The Passion of Christ is one of the
most controversial movies of all times. The movie makes evident, in gruesome
detail, the horrific flagellation and crucifixion endured by Christ before
Many Christians applaud Gibson’s
efforts and see the movie as a very useful tool in enlightening the masses
about what Christ has done to save the world. On the other hand, Jews,
understandably, fear that the movie might ignite more anti-Semitism and
Recently, a major network reviewed
the events that led to Christ’s death, with the help of four Biblical
scholars. At the end of the documentary, the four scholars were asked who
they believed had killed Christ. The unanimous answer was: “Pilate and the Romans.”
killed Christ? Different people hold differing views. Some are firm on the
idea that the Jews were primarily responsible. Others insist that the real
culprit was Pontius Pilate. Some may argue that Satan was the force that
inspired the whole scenario. Many Christians would, instead, yell out: “We
did it! Our sins killed Christ!”
Though all the above points of view have merit, there is another critical
and enlightening dimension that must be included to fully comprehend who
really killed Christ. But first let’s analyze the extent to which the main
participants contributed to Christ’s death.
Through the centuries, the Jews
have been blamed as being the ones who were responsible for Christ’s
crucifixion. Did the Jews really kill Christ? No doubt the accusers of
Christ were Jews, but it would be absurd to point to all the Jews in Judea
as being accusers of Christ. Let’s not forget that “
multitudes,” had followed and had seen Christ’s miracles over his 3 ½
years of preaching (Matthew 15:29-31). A great many had been healed from
incurable diseases. Some had been brought back from the dead. A lot of Jews,
consequently, felt nothing but gratitude toward this young miraculous
preacher. Many religious leaders, on the
other hand, were filled with envy and bitterness, because of Christ’s
accusations and condemnations and, according to the Gospels, wished to get
rid of Him in any way they could (Matthew 12:14).
Christ, on several occasions,
called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers,” and He
described them as untrustworthy leaders in front of huge crowds (Matthew
23). Their status within the nation had been undermined publicly by someone
the crowds looked up to and believed in. This was a great and unacceptable
humiliation. Therefore, the Pharisees were always on the lookout for
opportunities that would allow them to accuse and kill Christ.
tables of the moneychangers and the seats of the sellers of doves (Matthew
21:12). Both groups, most certainly, would have thirsted for revenge
as well. No doubt, when the opportunity came to get even, they were ready to
make Christ pay for the affront.
The top religious leaders refused
to share the limelight with the young man from Nazareth and feared that He
would have become the acclaimed leader of the people. They, most of all, plotted
to find fault in Him, so as to get Him killed:
“Then the chief priests, the
scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the High
Priest, who was called Caiphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and
kill Him" (Matthew 26:4).
It is interesting to note that they
were conscious of the fact that the majority of the people liked Jesus and,
therefore, decided not to kill Him “…during the feast, lest there be an
uproar among the people” (Matthew 26: 1-5). They knew that the masses had to be handled carefully,
to keep them from turning against them. Thus, their plan
had to be skillfully conceived so as to convince the people that Christ was
a blasphemer and that He deserved death.
the Gospel of Matthew tells us that when Christ was
brought to the Sanhedrin, “The Chief
Priest, the elders, and the council sought false testimony against Jesus to
put Him to death” (26: 59-61), and found several. Finally, Christ’s
own words were found sufficient to condemn Him to death. Thus, in the morning,
“...all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death” (27:1). Later, when Pilate tried to release Christ,
they vehemently insisted that He had to be killed, and the angry crowd that was
present, as well as the priests, finally prevailed (Luke 23: 23).
Who was, therefore, present when
Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted Jesus freed or killed? We can safely
assume that the aforementioned groups were there. Others present were
probably locals who may have known little about Christ and who blindly
followed the religious leaders and took their accusations as trustworthy.
Were all the Jews, therefore,
guilty of Christ’s death? Absolutely not. Were most of
the religious leaders guilty? According to the Gospel story, they were. They plotted to capture Christ, they found false witnesses to inculpate
Him, and they refused to believe His word, though His mighty works supported
The religious leaders wanted Him dead and did not cease until
their aim to have him killed was accomplished.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman
governor of Judea. He was Caesar’s representative and, as such, was the greatest
authority in the land. He had power over life and death. Thus, in the
morning, Christ was brought to him for the final verdict. Pilate interviewed
Christ and made his power clear to Him: "Do you not know that I have power
to crucify You and power to release You" (John 19:10). Afterwards, he shared his
obvious conclusion with the chief priests: “I find no fault in him.” (Luke
he was convinced of Christ’s innocence, and though he tried to dissuade the
priests and the crowd from their aim to have Christ killed, he finally
relented to the blood-thirsty religious leaders: "When Pilate saw that he
could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and
washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of
this just person: see ye to it" (Matthew 27:24). The reason why he
surrendered to the will of the angry crowd is given to us in the Gospel of
John: "The Jews insisted, we have a law, and according to that law he must
die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid..."(John
Pilate’s decision was motivated by the fear of a potential revolt.
