Why Did They Kill Jesus Christ?

Title: Why Did They Kill Jesus Christ?

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Date: March 22nd, 2009

There are four Sundays, including this one, until Easter, so we are going to take a break from talking about the economic recession and our response to it as Christians. Today, I’m starting a four part series on Easter, and I’ll be examining four basic questions over the next few weeks: One, why did they kill Jesus Christ? Two, why did Judas betray Jesus Christ? Three, why did Jesus need to die? Four, why did Jesus need to rise from the dead? Matthew 20:17-19 touches on all four of these themes: “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.’” So we see the four topics described in this one simple verse. The four gospels explain the last few days of Jesus’ life more than any other part of his life because in the wider scope of things, the death and resurrection of Christ means the most to us in our eternal salvation. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there are parts of the life of Christ that could be omitted, but I will say that you can’t eliminate the last few days of Jesus’ life and still have the gospel or salvation. In fact, if Jesus had lived his life exactly as described in the four Gospels all except the last few days, we wouldn’t be here today talking about Christianity because there probably wouldn’t have been any Christian faith, and there certainly wouldn’t be the gospel of salvation. So the last few days of Christ’s life are most important. That’s why we have to understand these last few days of Jesus’ life if we are to understand the whole point and purpose of Christianity. Today, we live in a fully modern world, where there is a rising standard of living, where inventions and technological breakthroughs give us newer and better products for living, but even in the midst of these exciting things we are losing the point and purpose of life. I think the old phrase, “All dressed up and no place to go” perfectly describes our day and age. We’ve got newer and nicer things, but we don’t seem to remember why we are getting all dressed up fancy to begin with. It reminds me of another story I heard about passengers on an airplane that encountered severe weather turbulence while in flight. One worried passenger knocked on the cabin door and asked the pilate if he had any idea where they were; he was concerned that they might become lost in the storm. To which the pilate responded, “No, I have no idea where we are, but we are making good time.” That’s just like our secular day and age we live in. It’s making great time, but it hasn’t got a clue where it’s going or why it’s here in the first place. Easter, the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus, supplies our lives once again with meaning and purpose, because it helps us understand the whole point of living – why we are here in the first place and where we are going, and why these things matter. So without any further delay, let me begin with our first question – why did they kill Jesus Christ?

First, why did the Jews kill Jesus Christ? Matthew 20:17-19, “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.’” So the first group of people Jesus singles out in predicting his death is the Jews, particularly the Jewish leaders. A few years ago there was a big controversy around the time Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ hit theaters in 2004 involving the question, “Who killed Jesus Christ?” The controversy centered on the claims of the movie that the Jews killed Christ. Obviously that is not something that any Jew wants to be blamed for, especially today in our age of political correctness. So there were experts who debated the issue of who really killed Christ? Was it the Jews or is it more correct to say the Jewish leaders? Or, is it even correct to say the Jewish leadership killed Christ because after all it was the Gentile Romans who actually did the killing; the Jews were not even allowed under Roman occupation to carry out any form of capital punishment for any reason. So the debate went back and forth. But from the Bible’s description it’s pretty clear to understand that, yes, the Romans actually physically killed Christ on the cross, but it was at the request of the Jews, and more specifically the Jewish leadership of that time. But why did the Jewish leaders want Jesus dead? The simple answer is that they had a religious monopoly going and they didn’t want to lose any business to a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Starting from the pure revelation of God through Moses and the Old Testament the Jewish religion had eventually developed over time into a distorted legalistic system of rules, of does and don’ts, administered by the Jewish leadership. Probably most of the leaders had good intentions of carrying on the traditions they had been given, but whether they knew it or not they were oppressing the people with the letter of the law and leaving out the Spirit. Jesus likened the Jewish religion of his time to a fig tree that looked great from a distance, but upon closer examination yielded no fruit. Matthew 21:18-19, “Early in the morning, as he (Jesus) was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.” Jesus was bringing the words and inspiration of God to the people again but the established Jewish leaders resisted because it was different from what they were teaching. They saw Jesus as such a threat to their own religious system that they were willing to have him killed. The question we have to ask ourselves over and over again throughout our life is, “Am I following closely after the true Christian faith as found in the Bible and believed by the historic Christian church down through the ages, or am I part of a corrupt, developing, man-made system of religion that is distorting the pure faith? That was the question the Reformation had to answer, but we have to ask and answer the same question in our lifetime. Are you believing and living the true faith or merely following the teachings of man?

