Who Really Killed Jesus?
- 2003 11 Jul
Mel Gibson's latest film, The Passion, has fallen into the center of controversy, once again raising the question, "Who killed Jesus?" The answer is as close as the Bible on your bookshelf...and it just may surprise you.
As a teacher of Old Testament theology, I was seeking the knowledge and wisdom of a rabbi as I did some online research. Finding one who would openly talk to this "stranger"/Christian, however, was difficult. Then, a kind rabbi agreed to answer my questions about Old Testament traditions as seen through the eyes of a modern-day Jew. In time, we became "online buddies," seeking each other's counsel, opinions, and overall friendship. We talked about our families-both having teenaged children-and when we weren't discussing those things, we spoke of our mutual love for God. Then, one afternoon as we "chatted," he asked a question of me I'd never expected to hear anyone ask. "Eva Marie," he wrote. "Do you believe I killed Jesus?"
Who Was The Man Called Jesus?
There is no denying that a man named Jesus walked the earth. He was born in Bethlehem, Israel, was raised-for the most part-in Nazareth by his mother Mary and foster father Joseph. He grew into his father's occupation-that of carpenter-until he reached about 30 years of age. Then He took on His Heavenly Father's calling as He stepped into His ministry as the Son of God.
Nearing three-and-a-half years later, He was crucified upon a Roman Cross on a hill known as Golgotha-the Skull-just outside the city gates of Jerusalem. He was laid in a borrowed tomb and when, three days later "the women" came to tend to His body, they found it "missing." He later appeared alive and well to those who were His closest companions and, over time, some 500 people reported seeing Him in the days that followed. After His ascension into Heaven, a new "religion," Christianity, was birthed in the very city where He'd died. The first members of the church were a rag-tag group of Jews.*
If you are a Christian, you believe that Jesus was more than a carpenter with a hankering for stirring up trouble. Jesus was and is and evermore shall be...God. As a part of the Godhead, he is Elohim, God the Creator. He is the Creator of all life and the ruler of both life and death.
A ruler came and knelt before him and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live." Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. When Jesus entered the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region. ~~Matthew 9:18b, 19, 23-16
Most of us know the story of Jairus's daughter and we are all familiar with the story of Lazarus of Bethany. While Jesus was in another town, His dear friend Lazarus-brother to Martha and Mary-died. When Jesus returned to Bethany, he found the people filled with grief at their loved one's death. Jesus asked to be taken to the tomb where Lazarus was buried...and He wept. Then he prayed:
"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." (John 11:42-43)
I've heard it said that had Jesus not called Lazarus by name, so powerful was His authority over death, that every dead man, woman, and child within the area would have walked out of their graves.
These verses, along with countless others, prove that Jesus had authority and power over both life and death.
The Angels Await His Voice
When Jesus had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness and was in the midst of The Temptation, Satan took Him to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, saying to Him, "If you are the Son of God...throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Crafty Satan was quoting from Psalm 91:11. He knew the truth...do you? The Heavenly Host awaits the sound of Jesus' voice, to do His bidding, to fulfill His wishes.
Do you remember the old hymn that went like this: He could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world and set Him free. He could have called ten thousand angels, but He died alone for you and me? Have you ever sung those words? Do you believe them?
Understanding the Setting
The Jews had been under Roman rule during a time known as Pax Romana-the peace of Rome. This period followed after a short time of independence and about a hundred years after the Greeks ruled over Judea (331-167 BC). Then, in 63 BC, Palestine was conquered by the Romans under the leadership of Pompey, who appointed Antipater to rule over Judea. Antipater was followed by his son Herod the Great...and so on and so forth. (We won't get into a history lesson here.)
Though the Romans had the rule, Herod the Great-who was ruthless by anyone's standards-sought to appease his Jewish subjects by having their temple rebuilt and worship there reestablished.
The Sanhedrin was the recognized religious headship of the Jewish people. It was comprised of Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, scribes, and elders and was presided over by the High Priest. Pharisees were pious Jews who became so "righteous" they became "self-righteous," making rules with boundaries no man could live within, least of all themselves. The priestly Sadducees had adopted Greek customs (to the horror of the Pharisees) during the Greek period. Though religious, they were far removed from religion. Still, they were wealthy, power-packed in influence, and had control over the Sanhedrin.
Jesus had very strong words for the religious leaders of His day. (See Matthew 23) "Woe to you!" He cried out in the streets of Jerusalem, stirring the religious leaders to action.
Something had to be done about this "King of the Jews."
Understanding the Season
It was the time of the Passover and the Jews were making their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Jesus and the Disciples included. As He entered, the Galilean Jews with whom He had spent the majority of His ministry, cheered Him as He entered. But it was a different sect who feared His popularity and cried out, "Crucify him" about a week later.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem sitting atop a donkey, He knew what was to happen in the coming days. He'd told the Twelve time and again, insisting that three days after The Sacrifice, He'd return to them.
He knew what was to come...and He went through the gates anyway. Days later, He would say to Judas Iscariot, "What you must do, do quickly." (John 13:28) Jesus literally gave permission to Judas to "turn Him in."
Years ago someone asked me, "What one question would you like to ask of God?" My answer came quickly: Why did the sacrifice have to be so brutal?
Roman crucifixion was brutal...still, of all the times in history...this was the era the Father and the Son chose for The Sacrifice, prophesized about as far back as Genesis 3: 15, which reads: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
The purpose of The Sacrifice was to cleanse man-once and for all-of the sins that separated him from God. God's desire to draw His children to a place of intimacy is so great; He was willing to pay a brutal price...to prove that He loves us more than we can begin to imagine.
So Who Killed Jesus?
Can you kill a willing Sacrifice? Can you murder the Son of God? Can you destroy that which is, by His very nature Creator, the One whose command the angels seek to answer? I don't believe you can.
And so I answered Rabbi's question with these words, "No, I don't believe you killed Jesus."
Rabbi returned with, "Do you believe that the Jews collectively killed Jesus?"
"Rabbi," I wrote. "I believe that Jesus is the Christ...the Messiah...Yeshua Ha'Mashiyach. As God, I do not believe that He could have been killed by any single man, but willingly gave His life because of man's sin...which includes my own. Without the sacrifice, there could have been no redemption...no salvation...and no hope for mankind to reach the heart of God."**
Rabbi was silent.
And so I added, "But if you want to take on the blame, I thank you."
Rabbi and I remain good friends to this day.
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows, and the upcoming Shadows of Light (Barbour Books). She is an award-winning national speaker and can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at PenNhnd@aol.com or you can go to www.evamarieeverson.com.
* See: Matthew 27:33, John 15:43, Matthew 28: 5, 1 Corninthians 15:5-7, Luke 24: 51, Luke 24: 47
**The conversation here took place several years ago, so these may not have been my exact words, but they are a very close second.