Originally Published September 12, 2013
“They’re the ones who killed Jesus!”
It’s a criticism that many Jews endured prior to the reestablishment of Israel as a nation, but I’ve been surprised to find it being spoken again in the 21st century. I’ve heard and read a number of opinions changing to the view that the Jews are an invading force into Muslim parts of the Middle East and that they have a long history of barbarism and violence. There are now groups of anti-Zionists emerging (even in Christian churches) stating that the nation of Israel is either directly or indirectly behind the wars not only in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world because of racism, elitism, and terrorism in an attempt to form a supreme Israeli State.
It’s pointless for an individual like me to argue for or against the claim of Israel’s involvement in world politics because it’s fairly clear that only a few elite politicians really know what’s going on. But along with this new anti-Zionism movement, the old criticism is once again being used to demonize Israel – the Jews killed Jesus. I have a few things to say about that.
Firstly, I’ll cover the technical side. Before passing judgement on all Jews, remember that Jesus Himself was a Jew, as were all of His disciples and His family who loved and supported Him. And for those who want to get technical, the Jews (or rather, the Pharisees) merely demanded His death. It was actually the Romans who performed the beatings, public shaming, and execution of Christ. Anti-semitic criticism should recognize this, and if they insist on criticizing groups of people, they should criticize both the Pharisees and the Romans while acknowledging the innocence of most other Jews.
Now that I’ve shown the technical side of who nailed Christ to the cross, I’ll cover a much deeper issue that is essential to understanding the message that Christ brought.
Consider the night of Jesus’ arrest:
So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” […] Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. […] So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” – from St John 18, ESV
Christ showed that it was not men but God the Father who had given Him the task to die, as Christ Himself had explained earlier:
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” – St John 10.17-18, ESV
Christ was very clear in these passages and others that He – and only He – was responsible for His death. So why would He do such a thing? That’s the essential issue to understanding His message.
Christ was not the victim of a crime. He was not subjugated, violated, and executed by a group of bad men. He offered His own life as a gift to all men, the gift of the forgiveness of sins:
The next day [John the Baptist] say Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – St John 1.29
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned […] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. – Romans 5.12,15
[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. – I John 2.2
all quotes from ESV
Christ was sent here to die, offering Himself freely as the atonement for the sins of all men.
It wasn’t about what group, what race, or what nation nailed him to the cross. It wasn’t about some political bullies wrongfully convicting and executing an innocent man. It was about God Himself coming to earth to die so that He could conquer death and free men of its grasp.
Who killed Jesus? I did. And you did. Not because we demanded it but because we needed it.