Second, Why did the Roman Gentiles kill Jesus? Matthew 20:17-19, “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death, and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.’” Now the debate over who killed Christ, the Jews or the Romans, is really splitting hairs. Like I said before, the actual, physical death of Christ came at the hands of the Romans, but the Jewish leaders were responsible for delivering Jesus over to the Romans. If you want to get technical about it, Pilate didn’t actually kill Jesus, neither did the Romans in general, but specifically, it was those half-a-dozen soldiers who actually, physically nailed him to the cross and put him up there to die. But everyone knows that they only carried out orders from Pilate the Roman Governor. But Pilate was only going along with the wishes of the Jewish leaders, etc. The point of the Bible’s account is to show that all of humanity, Jews and Gentiles, Jews and non-Jews, we are all guilty of the death of Christ because it was your sins and my sins and everyone’s sins that made it necessary for Christ to die as a sacrificial atonement for sin. So the real answer to the question that was debated a few years back when the movie The Passion of the Christ was released, “Who killed Christ?” is that everyone, all of us, in one way or another were responsible for the death of Jesus on the cross. Yes, there were those who were directly responsible for the crucifixion; that’s an historical fact. But all of us, all of us sinners, are responsible for Christ coming to earth in order to die for sinners in order to save them. The Apostle Paul, later on, says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus came to die for sinners. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood,” Romans 3:25. Just as it was both Jews and Gentiles who killed Christ, so also salvation is offered to both: “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by that same faith,” Romans 3:29-30. So in answering the question, why did the Gentiles kill Christ, we must come back to the point that being sinners they do sinful things. The Romans joined in with the Jews to commit the most notorious crime in the history of the world – the death of the Savior Jesus Christ, 2nd Person of the Trinity, God the Son. The most sinful act against the sinless, perfect Christ. It’s what sinners do — sin. And we are guilty of it in some sense as well, being sinners ourselves. Yet there was One who was a part of Christ’s death who was responsible, but is not a sinner and is not guilty. Let me explain.

Third, why did God the Father kill Christ? Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. . . .” Here is a point that was almost totally missed in the debate a few years back about who is responsible for the death of Christ. And the strange part is that many Christians miss this point as well – God Almighty, God the Father, First Person of the Holy Trinity, He is also responsible for the death of Christ. If that sounds strange to you then you aren’t familiar with a very old and historic teaching found in Christianity for over 2000 years, and that is the teaching that it was God’s will that Christ die on the cross for our benefit. In one sense it does seem strange, almost blasphemous, to suggest that God had a hand in killing Christ, because it seems to contradict so many feelings we have about who is really to blame. Some people think about Judas who betrayed Christ in the Garden, others think of the Jewish leaders who turned Jesus over to the Romans, still others blame Pilate for giving the order to crucify Jesus, but hardly anyone ever talks about God’s role in the death of Christ, or even Jesus’ own role in his own death. Jesus had said many times, for example in John 10:17-18, that he would lay down his life, that nobody could take it from him, that he lays it down voluntarily. So in this we see the responsibility of Jesus for his own death as an atoning sacrifice for the ones he loved. But even further back in the mystery of God is that fact that God the Father willed that Christ die on the cross for the sins of the world. That’s what the Isaiah 52 passage is talking about, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” It was the will of God that Jesus die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Without that atoning sacrifice, without that blood sacrifice on our behalf we couldn’t be saved. As strange as it sounds, as contradictory as it seems, God is also responsible for the death of Christ. Although Christian teachings have always carefully insisted that this fact in no way makes God sinful or guilty of any moral or ethical crime. There are always people who wish to take the subtleties of truth and distort them into error or lies. That’s how cults are started or false religions or philosophies gain followers. No. We want to be careful that even though God is responsible for the death of Christ in the sense of willing it to happen ultimately for the salvation of believers, this doesn’t make him guilty of sin, just as it doesn’t make Christ himself guilty of sin for willing his own atoning death. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” as Paul teaches in Romans 5:8. In the middle of our present economic recession we need to get our eyes off our own immediate financial problems for a few seconds and think about something far more important and long-term – “For God so loved the world (and everyone in the world including us) that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. And then the important question becomes, what are we going to do about it in response? I hope you have dedicated your life to God through Jesus Christ, but if you haven’t now would be a good time. Forget about the economy or your job or your bills or your other financial worries for a while, and think about your eternity. God is offering you eternal life in heaven with him, which is far better than any temporary economic recovery package can offer or produce. God is offering you something more than any earthly life can offer. Would you miss out on an eternity of happiness because you were too preoccupied with things down here on earth? Don’t miss the best by pursuing a cheap substitute. Commit your life to God today.

