By Mitch Glaser

This article was derived from the Chosen People Ministries Publication

The question of who killed Jesus--and more importantly, why did He die a gruesome death--is painful to revisit. For two thousand years, Jewish people have been blamed for this heinous crime--with no statute of limitations in sight. When is enough...enough?

This is the reason why The Passion of Christ (movie by Mel Gibson 2004) has become the focus of such intense controversy. It is not the movie that is at issue. No one--Jew, Christian, or person from any other religious background--can witness The Passion without being moved at the very center of their being. This is a graphic drama of one man's suffering which changed the course of world history. The placing of blame pales in light of the greater question: why? Why did Jesus die, and what purpose did His death serve?

But the matter of blame cannot be ignored, as generations of innocent Jewish people have suffered as a result of this false charge.

History's Tale

Who really killed Jesus? Jewish people quite naturally point to the Romans. After all, Israel was under Rome's political sway during the time in question. And doesn't the New Testament record that the Romans killed Him? But many Christians just won't have it that way. For one thing, it's hard to find a Roman centurion to hurl insults or rocks at any more. On the other hand, the Jewish people are most conveniently still here.

I recognize that not every person that says he or she is a Christian is a true follower of the Messiah (in fact, it's been my experience that those who really love Jesus love the Jewish people). Some so-called "Christians" point to "the Jews" of the New Testament as the guilty culprits. According to them, the Romans may have pounded the nails in, all right, but it was the Jews who were behind it all. But isn't it true that Jesus' own disciples and His other first followers were Jewish? Somehow, that fact seldom seems to surface. No, it seems that all Jews everywhere and for all time are deemed guilty of the murder of Jesus. The real question is, what does the Bible have to say on the subject?

The Meaning of Messiah's Death

The importance of who killed Jesus rests on the assertion that He is the Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. The writers of the New Testament were almost all Jewish and it was to the Jewish Bible that they looked for confirmation of the truth. Their expectation of the Messiah was, at first, that He would be a supernaturally empowered Son of David who would free them from the Romans and restore Israel to its place of leadership among the nations.

As Jesus' works and words show, their expectation would be met--but only in part. He did not appear then as the triumphant military victor. He did, however, fulfill the first function of His role as Messiah. He would voluntarily die as the means through which our estranged humanity could be reconciled to the God of Israel.

Looking deeply into the Hebrew Scriptures, the writers of the New Testament discovered a truth that puts the question of Jesus' death in its proper perspective. Although the Romans executed Him and some of the Jewish leaders sought this, Jesus went willingly to His death out of obedience to God. He did so for our sake, that through Messiah's death we might be reconciled to God.

Seen in this light, the question, "Who killed Jesus?" becomes clearer. We all--Jew and non-Jew alike--share the guilt. Yet, it is for the guilty that Messiah willingly chose to die.


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