While we understand this particular Sunday is no more
special to God than any other Lord’s Day on which we remember
the death and resurrection of our Lord through His Supper (I
Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 20:7), we also recognize that more
people are willing to listen to the message of Christ’s death on
this day than on any other. Further, this year more people are
interested in the death of Jesus than before due to Mel Gibson’s
popular movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” People everywhere
are talking about this film and the earth shaking moments it
depicted. In the midst of all the discussion and debate around
this recent movie, one question has been asked the most—“Who
Killed Jesus?” No doubt, you have heard talks and read articles
or books about this. However, if I were one to do so, I would
wager that up to this point, you have only heard partial answers
to this question. The shocking truth is that in the midst of this
debate, the shocking truth has not been told. On a day, when most
people are thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus, we
will consider the partial answers and then learn the ultimate and
shocking truth. The truth that should humble us and change our
The Jews killed Jesus.
In the opening paragraph’s of John,
the Bible says Jesus came not only to the world, but to His own (John
1:11). “His own” refers not to mankind but to “His own
possession” and “chosen people”—the Jews (Deuteronomy
7:6). However, His own did not receive Him.
In John 11,
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, upsetting the Pharisees.
According to John 11:47-53, the Pharisees began plotting to kill Jesus right
According to John
11:55-57, the chief priests and Pharisees put out the word
during the Passover week that if anyone knew where Jesus was in
private, to let them know. Judas, one of the twelve, took up the
chief priest’s offer and agreed to betray Him. The Jewish
council paid Judas thirty pieces of silver to accomplish this task
On the night of the Passover, Jesus and 11 of His disciples
went to the Garden of Gethsemane. While praying there, Judas
arrived with a large crowd who came from the chief priests and the
elders of the Jews (Matthew 26:47). Jesus was taken to the court of the high priest.
Despite the farcical trial they put on, the high priest seized on
Jesus’ words that He was the Christ, the Son of God and accused
Him of blasphemy. Based on this confession, the council claimed,
“He deserves death” (Matthew 26:66).
In Matthew 27:19-26,
though Pilate could find no guilt in Jesus, though he tried to
appeal to the Jews’ decency by offering to set Jesus free and
execute Barabbas, a known murderer, the priests and elders of the
Jews stirred up the crowds to cry for Jesus’ crucifixion. When
Pilate washed his hands and claimed that he would be innocent of
Jesus’ blood, the Jews cried out, “His blood shall be on us
and on our children” (Matthew
Finally, the testimony of the apostles in Acts
2:36; 3:13-15 was that the house of Israel crucified Jesus
when Pilate would have released Him. Most definitely, the Jews
The Romans killed Jesus.
Interestingly, in John
18:3, the text says that Judas received a “band of men”
along with the officers from the chief priests. The Greek word
here is a very specific word used to describe a “cohort” of
Roman soldiers as the New American Standard translates the
passage. Evidently, the Jews had received help from the Roman
soldiers even in arresting Jesus.
Further in the midst of the cries of the Jews to crucify
Jesus, the quiet remarks of Pilate as he spoke to Jesus in John
19:10 ring out clearly. Pilate had the authority to release
Jesus or to crucify Him. For all his hand washing, it was Pilate
who crucified Jesus. Mark
15:15 makes the blame very clear. Pilate wanted to please the
crowd more than he wanted to do what was right. He scourged Jesus
and he delivered him to be crucified.
At that point, the Roman soldiers took over. As Mark 15:16-17 demonstrates that the whole Roman cohort became
involved in the mockery and beating of Jesus. John 19:17-25 ends by very clearly saying that the soldiers did
these things. The Romans crucified Jesus.
Interestingly, when the apostles prayed in Acts
4:27, they accused Herod, Pilate and all the Gentiles as
having been gathered against Jesus. Thus, while preaching to Jews,
they wanted the Jews to know they had crucified Jesus, but the
Gentiles were just as guilty.
We killed Jesus.
All that being said regarding who actually put Jesus on the
cross, we have already come to learn that the Jews of Jesus’ day
and the Gentiles of Jesus’ day are not the only one’s guilty.
I am not telling you anything you have not already heard when I
point out that we are just as guilty of putting Jesus on the cross
as the Jews and Romans were.
said that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We
all deserve the wages of sin, which is death (Romans
6:23). Isaiah 53:5-6 rings loud and clear. Jesus was wounded for our
transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. His
chastisement was for our peace. Our healing came from His stripes.
We like sheep went astray, but our iniquities were laid on Jesus.
This same theme is repeated in I
Peter 2:24; 3:18.
We may not have held the scourge’s handle, but our sins
brought it down on His back. We may not have driven the nails into
His hands, but our transgressions pounded that hammer. We may not
have mocked and jeered, but our iniquities burdened Him on the
You have heard all of this before haven’t you? These
refrains have been repeated in television interviews and written
in articles. But this is not the whole truth. This is only part of
Have you given thought to how absurd it is to end the
answer to our question with these three options? First, we
consider the Jews, who by their own admission had no authority to
put anyone to death (John
18:31). The Jews had no power to kill Jesus. But then we have
the testimony of Jesus regarding Pilate in John
19:11 that Pilate had no authority over Jesus at all. Finally,
we must consider our own sins. Is there something about our own
sins that forced Jesus onto the cross? Absolutely not. He did not
owe us. He was not obligated. Therefore, our previous answers fall
The shocking truth: Jesus laid down His own life.
The shocking truth is found in John
10:17-18, “For this reason the Father Loves Me, because I
lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it
away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have
authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up
again. This commandment I have received from My Father.”
Look again at Acts
4:27, this time continue reading into vs.
28. All those people had gathered together against Jesus, but
they only accomplished what God had planned and predestined. Isaiah
53:10-12 also clearly explains that it was the Lord who
bruised Jesus. It was Jesus Himself who poured out His soul unto
According to Matthew
26:53, at any moment Jesus could have called as many as 12
legions of angels. A legion was 6000 strong. He could have had
72,000 angels come fight His battle if He desired. But He
didn’t. Why did the Father, Son and Spirit accomplish this plan?
Romans 5:6-8 explains
that this plan was strictly accomplished by God’s love. Ephesians
2:4-10 explains that this plan of salvation was wholly of
God’s grace and mercy. The clichéd statement is true, love held
Jesus to the cross, not the nails.
The shocking truth—The Jews could not kill Him. The
Romans could not kill Him. Our sins did not obligate Him. His
great love and mercy caused His death. The saddest aspect of
Jesus’ death is that for too many people, Jesus died in vain.
Too many are unwilling to love Jesus as He loves us. Too few are
willing to walk in His footsteps. Romans
6:1-11 explains what we must do. We must die to sin, being
buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of
life. Then we must walk in that new life, turning our backs on our
own sins, growing to be more and more like Christ. We must be dead
to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus, serving Him day in and
day out. Do not let Christ’s death be in vain for you. Have you
died to sin by being buried in baptism for the remission of your
sins (Acts 2:38)? Have
you continued to put sin to death in your body being alive to God
in Christ? If we can help you draw closer to Christ, please, let
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