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3 Responses to “Why Did They Kill Jesus Christ?”

  1. Ilze Henderson Says:

    Wonderful! Thank you! I struggled with exactly the same issues and the Lord revealed His truth to me through writing the book The Bible: Behind the Scenes. And it agrees exactly what you say. Especially the part that the crucifixion was all part of the Divine Plan by the Father. Jesus had to die and it had to be on a cross, in order to free us from our sinful nature.

  2. Anders Branderud Says:

    You wrote: “The point of the Bible’s account is to show that all of humanity, Jews and Gentiles, Jews and non-Jews, we are all guilty of the death of Christ because it was your sins and my sins and everyone’s sins that made it necessary for Christ to die as a sacrificial atonement for sin”

    (le-havdil)I want to comment on foregiveness. How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His foregivness is outlined in the Jewish Bible ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Mashiakh; the Messiah).

    The Jewish Bible – for example Yekhëzqeil (Hezekiel) 18 – promises foregivness to those and only those who do their sincerest to keep Torah. The Creator cannot lie and He does not change (Malakhi 3:6)! According to Tehilim (“Psalms”) 103 the Creator gives his foregivness to those who do their sincerest to keep His berit (“covenant”; the pre-conditions to be included in the berit is according to the Jewish Bible to do ones sincerest to keep Torah).

    That is the Torah-view of foregiveness.

    You will find Ribi Yehoshuas teachings here: Netzarim
    Anders Branderud

  3. jeffshort Says:

    anders, thanks for your comment. In answering your comment I’d only like to ask one question: has anyone truly kept the whole law with all of their heart? If you read in the Christian New Testament, the rabbi Saul or as he’s now called Paul, in Romans 1, 2 and 3, you’ll find he explains that sincere attempts at obeying God’s law all fall short. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” he says — which is true. “There is no one who is righteous, no not one,” he also argues. So then no amount of sincere effort at obedience actually makes us obedient. Only a sacrifice for sin makes this possible — which is why ancient Jews were commanded by God to offer sacrifice, which they did up until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The New Testament teaches that Christ Jesus is the final sacrifice for sin, no more animal sacrifices needed. Now according to your theology God forgives on the basis of sincere attempts at obedience to the Torah or law, but then why did the Jews sacrifice animals at the Temple, and before that in the Tabernacle? No, God has always required a blood atonement. “Without the shedding of blood their is no forgiveness of sins” says the Old Testament and New Testament. What the old animal sacrifices accomplished, Jesus accomplished once and for all to those who trust in him for their salvation. A person who truly trusts in the Lord with a sincere heart for salvation receives it, but that doesn’t give them a free license to sin. If they think so, then it shows their heart isn’t truly trusting in Jesus. True faith always shows itself by holy living. If you are interested in reading more on the subject I suggest the Book of Romans in the New Testament and the Book of Hebrews also. You’ll find answers in these two sources as well as the other New Testament writings of Rabi Paul.

    thanks again,
    jeff

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