(This updated Op-ed is being re-run today, Good Friday, as per request.)
As we enter the Easter and Passover season some Christian sects will once again bring up the old hatreds that the Jewish people killed Jesus, when nothing could be further from the truth. Before you discount this, please read what I have to say.
Simply, the Jews did NOT kill Jesus as it was the Romans that had him crucified and caused his mortal death. Pope Benedict XVI completely absolved and publicly apologized for wrongly charging the Jews with the death of Jesus, and most contemporary Christian theologians acknowledge that the Jews could NOT possibly have influenced the all-powerful Romans into killing Jesus.
The lie that the Jews had Jesus put to death or had any part in his death has been spread ever since the time of the Romans, and has caused more harm to the Jewish people over the centuries than almost anything else, and still does so by anti-Semitic bigots who continue to perpetrate this lie.
The Jewish people did NOT kill Jesus…Jesus was put to death under the direct orders of Pontius Pilate. Obviously some of his accusers were Jews, but so many others who accused him were NOT Jews, and it’s ridiculous to say ALL Jews in Judea were accusers of Jesus or that ALL Jews demanded his death.
Remember that many Jews followed Jesus and saw his miracles during his years of preaching (Matthew 15:30-31: “And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them.”…”Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.”). In fact, the four Gospels record 37 miracles of Jesus, and the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44) had been brought back from the dead by Jesus. And a lot of Jews felt nothing but gratitude, admiration, and love towards Jesus.
However, many religious leaders (Pharisees) did NOT like Jesus because of his accusations and condemnations of them, and according to the Gospels they wished to get rid of him in any way they could (Matthew 12:14: “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.). For example, Jesus, on several occasions, called the Pharisees ‘hypocrites, serpents, and a brood of vipers’, and he described them as untrustworthy leaders in front of huge crowds (Matthew 23 1-39). This resulted in the Pharisees status within the Jewish community to be publicly undermined by someone the crowds looked up to and believed in. This was an unacceptable humiliation to them, thus the Pharisees were always on the lookout for opportunities that would allow them to accuse and then kill Jesus. It was the Pharisees alone who wanted to kill Jesus NOT the Jewish people, I repeat, the Pharisees NOT the Jewish people.
Jesus was but one of many young Jewish preachers in Judea at that time. He taught basic fundamental Judaism. Even the tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ first appeared in the Torah thousands of years before his birth. Remember too that Jesus did NOT know of Christians as they came after, for Jesus was born, lived as, and died a Jew. Remember that Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day in the Temple according to Jewish Law, and that Jesus thought of himself as a Jew, and because Judaism has always allowed for debate and discussion of Jewish Law, Jesus was NO threat to Judaism as a whole. Remember also that Jesus NEVER consciously or unconsciously turned his back on Judaism.
And at the time of Jesus, Jews were a despised minority, they had NO power to request, let alone demand, any man’s death for the Jews were entirely at the mercy of the Romans, and to even think that the Jewish people pressured the Romans to kill Jesus, as some contend, is just ridiculous. The Romans, however, did view Jesus as a threat because they viewed him as a political rebel and enemy of the state. And with Pontius Pilot being an extremely ruthless and violent leader, he did NOT need to take orders from Jews or from anyone for that matter. If he had wanted to spare Jesus’ life he could have but he did NOT. Pontius Pilate was NOT only a willing participant in Jesus’ death but he was the man who ordered it. And remember, crucifixion has always been forbidden to Jews because it’s such a brutal method of ending a person’s life, and is considered paramount to murder in the Jewish religion. So simply put, Pontius Pilate sentenced, ordered, and had carried out the sentence of killing Jesus the man.
Now I’ll share with you, my fellow patriots, what I believe…and this is my belief alone…to be the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ death. In ancient Israel, God’s word called for a sacrificial system meant to emphasize the seriousness of sin and its demand for payment. Capital sins, especially those related to disobeying most of the Ten Commandments, could NOT be paid for by any mere sacrifice, so the penalty was always death. In fact, the Bible is quite specific that the penalty for sin is death with or without the Law (Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”). To stop such an end for all mankind, there was a need for a sacrifice that would serve as payment for all our sins. Only a ‘Divine Being’ per say, could be such a sacrifice, as Paul talked about in chapter ten of the Book of Hebrews. So basically, the Son of God was the only sufficient payment for the sins of man. Therefore, it’s justifiable to say that our sins…the sins of man…killed Jesus NOT the Jews.
God did NOT have to send Jesus to die for the sins of mankind. He didn’t have to watch His ‘Beloved Son’ go through an unspeakably horrible flagellation and a horrific death on the cross nor did Jesus really have to offer himself for anyone. Yet, he distanced himself from power and glory most would have welcomed, and came and lived as a man, only to die by the excruciating pain of flagellation, and agonized for hours hanging from a cross before his physical self passed away.
So, I think it was actually God the Father who offered His Only Son to be nailed to a cross. Jesus agreed to do God’s will, fully aware of the serious ramifications that his decision would have for him. Yet, he knew that his suffering would bring about salvation for mankind, as per his words, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).
So the answer to who really killed Jesus I think is this: some Pharisees wanted him dead; Pontius Pilate did NOT prevent it, actually ordered it, and had the sentence carried out; and our sins (the sins of man) basically called for it. Most of all though, I believe it was God the Father who willed it, and it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who willingly offered himself to be sacrificed for all mankind.
This is what I believe as I try to make sense of the unthinkable.