Jesus’ Death – who is responsible?
As Jesus hung on the cross, the world almost stood still. Darkness filled the earth at noon, for the sun stopped shining. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. And then Jesus died.
Every Christian is familiar with this event, which occurred centuries ago. But, who really was responsible for Jesus’ death? Mel Gibson’s film: The Passion of The Christ has triggered a debate in United States and around in the global village.
This question may bring out various answers, depending on the person who gives the answer. Some may point so Judas as any child would. A political science student may pin point Pilate. A rationalist may point to Jewish fundamentalists. But the answer is not so simple. Let us try to analyse each of these characters.
He must have been the most honest person in the band of disciples. Otherwise, he would not have become the treasurer. It is long process for a wise steward to become a traitor and it could not have happened overnight.
When Mary anointed Jesus with perfume, Judas revealed his attitude towards money. (John 12:5) He valued money more than Christ. Usually, those who give less for God’s work criticize more about God’s work. Generally, the problem is not lack of money, but our attitude towards money. So, St. Paul warned against love for money. Money is a faithful slave, but a cruel taskmaster.
Judas was a wise person who calculated and planned things. He might have thought if Christ is caught, He can easily escape. Ultimately, it is win-win situation where Jesus also escapes and he gains a hefty amount.
Satan seeks instruments for his purposes. Judas was obsessed and disappointed as he estimated Jesus as a powerful Messiah, the king – a descendant of David, who would throw out the Roman government. Judas would have become the finance minister of the new free state of Israel. Satan offered the alternative or a short cut on a platter. Judas became an instrument by consent. He sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave.
Jesus talked with him. He brought his folly to his notice. He even appealed to him in love. The last supper shows how Christ wanted to win him back. He showed him His perfect love. But he was unmoved. He was a manipulator and hypocrite.
But within a few hours, Judas hated the money he loved. Wealth obtained by selling Christ will be a curse (Matt 27:3-10). Judas shipwrecked his faith and future. And those who gave the money did not take it back. A potter’s field was purchased to bury strangers.
Judas regretted his blunder. He confessed, but to the wrong persons. He went to confess to those who lead him astray. He should have returned to Christ, but sadly did not. Even today there are many who repent and confess, but do not come to Christ. They are sadly lost, like Judas.
We cannot serve two masters. We have to love one and hate the other. Jer 6:13 declares that all are covetous. And it includes each one of us. The only antidote for this is to learn to give to the Lord. It must become our habit. We must store up in heaven.
- High Priest
Jesus was very popular with the masses. His love, compassion, teachings, and miracles attracted many people towards Him. This caused a sense of insecurity in the minds of Jewish leaders. This insecurity and envy were revealed in their words and actions.
Caiphas was the high priest when Jesus was crucified. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Pilate could sense that the high priest had accused Jesus out of envy. (Matthew 27:18) Envy was the root cause for the other sins, which caused the violent death of Jesus.
The bazaar of Annas had a notorious history. The priest officiating in the temple used to turn away all offerings brought from outside the bazaar of Annas. And in that bazaar, a dove could have cost 20 times more than the market price.
Annas and Caiphas hated Jesus because Jesus cleansed the temple. They were looking for an appropriate opportunity to take revenge.
Jesus used to condemn the hypocrisy of priests and Pharisees. This truth pricked them. They were losing their reputation among common people. They also hardened their hearts. They were bitter against Jesus.
Envy, insecurity, hatred, bitterness and an attitude for revenge made them conspire against Jesus. They prepared Judas for that purpose. And they gathered their cronies who would give false witness against Jesus. They arrested Jesus in the night with the help of Judas. The children of darkness perform their dark deeds in the cover of darkness. And the high priests were no exception. They arrested Jesus and interrogated him in the night. The Sanhedrin never met at night. They broke the law and framed charges against Jesus. In the Sanhedrin, the charges were religious: blasphemy and allegation about destroying the temple and building it again.
Since they did not have the authority to give capital punishment, they took Jesus to Pilate. In John 18:28 we read an intriguing note. The high priests did not want to go inside the judgment hall fearing defilement. But they were ready to murder the Son of God with false charges. Do we not see the same situation today?
Before Pilate, they changed the charges against Jesus. All charges were political. He was portrayed as a revolutionary (Luke 23:5), who forbade people from paying tax, and who claimed Himself as king. They even declared Caesar as their king (John 19:12). It was life according to convenience and not according to Scriptures.
Envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30) and is condemned by the apostles (Galatians 5:26 and James 3:16). Love dispels jealousy. Christ still loved them and prayed for their forgiveness.
Pilate was the Roman governor at that time. He was a shrewd and strict administrator. This case exposed all his weak points.
He tried to avoid the responsibility given by God. Power and responsibility could either be used for His glory or abused. It is the same with the talents, gifts and skills provided by God. He asked the Jewish high priests to judge the high profile case by themselves.
Later, he sent Jesus to Herod. He expected someone else to take decisions on his behalf. Christendom is full of such personalities. They need someone else to pray or to preach or go as missionaries. Pilate opted for the easy means.
Secondly, he tried to compromise. He had Jesus flogged, which was unlawful, to pacify the crying crowd. But it did not please the unruly mob. So he offered to release for them one of the prisoners. He tried to do the right thing in a wrong way. “End justifies the means” is the world’s philosophy. Noah could have easily arranged a dinner party in the ark. All would have flooded in. He need not have preached at all. Will the end justify the means? Never.
At last, he washed his hands, according to the Jewish custom (Deut 21). He failed to do what was right and had power to do good but did not so he sinned against God (James 4:17). Pilate gradually lost control of the situation. If he had taken his responsibility seriously and applied his mind, it could have been different. He was behaving in an irresponsible manner.
We must not forget that he was not ignorant. His conscience and insight declared that Jesus was innocent. Also, as a senior administrator, he could see through the minds of the high priests. He understood that Jesus was arrested out of envy. He had a keen sense of justice. Apart from that, his wife had warned him.
Now the question arises, why did he do so? It could be because of fear. They threatened that they shall complain to Caesar. He feared losing his position, power, wealth, etc. One who fears God, need not fear man. God has not given us the spirit of fear.
He was aspiring for promotions. That was his ambition. Pilate was a selfish person. He could allow justice to suffer for the sake of personal gain. Also, he wanted to please all. One who wants to please all, can please none. Man must seek to please God alone.
He had no value for human life. If one more person was executed, will it make any difference? For Pilate, it would not.
How must we decide in such circumstances? Conscience, Scriptures and Holy Spirit can help us to decide such matters. Any decision that violates the principles of Scripture is wrong.
The law of Moses clearly warns about mob violence (Exo 23:2). Group dynamics and mass hysteria operate in a mob. Usually, damage is done before the truth is ascertained. And clever persons manipulate such groups for their own benefits.
Man has been gifted with fremese will. This will does not guarantee right choice nor does it give us freedom to make wrong choices. It is like a driving license. The license is to permit a person to drive lawfully and not for running over people. Similarly, free will is provided to take lawful decisions and not to exploit fellow human beings.
William Barclay comments about the mob’s action clearly. They chose lawlessness, instead of law. One who takes the sword shall fall by the same. Taking law into our won hands is a sin.
Secondly, he says that they chose war, hatred, violence and bitterness. Instead of peace and love. Barabbas symbolized evil and Christ symbolized holiness. Men in darkness prefer darkness to light.
The reason for their choice could be ignorance and ungratefulness. Ignorance, because they could have been manipulated by the high priests. Christ’s ministry must have blessed many including some of their relatives. But they were ungrateful. This mob brought down the curse on themselves and their children.
Herod had heard about Jesus. His guilty conscience thought that John the Baptist has come alive.
He expected Jesus to show some sign or miracle. It was out of curiosity and not out of love for truth. He had no intention of following Jesus. He wanted it as sensation. Even today, many attend healing crusades to enjoy miracles, not to follow Christ.
The gift is always inferior to the giver. When Christ Himself was present, Herod sought a gift. While Christ wants to dwell in our hearts, we expect only miracles from Him.
Herod hoped that Jesus would perform a miracle. But Jesus was different. This annoyed Herod. It offended his inflated ego. So he commanded his soldiers to beat and mock him. He also joined them in mocking the Son of God.
Do we come to Jesus only for miracles? Do we view Him as a magician and trouble shooter? Or, do we regard Him as Lord and Saviour?
- The Official
This man slapped Jesus for no reason. (John 18:22) He must have been expecting a favour from his boss. It could have been a promotion or some materialist benefit.
I know one teacher who got a job in a Christian school as she professed Christianity as her religion. When she needed a house on rent she understood that the house owner was interested to give only to a non-Christian. She then declared that she was not a Christian and got the house for rent. She pretended to be a Christian for the job’s sake. Many slap Christ’s face with words, deeds, and thoughts. Using Jesus just for materialistic benefit is sin.
Though he was not directly involved, he acted as a catalyst. He rubbed salt to Jesus’ wounds.
Love for money, materialism, hypocrisy, envy, sense of insecurity, hatred, bitterness, falsehood, violence, avoiding responsibility, compromise, fear, wrong ambition, wrong motives, ungratefulness, pride, seeking signs for sensation, etc., are self evident in these characters. As we stand before the mirror of the Scriptures, do we not see ourselves? Yes, you and I are responsible for the death of Jesus. God’s wrath was upon Him because of us. Must we not repent? Let us repent. Today is the day of salvation.