About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Mel Gibson's - "The Passion of The Christ"
  Who Really Killed Jesus and anti-Semitism 

The talk of the movie industry in the past while has been Mel Gibson's movie entitled "The Passion Of The Christ".  The controversy surrounds a  perceived anti-Semitic bios in the movie.  There are fears among some that this movie will promote more hatred towards Jewish people because it shows Jewish participation in Jesus' death.  What does the Bible say about this, and what does it say about who really killed Him?

Not many days after Jesus was killed, Peter on a few occasions had a chance to comment on this subject.  It is quite interesting and relevant to see what he had to say  since he was there to see it all happen.

In the first Christian sermon ever preached, "Peter stood up and ... addressed the crowd, 'you fellow Jews' ... " (Acts 2:14)  Note that Peter is addressing his remarks to Jews.  He continues, "Men of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God ... this man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God's set purposes and foreknowledge,  and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death". (Acts 2:22-23)  In Peter's thinking it is clear that the Jews, with the help of wicked men put Jesus to death.  I am assuming that Peter's use of the words "wicked men" are in reference to the Roman soldiers who carried out the orders to kill Jesus.  We must also note that Peter believed that the death of Jesus was part of "God's purpose and foreknowledge".  This is important. We will talk more of this later.

In Acts 3:13 Peter makes another similar statement in his second recorded message.  He says, "Men of Israel (verse 12) ... you handed Him (Jesus) over to be killed ... you killed the author of life" (verse 14).  Once again, it is clear in Peter's thinking who killed Jesus.  

Peter also notes in Acts 3:13 that these Jewish people "disowned Him before Pilate, though he had decided to let Him go".  Pilate, representing the Roman government was willing to let Jesus go free, yet the Jewish people who brought Jesus to Pilate wanted Jesus dead.  The Jews had no legal way of putting Jesus to death so they had to persuade Pilate, the Roman authority, to sentence  Jesus to death.   

This is the historical record.  Certain Jews, not all,  wanted Jesus dead.  They could not kill Him legally.  They brought Him to Pilate who had the authority to execute criminals.  Pilate did not want to execute Jesus but was persuaded to do so by the Jewish leadership.  This is the historical record and this is what Peter concurs to. 

Now by stating the historical record am I being anti-Semitic?  I don't think so.  Peter said the Jews killed Jesus with the help of wicked men,  and he was there to see it happen.  Was Peter anti-Semitic?  No, I don't think so.  He was a Jew Himself.  Peter does soften his words by saying, "I know that you acted in ignorance ... but this is how God fulfilled what He had foretold..." (Acts 3:17-18)   We will come back to this in a moment, but I would like to share one more quote first. 

Again Peter comments on this subject in Acts 4:10.  He says, "then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified..."  Can it be any clearer than that.  This is what Scripture says.  The least that we can say from Peter's perspective is that the Jews were heavily involved in the death of Christ.  Once again, this is a fact of history. 

Yet as I have noted, Peter believed that there was more to Jesus' death than simply being killed by certain Jews and the Roman soldiers.  Peter said that the Jewish people did this in their ignorance and that it was done according to God's purpose and foreknowledge.  So what does this mean?  It means that God Himself was involved in the death of Jesus.

You might ask, how can this be?  How can God be involved in killing His own Son?  Isaiah 53:10 says that "it was the Lord's will to crush Him (Jesus) and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering..."  We can see by this prophecy of Isaiah that God Himself needed to see Jesus die.  Why did God need to see Jesus dead?  Because by His sacrificial death, He "would justify many". (Isaiah 53:11)  This is the greatest fact of history and needs to be understood by all.  

The fact of the matter is that because of our sinful condition, God was justly angry at mankind.  In His justice, God had to kill man for what he became, that is, totally depraved in every aspect of life.   A perfectly righteous God could do nothing less than to demonstrate His justice in punishing man for his sin.  Yet God loved us and preferred not to punish us.  Thus His justice and His love were in an apparent conflict.   I say "apparent conflict" because it appears to be a conflict to us, but in reality, it wasn't to God.  To remedy this situation, and in order to save us from His judgment, God killed Jesus instead of us.  Jesus was punished in our place.  This punishment bestowed on Jesus satisfied God, resulting in God's anger being taken away from us.  Thus, God's justice and love met together on the cross, resulting in our salvation. 

Simply put, God got very angry at us.  He turned this anger towards Jesus and killed Him so that He would not be angry at us.  We often say that we "are saved".  What are we really saved from?  Are we saved from our sin?  Are we saved from hell?  The bottom line is that we are really saved from God Himself.  If not for Jesus' sacrifice we would experience God's wrath in all of its fullness.  Thus we are saved from God Himself. 

We often think of how great and extreme God's love is, and that is true. Yet we should understand that God can get angry.  The passion of His anger is extreme as well. 

Pity the person who rejects the truth of the sacrifice that Jesus made.  For if God was so angry at mankind that He killed Jesus, how much more angry will He be towards those who reject His solution to our problem.  The writer of Hebrews says that "there is no longer any other sacrifice for sin". (Heb. 10:18) Jesus' sacrifice alone is what saves us from God's wrath.  There is no other sacrifice that can be made by anyone.  The writer continues to say that "no other sacrifice for sin is left,  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume the enemies of God". (Heb. 10:26)   This Scripture makes it very clear.  If we neglect God's grace towards us, when we deserve to die, then we will experience His anger in its totality.

The cross was more than a demonstration of God's love towards us.  It was also a demonstration of His anger based on holy justice, anger that was meant for us but poured out on Jesus instead.  I am eternally thankful to Jesus that He took my place in experiencing God's judgment and anger. 

So who killed Jesus?  Well, the Romans soldiers actually physically killed Him in response to the Jews demands, but beyond that, it was God Himself who killed Jesus.  What a great act of love and kindness has been shown us.  This is beyond our capability to totally understand.  Our only response to God's love should be to give ourselves unreservedly  to our Lord Jesus who paid such a price for us.

The historical events surrounding the death of Jesus should only be interpreted in the light of who really killed Jesus, and that was God Himself.  With this in mind, there is no hint of  anti-Semitic thinking in the historical record, or in any accurate account of this record.                                



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