Who Was Really Responsible for the Death of Christ?

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, by normal human standards of right and wrong, seems to have been the greatest miscarriage of justice in all the history of the world. In spite of the fact that he was guilty of no crime, against either individuals or society, and was in fact absolutely sinless even in the sight of God Himself, He was nevertheless subjected to an increasing crescendo of indignities and tortures, and finally to the most agonizing and cruel form of capital punishment ever invented by man. Surely, if there is such a thing as reason and morality in the universe, those responsible for such a crime ought to be recognized and brought to account.

A popular myth among many nominal “Christians,” for two thousand years, has been that the Jews were responsible, and this has served as one excuse for many of the waves of persecution which the Jews have endured over the centuries. And indeed the leaders and representatives of the Jewish nation at the time of Christ did play a very definite part in the proceedings, though this is certainly no justification for charging a whole people with “deicide.” The “chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him” (Luke 19:47). They arranged for His betrayal and arrest (Luke 22:2–6, 52) and called the Sanhedrin together for a mock trial to condemn Him (Mark 14:53–64). Not having authority to enforce the death penalty themselves, they persuaded the Roman governor, Pilate, to send Him to be crucified (Mark 15:14). When he demurred, they threatened to accuse him as an enemy of Caesar and palliated his conscience by saying, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).

Though the Jewish leaders instigated the murder, it was, after all, the Gentiles who actually carried it out. Pilate “delivered Him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26), and the Roman soldiers drove the spikes and thrust the spear. These were the official representatives of the greatest Gentile nation in the world at that time, the mighty Roman Empire. Thus both Jewish and Gentile officialdom were directly involved in the crucifixion of Christ, even though this in itself does not directly implicate either Jews or Gentiles as individuals.

There were also spiritual beings involved. “Then entered Satan into Judas” (Luke 22:3). The Evil One not only possessed and controlled Judas the betrayer, but undoubtedly also was behind the scenes in many of the other activities of that last week. Surrounding the cross itself were the principalities and powers of darkness (Luke 22:53; Colossians 2:14, 15).

But even this is not the whole picture. Jesus said to Pilate: “Thou could have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). The whole power of the Jewish and Gentile worlds, and even the might of Satan himself, could not suffice to place Jesus on the cross had not God Himself ordained it! The early church, in its confession to God, said: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before (that is, literally, ‘predestinated’) to be done” (Acts 4:27, 28).
Thus, although the Jews and the Gentiles, as well as the hosts of Satan, were directly responsible for the death of Christ, yet His heavenly Father was the One who permitted and, indeed, ordained it!

But even this is not all. The Lord Jesus was not forced by His Father, any more than He was forced by His enemies, to go to the cross. When His disciples tried to prevent His capture in the garden, He said: “Think thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). He said: “No man takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).

It seems therefore that, in the final analysis, Christ Himself was responsible for His own death. He deliberately chose to suffer and die—and to rise again!

Now, He is Himself perfect wisdom, and in this great sacrifice of Himself is bound up all the meaning of life, as well as all the holiness and justice and love of God. “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ crucified” is, to them who believe, “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24).

“Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). He “tasted death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). The Apostle Paul said: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: … I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Thus it finally comes to this: each one of us, individually, is responsible for the death of Christ. It was the sins of each man that nailed Him to the cross. Each of us has sinned willfully, in greater or lesser degree, against the God of creation and holiness, and therefore each of us deserved to die and spend eternity away from God in hell. But the Lord Jesus loved us so much that He was willing—even anxious—to suffer the judgment of death and hell as our substitute, in order that we might be saved. And God the Father was willing to offer His only begotten Son as the sacrifice for our sins, in order to satisfy both the demands of perfect justice and the compulsions of perfect love.

The forgiveness and peace, both temporal and eternal, thus purchased for us by Christ on His cross are now available freely and fully to each one who will acknowledge and receive Him, by simple trust, as his personal Lord and Savior.

Henry M. Morris and Martin E. Clark

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

%d bloggers like this: