Kathy Bernard – Publisher
LIKE Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of St. Matthew, some wash their hands in their own personal bowls of purification and form conclusions that even today shadow judgment and culpability. The rhetoric concerning the crucifixion of Jesus continue to spill forth through the centuries in various ways, with the most potent being placing the blame on Jewish leaders of that period.
WHO really killed Jesus Christ? Do we believe that it was the Romans trying to appease the Jewish priests and cull their favor? Was Pontius Pilate afraid to antagonize Caesar because Caesar held control? Pilate, a Roman governor, also tried to shift responsibility of what to do about Jesus onto Herod Antipas who was in Jerusalem during this time. Jesus was from Galilee and was under the jurisdiction of Herod, but Herod refused to take this obligation and sent Jesus back to Pilate. And so, each passed the proverbial buck back and forth.
WE are familiar with the treachery of Judas, who by a kiss identified Jesus Christ and allowed the Jewish leadership to bring Jesus up on charges before Pontius Pilate. He delivered Jesus into the hands of the enemy in violation of trust and allegiance to the Man Who loved and taught him about salvation. Judas was paid for the job with thirty pieces of silver but, in a fit of conscience, flung the silver back, then hung himself in shame when his conscience forced him to face his betrayal.
IT was a custom to release one prisoner during Passover so Pilate, looking at all sides of the issue and knowing that Jesus did not deserve death, offered alternatives to crucifixion. He asked the angry crowd “Which man shall I release to you, Barabbas, (a noted thief and murderer) or Jesus?” Now Pilate knew that the priests were envious of Jesus but was hoping the crowd would chose to release Him. But the leaders and elders persuaded the crowd to ask for the freedom of Barabbas.
FACED with the raucous voices demanding that Jesus be crucified growing louder, and the pleading warnings from his wife not to take part in killing an innocent Man, he publicly washed his hands of his guilt, silencing his uneasy conscience and allowing Roman soldiers to do whatever they wished. His indecisiveness allowed Jesus to die.
JESUS was crucified by Roman soldiers, who used the cross, Rome’s most degrading and torturous form of execution versus the Jewish favorite capital punishment of ancient stoning. The Romans now held the reins of jurisdiction and had the final say in the events leading up to and after the crucifixion of Christ. Many believe if politics were not strongly imposed upon Pontius Pilate he would have released Jesus when he was brought in for questioning and sentencing.
WAS Pilate, a Roman, the guilty one in the death of Jesus Christ? Pilate claimed innocence but in fact was a weak figure whose will was manipulated by others as shown later in his removal from his office. And what about the Roman soldiers who took such delight in the cruelty and torture of Christ? One might excuse them on the basis of their “doing their job under fear of censure” but their brutality went beyond that. We must not forget the greediness of the soldiers who cast lots for his coat, the crown of thorns that was placed upon Jesus’ head, or the vinegar offered on a spear instead of water as Jesus was dying on the cross.
DO we less charitably put the accountability squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish leaders of that time? Remember, Judaic law was held relevantly and Jesus, in their estimation was a rebel Who defied all the religious laws they held sacred for many, many years. The Israelites fought to maintain their old laws, although their faith was clouded by disobedience to the very precepts they fought to keep.
PLACING emphasis on Jewish leaders in the death of Jesus became an inflammatory and detrimental picture and yet there were some Jews who really loved Jesus and had complete trust in Him. They mourned His fate but the frantic demands, chaos and the angry clamor of those who sought His extinction overrode their best intentions to save Him. In addition to His disciples and His followers, there was His mother Mary, Lazarus who was brought back to life by Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and Jewish Council member Joseph of Arimathea who gave up his own tomb for the burial of Jesus.
BUT were the Jews the guilty ones? Was it because they clamored for His death and won?
LOOKING back to when Jesus first came as the Messiah for the Jewish nation, He came as a Jew. And it was through God’s grace and love, that we who believe in that Jewish Messiah, have a share in His tree of life. Lest we forget and feel too secure, we can also be taken off that tree of life by our hatred of those who established the groundwork of our faith or by not obeying the commands set out for us as Christians. If we keep our prejudices alive, we are in great danger. (Read what Paul’s powerful message to the Roman Christians has to say about this in Romans 11:1 -24). “Remember always that the foundation of our faith comes from the early Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”.
FROM the Torah and Tenach, we gained the Old Testament that came through the Israelites and we built on that legacy, believing in the Lord Jesus as our Messiah; as our Savior. In completion we have the death and saving resurrection of our Lord and the New Testament that is the written word of our faith. Hence the Israelites play a major and significant role in our own salvation for they gave us our foundation. With the advent of our Lord and acceptance of His salvation we have become part of His chosen elect. The love God extended to them and now to us carries over even today. Because of their faithfulness, albeit faulty in adherence to God’s Law, He sent His Son as a Jew to present the truth and mercy God still has for the Jewish people, however far they stray, and even though some rejected Him, it was God’s ultimate plan to include all people who are willing to accept salvation.( See Romans 11:26-31)
IN the aftermath of the crucifixion, the early years of Christianity became a battleground of prejudice and persecution causing fear and secrecy among worshippers. Jews began killing Jews who believed in Christ with Christians reversing that by slaughtering and killing Jews for not believing in Jesus Christ. Following Jesus’ resurrection there began a strong religious upheaval ending in massacres and bloodshed done in the name of religion on both sides.
NONETHELESS, did the Romans kill Jesus to appease the Jews because of their own politics and fears? Or was it the Jewish leaders with their fraudulent, deceitful, and unfounded charges? Was it Pilate who caused the crucifixion? Was it Caesar? Was it the Roman soldiers with their inhumanity?
Who then, are the guilty ones?
KEEP in mind, our sin fingerprints are all over that crown of thorns, on the whips used on our Lord, on the nails that pierced His Hand, on the handle of the hammer that pushed them through, and on the cross that held Him. If our souls were not stained with sin, Jesus would not have had to suffer at the hands of His tormentors for our salvation. Even today, like Judas and Peter, we still continue to betray and deny Jesus. Each time we do not speak up in defense of our faith in Him we deny Him, as St. Peter did in fear, so we too are instruments in His crucifixion. Like the disciples of Christ, we run away when we become afraid of the scorn of unbelievers. None of us, Jew, Gentile or the Romans of that day, or even the early Church is innocent of Christ’ bloodshed.
THROUGHOUT the existence of this earth we have sinned repeatedly. Unless we pray for God’s forgiveness we will stand in judgment before Almighty God with blood on our hands. Each time we sin, we keep re-nailing Jesus Christ to the cross even as He in loving grace and mercy, forgives us. Keeping this in mind, to whom do we point our collective finger as to who killed our Lord?
WHEN Jesus cried out in his final moments of agony, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, doesn’t this apply to me and to you as well as those who took part in His crucifixion? But the blood we caused Him to shed because of past sin and future sin, has become the purifier for our souls. Jesus willingly gave up His life for both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus said, “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John. 10:18).
LOOKING down over 2,000 years at our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, we must be eternally grateful to the One Who came to save every single one of us if we accept and believe in Him with faith. God, through Jesus Christ our Savior, has promised this and He never falls short of His Word. By His blood on the cross we are worthy to enter the perfection of God’s holy kingdom.
WHY did He make this sacrifice? We Christians know the answer. It is because of His eternal and powerful love for me and for you, and it crosses the centuries to take us home to live FOREVER in His kingdom.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions;
if it were not so, I would have told you. I go
to prepare a place for you.” – John 14:2