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Who Killed Jesus?
The Error of Political or Cultural Correctness

Pastor Jack Hoffman ©2004

Recently, in an effort to minimize the negative feedback that came from critics of the film, “The Passion of the Christ,” a subtle mistake was made and too frequently repeated by many who believe and present the gospel of Christ. The pressure to be politically or culturally correct at times causes even some of the best to waffle in their presentation of “the whole counsel of God.” It played out recently in the following manner.

The mistake came as a result of an effort to defend the film and in actuality defend the presentation of the sacrifice of Christ; and while seeking to convince those skeptics that the above was not in any fashion anti-Semitic. In so doing, on many occasions those defending the presentation countered the argument that the Jews killed Jesus with the idea that no one killed Jesus. Using the words of the Lord Jesus about no man taking his life from Him and about how willing that He was to lay His life down for sinful mankind, many commentators made the conclusion that no one killed Christ. In a major monthly Christian trade periodical the editor left his usual genre of material and delving into the controversy taught that humanity did not put Christ to death, but that He Himself did it to Himself. To our discredit we Christians let our culture back us into a corner, and not wanting to offend Jews, we instead did disservice to our Lord by our weak presentations. Some went so far as to teach that it wasn’t the common Jew that was party to the execution of Christ, only those in the Sanhedrin, those religious leaders of the nation of Israel; therefore taking the heat off of the common Jew for the rejection of the Messiah. Some explanations came very close to the point of making Jesus suicidal, since they explained that in a sense only He was responsible for putting Himself to death.

While we understand that no man could have ever taken Jesus’ life from Him, that He was God incarnate and actually was life itself; there is an interesting paradox to the message of His death on the Cross-that we must not fail to comprehend. While He did willingly lay down His life, the truth also is that we (mankind) did kill the Christ. Peter never fell into the subtle trap of attempting to be politically or culturally correct. Reading the account of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost sheds great insight on this fact. Peter confronts a huge crowd of Jews (not just the religious leaders), and in the course of his sermon states:

“this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 2:23 NASB

Some days later Peter had opportunity to preach a second sermon following the healing of a lame man, and in this sermon he again stated, “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:15 NASB

Without apology for making anyone feel uncomfortable, Peter repeatedly hammered out the following sobering truth; that is that the fallen sons of Adam, and in particular the nation of Israel, the Jews, put Jesus to death.

The mistake well meaning Gospel presenters made all to frequently was to minimize the Jews, and in fact all mankind’s part, in the crucifixion of Christ in an effort to make it more palpable to people. The problem with that is not only is it watered down soteriology (theology dealing with salvation especially as effected by Jesus Christ); it actually works against the very passion of the Christ of which they were seeking to defend. Jesus came to die for sinners, not good people just making poor decisions. Rebellion ferments in the heart of the lost like rotting grain left standing in old silage bins year after year. The odor that emanates from death smells so foul and its taste is so rancid no one in his or her right senses attempts to consume the rot. We know better, we know the putrid stench comes from decomposition, and that which is living does not dwell with that which is decaying. Yet we error when we try to make sinners comfortable in their rebellion of Christ. Not until we once again make the offense of the Cross-extremely offensive will we see true, heartfelt repentance. It wasn’t about a bland and benevolent Deity passively providing universal atonement for mankind simply because He exists for no other purpose but to serve humanity. It was about a God of love who wanted to redeem His rebellious creation the only way that could be done, by offering His only begotten Son to die in the place of each and every one of those sinners. It was about His offer of the perfect One and of our rejection of Him. It was about the fact that both Jews and Gentiles, in an awful solidarity of sinfulness, said no to God’s gift of love.

The truth is that in undivided unity all of mankind did “put to death” the Prince of Peace. While we couldn’t have extinguished the life that existed in His body unless He had allowed it to be done, we didn’t know that and we didn’t care. “Let Him be crucified” was our mantra, the expression of our hatred that became our legacy to future generations. Just as Adam touched and ate the fruit in defiance to God, so we touched and abused Christ in our distain for the Holy One. We rejected Christ, we abused Christ, we handled Him with disrespect and we tortured His innocent body, mind and soul as we killed Him. That is what the Word of God teaches.

It is only when the awfulness of these willful actions of malice towards God and Christ becomes apparent to us that we (by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit) have an opportunity to express remorse, regret, sorrow and repentance. It is wrong to rob Jews and Gentiles alike of the sobering reality of our rejection, of what our sins did to Christ. Who killed Jesus? We did. We put Him to death and yet He still loves us. What a Savior.