Who Was Responsible for the Death of Jesus?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

Matthew 27:24

For centuries, many Christians have hated Jews, partly because “the Jews killed Christ.” Not only is anti-Semitism contradictory to the call of Jesus to love others, but also it falls prey to Pilate’s own cleverness. You see, Pilate was the only person in Jerusalem who had the authority over crucifixion. No matter what he said about his innocence, Pilate bears full blame, on human terms, for the death of Jesus. His claim to innocence was only an attempt to “spin” matters in his favor. The tiny percentage of Jews in Jerusalem who called for the death of Jesus had no power over Pilate, but they did provide a convenient excuse to protect him from the masses of Jews who supported Jesus.

At a deeper level, however, Pilate wasn’t responsible for the death of Jesus. Jesus himself chose the way of the cross in obedience to his Heavenly Father (see Matthew 26:36-46). As Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” So anti-Semitism is not only a moral mistake and a historical mistake, but also a theological mistake. Though certain Jewish leaders did conspire to have Jesus crucified, and though Pilate did approve of his crucifixion, what matters most is that Jesus chose the cross.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever witnessed anti-Semitic actions or heard anti-Semitic words? How do you understand the reasons for Jesus’ death?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I’m reminded to pray against the scourge of anti-Semitism. For centuries we Christians have rejected your call to love our Jewish neighbors. We have contributed to their persecution, or stood idly by while others did the dirty work. Forgive us, Lord.

Anti-Semitism is growing in our world today. Jews continue to be victims of violence and hatred. May such bigotry be rooted out and destroyed. May your justice prevail.

Gracious Lord, though human beings contributed to your death, they didn’t make it happen by their own choice. Indeed, you chose the cross out of obedience to your Heavenly Father and out of love for us. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your faithful sacrifice. Amen.

A P.S. from Mark

I have written an extensive series on my website on the topic: Why Did Jesus Have to Die? In this series I examine historical and theological reasons for the death of Jesus.