashed by the only major country in Europe having approximately equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants. Both traditions were saturated with Jew-hatred.”

The true Church and the Jews

Can any such views be found in the early record of the Church? Scripture records no hint of anti-Semitism in the biblical Church of God. On the contrary, the early Church identified deeply with Jews. The apostle Paul wrote: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:2-4 Romans 9:2-4 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
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If it were possible, Paul said, he would give up his eternal life if his death could somehow convert the Israelites. Anti-Semitism was abhorrent to Paul and the opposite of his faith and teaching.

Jesus said the law itself would not be done away “till heaven and earth pass away” (Matthew 5:18 Matthew 5:18For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
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). An anti-Semitic hatred of “Jewish” elements of God’s law came into focus only later as a new and popular form of Christianity moved away from its biblical roots.

Paul’s instructions to the gentile church in Rome ran counter to the anti-Semitic teaching that later developed against the law God had given through Israel. Roman bishops later hatefully labeled as “Judaizers” those who followed the approach Paul had taken toward the law of God. Paul had written that we should keep the law because it “is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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But, far from any hint of anti-Semitism, the teaching of the biblical Church regarding responsibility for the death of Jesus was not focused on the Jewish people.

Notice what the Church said on this question “with one accord”: “’The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:26-28 Acts 4:26-28 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done.
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Those “gathered together” against Jesus included Judean King Herod (who was a gentile convert to Judaism and not a Jew by birth) and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, representative of the greatest power on the civilized earth, along with gentiles and “the people of Israel.” The early Church understood that gentiles were responsible for Jesus’ death as much as Jews.

In his writings Paul acknowledged that his countrymen “killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 14 For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
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). At the same time we see he also held others responsible for Christ’s death: “…We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery…, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
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To Paul, the spiritual ignorance and blindness of rulers were responsible for the crucifixion. He referred primarily to gentile and Jewish political authority, although Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem also bore responsibility.

Yet he knew that others, too, shared the guilt for the murder of the Son of God.

The biblical story

A few weeks before the Passover in A.D.31, Jesus supernaturally resurrected his friend Lazarus at Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem. Word of the miracle quickly reached the religious establishment of Jerusalem. The leaders there considered Jesus a threat. He had often criticized them for hypocrisy, and He had a huge public following, some of whom already considered Him the promised Messiah, who would save Israel.

“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation’…Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (John 11:47-53 John 11:47-53 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man does many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said to them, You know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spoke he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. 53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
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One of Christ’s disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Him around midnight. The mob the chief priests had assembled took Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

In a series of manipulated trials in search of a crime, Jesus’ accusers trumped up charges of blasphemy against Him based on His statement that He was the Son of God. The Jewish leaders handed Jesus to Pilate, and then to Herod and back to Pilate, who sought to have Him released because he could find no grounds for punishment.

But the Jewish authorities kept up the pressure. They manipulated another mob to pressure Pilate not to release Jesus—Pilate traditionally released a prisoner each Passover—but to have Him executed.

Pilate finally consented. He had his prisoner mercilessly scourged with whips, then condemned to death by crucifixion, a death reserved for the lowest criminals and enemies of Rome.

Around 9 in the morning the Roman soldiers drove spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet and raised Him upright.

The people watched, many horrified, others in shock about this turn of events. Some mocked Him as He hung for six hours in the hot sun.

Then, “about the ninth hour” (3 p.m.), as the high priest began sacrificing the lambs for the Passover observance that evening, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46 Matthew 27:46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
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A final surge of pain wracked Jesus’ body. His heartbeat slowed, then stilled. A spectacular storm erupted, with lightning and thunder. In the temple only a few thousand feet away, the huge curtain separating the Holy of Holies from its court was torn in half. The murder of the Son of God was the ultimate crime against humanity, by humanity and for humanity.

Why did He have to die?

The meaning of the events surrounding the death of Jesus Christ is revealed elsewhere in the Scriptures. We all, regardless of our race or religion, share in the blame for the death of the perfect, righteous Son of God, one who did not deserve to die.

Since all humanity shares the blame for Christ’s death, anti-Semitism is entirely unjustified. The beauty of His sacrifice is that all of the crimes of humanity are paid for by this spectacular act of selflessness.

The beauty of His sacrifice is that all of the crimes of humanity are paid for by this spectacular act of selflessness.

It is by Christ’s sacrifice that the sins of every man, woman and child who has ever lived are paid for. The only Man who ever lived a perfect life surrendered that life for Pontius Pilate, Herod, the gentiles and all the Israelites, the Jewish people included. He died because of every sin and for every sinner before His generation and since. He died for Judas, who betrayed Him; Peter, who denied Him; the false witnesses who testified against Him; the priests who condemned Him; and the Romans who tormented and executed Him. He died for all the violence, lying and hatred of the children of Israel and gentiles alike.

All the disciples fled from Him that day. Virtually all the others who earlier had followed Him also rejected Him that day. Most people today still reject Him. Although the world remains ignorant and unbelieving, we should understand His sacrifice and be moved to understanding and faith.

Who killed Jesus Christ?

In one of the most sublime prophecies of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah foretold who was responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ—and what that ultimately means for every human being.

“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth…

“By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, …because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:3-12 Isaiah 53:3-12 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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Who killed Jesus Christ? You did. I did. We all did.

By the will of God, when we accept this fact, the way opens for us to share with Him His eternal Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Are you interested?

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