Summary: I Last year, at the beginning of Lent, the movie that everyone was talking about was the movie you watched here last night, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. As a Christian it was rather heartwarming to me that there was so much interest in a movie
I Last year, at the beginning of Lent, the movie that everyone was talking about was the movie you watched here last night, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. As a Christian it was rather heartwarming to me that there was so much interest in a movie that obviously was religious. I don’t think that you could possibly get more religious than this movie. The interest was a nice change from the norm in our society.
It was not just Christians that had an interest in the movie. Jews also had an interest, though theirs was not a positive one. Jews had an interest because of fear. They thought that the movie would generate anti-Semitism at least in some parts of society.
At first I didn’t understand that. After all, the movie is nothing more than a retelling of Scripture. When we read Scripture it doesn’t start Christians on an anti-Semitic rampage, or at least I would hope it wouldn’t. Why did we have all the controversy?
Then I had a conversation with my grandmother of all people. She is a good Christian woman. She was among the first to go and see The Passion along with a younger cousin of mine. I talked with her the next day and I asked what she had thought of the movie. I hadn’t seen it yet. Her only response was, “I just hate what they did to Jesus.”
The word “They” got my attention. So I asked her who she was talking about. Her response was the Jews and the Romans.
II That got me to thinking. Who did kill Jesus? I believe that to be an important question for Christians to ask. It has a major impact on our theology.
Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? This Good Friday evening, let’s examine that idea a little closer by taking a few minutes and look at both of these groups one at a time.
First let’s look at the Jews. If I had actually been reading earlier in Luke’s Gospel, say chapter 22 or even the beginning of chapter 23 what we would see is first the Jews, priests and the Temple police to be precise, went out to the Garden of Gethsemane and seized Jesus and took him to the home of the high priest and eventually to the high council. They questioned him and when they didn’t get the desired answers, Jesus was then turned over, by the Jews to Pilate, a Roman, at the beginning of chapter 23.
That brings us to the Romans. Pilate first tries to escape the problem by turning Jesus over to Herod. When that didn’t work, to his credit, Pilate tried to persuade the Jews to release Jesus, but they wanted nothing to do with that. They wanted him dead. Pilate has Jesus flogged and eventually orders Jesus’ crucifixion, which obviously was carried out by Roman soldiers.
When we examine the question of who killed Jesus, at first glance we could make an argument for either one or both groups. On the surface the Jews and the Romans both have guilt in the story.
III But, then we need to ask, is that all? Can we lay the blame off on the Jews and the Romans and then all go home? Well, you have probably guessed by now, my answer is “No!”
Most of you probably read between the lines a few minutes ago and figured out that what my grandmother said bothered me. I must also confess to you, however, I didn’t challenge her on it. I learned a long time ago that arguing with my grandmother wasn’t the wisest thing one could do, even if she was wrong.
Yes, the Jews and the Romans were complicit in the death of Jesus and all the circumstances that surrounded it. They were not, however, alone. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus didn’t just die at the hands of the Jews and the Romans. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, at the end of the fourth chapter we read, “It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”
Could it possibly be that Paul is saying that even Christian folks, who were living in Rome, had a hand in the death of Jesus? That is exactly what Paul is saying, but it is even more than that. Not just the Romans, but the Galatians, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Thessalonians, the Italians, the French, the British, the Russians, and yes, even the Americans were involved in the death of Jesus Christ. Everyone who has lived since Jesus’ crucifixion, except Jesus himself, had a role in Jesus’ death. Yes, as much as it may pain us to hear it, that means me, that means you. The answer to the question, who killed Jesus, is us.