Therefore, to keep the leaders happy, and to prevent a dangerous rebellion,
he relented to their request.
though Pilate had
the power to prevent Christ’s death,
he chose to sacrifice an innocent man to keep the
peace. Pilate, therefore, was a willing participant and contributed to
Satan was no doubt the major force
behind the whole gruesome scenario. He had attempted to neutralize and
destroy Christ from the start, by tempting Him and by trying to bring about His
spiritual destruction. He continued tempting Christ all the way to the end.
No doubt, Satan nurtured the spirit
of envy and bitterness in the religious leaders; no doubt he influenced
Pilate’s decision to have Him scourged mercilessly. Without any doubt, Satan moved the
unrelenting crowds to request the
death penalty by a gruesome crucifixion. He wanted Christ to be traumatized beyond endurance, hoping
that He would finally give up and surrender.
Though it may be difficult to know the exact extent of Satan's contribution,
he was there and he was heavily involved.
THE SINS OF THE WORLD
Many theologians would claim that the real culprit for Christ’s death was
the sins of humanity and man’s need for redemption. Humans sinned from the
beginning and have needed redemption ever since. During the time of ancient
of Israel, God instituted a sacrificial system meant to emphasize the
seriousness of sin and its demand for payment. Capital sins, related to the
transgression of most of the Ten Commandments, could not be paid for by any
sacrifice; the penalty was death. In fact, the Bible is quite dogmatic
about the fact that the penalty of sin is death with or without the
Law (Romans 6:23).
To prevent such dramatic end for
all of humanity, there was a need for a sacrifice that would suffice as
payment for all our
sins. Only a Divine Being could be such a sacrifice, as Paul explains in
chapter ten of the Book of Hebrews.
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not
the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices,
which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach
perfect. 2 For then would
they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified,
would have had no more consciousness of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices
there is a reminder of sins every year.
it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take
5 Therefore, when He came
into the world, He said:
“ Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt
offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said,
‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’”
Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings,
and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure
in them ” (which are offered according to the law),
9 then He said,
“Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.”
He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By
that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of
Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands
ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can
never take away sins. 12 But
this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for
sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
13 from that time waiting
till His enemies are made His footstool.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being
The Son of God was the
only sufficient payment for the sins of the world. Therefore, it is justified to
say that our sins killed Christ.
THE ULTIMATE CAUSE
So far we have seen that there are several contributors to the death of
Christ. Pilate, the religious leaders, Satan, the sins of the world. All can
be listed as valid contributors to the final verdict. But is this all there
is to the story?
Let’s look closely at some aspects that have not yet been considered.
God the Father and Christ did not have to go through the gruesome experience
of the flagellation and crucifixion of Christ. They could have simply
allowed humanity to reap the fruits of its doing and could have moved on
without humanity. God did not have to send Jesus to die for the sins of
Mankind. He did not have to watch His “beloved Son" go through an agonizing
flagellation and a horrific death on the cross.
Jesus Christ did not have to offer Himself for anyone. He
had it all. Yet, He divested Himself of power and glory, came to live as a
man and went through the agony of abuse and humiliation. He also suffered
excruciating pain through the flagellation and agonized for six hours
hanging from a cross.
HE DID NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH ANY OF IT!
Yet, these two perplexing beings chose the path of anguish so as to manifest their
love for all of us. They chose to deliver us from the death penalty and eternal
extinction, though it would have meant anguish they had never experienced before.
Who ultimately killed Christ then? Was it Pilate, or the
Jewish leaders, Satan, or our sins?
IT WAS GOD'S AND CHRIST'S
FOR HUMANITY THAT ULTIMATELY KILLED CHRIST.
so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that
whomsoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
God the Father loves us humans so much that
He was willing
to go through unfathomable anguish for us, by offering His only Son to be
scourged and then to be nailed to a cross. It was His love that
prevented our merited extinction.
It was His love that brought us
unmerited forgiveness and opened the possibility of eternal life for
Jesus Christ agreed to do God's will, fully conscious of the horrific
ramifications that His decision would have had for Him. Yet, He was greatly
encouraged by the fact that his future suffering would have brought about
salvation for all of humanity:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this
bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread
that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world"
(John 6: 51).
IS REAL LOVE-- UNFATHOMABLE LOVE.
Who, therefore, killed Jesus Christ? The answer should be clear by now: The Jewish leaders wished it; Pilate could
have, but did not prevent it; Satan incited it; our sins demanded it. Most
of all, though, it was God the Father who willed it, and it was Christ
who willingly offered himself to be sacrificed -- for the Jewish leaders who
wanted Him killed, for Pilate who washed his hands, for the Roman soldiers
who scourged and crucified Him, for you and for me, and for all of humanity
that He and the Father love so deeply.
Therefore, as you watch Mel Gibson’s movie, please remember that God the
Father willed and allowed the
gruesome sufferings of Christ. Remember also that Jesus Christ
became a part of the horrendous ordeal.
all, consider how much God and Christ love you, that they would be willing to
go through so much for your sake so that you and I, and the whole world,
would not experience eternal destruction.
What an honor and blessing it is to have a Father and a Brother who love us