Published March 30, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Who's To Blame?"

For nearly 2,000 years the world has been playing the "blame game." Who really killed Jesus? Who was really responsible for His cruel death on the cross?

Was it the Jews?  Those who blame the Jews can come up with Scripture that seems to blame them. At Pentecost, Peter stood before the curious, gathering crowds. Acts 2:22 tells us he address them as, "Ye men of Israel..." A few verses later, he referred to Christ as the One "whom ye have crucified." So, were the Jews responsible?

When it was to be released some years ago, the movie "The Passion Of The Christ" was preceded by a tremendous amount of criticism. Detractors, most of whom had not even seen the movie, claimed it would fan the flames of anti-Semitism across the world. Indeed, there seems to be an increase in anti-Semitism in Europe these days, but that was happening long before the movie (which was initially banned in some parts of Europe anyway) came out.

Ironically, the movie became popular in many Arab lands where they claimed it "proves" the complicity of the Jews in Jesus' death. (Considering that, it's even more ironic that strict reading of Islamic holy writings indicates that Jesus was "neither killed nor crucified," according to a radio account I heard. They seem to want to have it both ways.  Of course, they deny the resurrection entirely.)

To be sure, a few Jewish religious leaders led the crusade to have Jesus killed. But to say the Jews, collectively, are responsible for Christ's death is like saying all Christians are responsible for the Holocaust. Can an entire race, society or group be held responsible for the actions of a few misleaders?

What about the Romans?  Were they responsible for Christ's death. To be sure, Christ was crucified under Roman authority. (The Jews were not officially authorized to inflict capital punishment themselves since they were under Roman law.) Romans soldiers scourged Jesus mercilessly. The crucifixion was a Roman crucifixion. Despite Pilate's protestations to the contrary, Christ's blood was quite literally on their hands.

Strange. I don't hear anyone leveling charges of "anti-Romanism" these days when the crucifixion is discussed. I guess it helps to be extinct as a society.

A more satisfactory response – the one I've heard most over the years, and which is entirely appropriate – is that any Christian can say, "I am personally responsible for His death. He died for my sins. And He would have done so if I were the only one who ever sinned." This is literally true, and illustrates profoundly the very personal nature of Christ's atoning death.

But there's an even better answer to the question of who killed Jesus.

Who do you suppose would be the best source for an answer to this question?  How about Jesus, Himself?

In John 10, Jesus told the crowd, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." (v.11.) And to make it even clearer, He told them, "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." (Verses 17-18.)

Did you see that? The Living Bible paraphrase renders Jesus' words this way: "No one can kill me without my consent. I lay down my life voluntarily."

No one can kill someone who has the power to stop the killing and is willing and able to use that power. Jesus had such power. In Matthew 26:53 He said, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" Now, that's power! But, because it wasn't part of God's plan, He was unwilling to use that power.

Although Christ's death was effected in the form of a Roman execution, it was actually something very different. It was a sacrifice, presaged throughout the Old Testament by the sacrifice of lambs to take away the sins of the people. The Lamb of God, in total obedience to God's redemptive plan for mankind, allowed Himself to be sacrificed to pay a sin debt that was rightfully yours and rightfully mine.

As Hebrews 9:14 (Living Bible paraphrase) puts it, "Christ willingly gave Himself to God to die for our sins..."

Aren't you glad He did? Aren't you glad He loved you — individually — so very much?

Quite literally, you should be eternally grateful.

- Paul

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