Summary: Who killed Jesus? The Jews? The Romans? You and Me? Or was it someone else? In this lesson we'll answer all these questions and more.
Who killed Jesus? It seems to be an innocuous enough question doesn’t it? And yet it’s one of those questions that have perplexed Christendom for more than two millennia. In today’s socio-political environment to even attempt to answer this question requires one to wade into the treacherous waters of political correctness. We want worry with that today because we’re simple going to open our Bibles and learn that truth behind the killing of Jesus.
#1 Did The Jews Kill Jesus?
Many would answer our question by saying the Jews killed Jesus. Let’s examine the evidence.
A superficial reading of the gospels clearly reveals the tension that existed between Jesus and the religious rulers of His day. Early in His ministry, Jesus’ clashes with the Pharisees prompted them to seek how they might destroy Him (Mark 3:6). This lead them to repeatedly question Jesus, attempting to discredit Him by entangling Him in His own words (Luke 11:54). Finally, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leadership decided that death was the only solution to rid themselves of Jesus once and for all (John 11:47-54, 57).
The Pharisees were so consumed with killing Jesus that they put out word that if anyone saw Him they should inform the authorities at once so He could be arrested (John 11:57). Judas, one of Jesus’ chosen disciples, decided to take the Jewish leaders up on their offer, and for the bounty of thirty pieces of silver He would lead them to Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). And this he did, leading the chief priest, elders and a band of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was praying (Matthew 26:47-56).
Immediately upon His arrest, the Council (Sanhedrin) was assembled for the purpose of trying Jesus for crimes against the Jewish Law. The trial was a farce. Matthew gives us an insight into the Council’s intentions when He records, “Now the chief priest and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death” (Matthew 26:59). Finally Jesus was condemned to death on the bases that He claimed He was the “Son of God” (Matthew 26:63-66).
Following His mock trial before the Council, Jesus was bound and delivered to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:2). Pilate listened to the chief priest’s complaint but under his own examination found Jesus to be innocent of any crimes (Luke 23:4). He knew the Jewish leaders wanted Him killed because they were envious of Him (Matthew 27:18). However, Pilate gave into their demands to kill Jesus when the chief priest and elders stirred up the people of the city to demand that Jesus be crucified, shouting to the top of their lungs, “Let Him be crucified, let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-24). Pilate literally washed his hands of the matter to which the people replied, “His blood be on us and on our children!” in essence they were saying let us and our children be responsible for His death (Matthew 27:24-25). And so Jesus was lead away and crucified.
One last piece of evidence to consider is the testimony of Peter. In Acts 2:23, 36 he squarely says that the Jews killed Jesus. And again in Acts 3:13-15 Peter says, “You [Jews] killed the Author of Life [Jesus], whom God raised from the dead.”
So it seems from this evidence that the Jews killed Jesus. But there’s more…
#2 Did The Romans Kill Jesus?
The Romans were involved in the killing of Jesus from the very beginning. When Judas agreed to betray Jesus (remember nobody knew where He was staying except His inner circle of disciples John 11:53-57) he was given the use of a band of Roman soldiers (John 18:3 ). It is with this band of soldiers that Judas marched into Gethsemane and had Jesus apprehended. But the involvement of the Romans doesn’t stop there.
As Jesus stood before Pilate, he reminded the Savior that he had the authority to release Jesus and the “authority to crucify” Him (John 19:10). Even though Pilate attempted to avail himself of the blame for killing Jesus, the facts are plain as day; because of the pressure he received from the crowd, it was Pilate, Roman governor, who had Jesus scourged and delivered up to be crucified (Mark 15:15).
From this point forward, it is the Romans who are controlling the situation. It was the Roman band of soldiers that lead Him away. It was the Roman soldiers who mocked Him with the purple clock, the crown of thorns, and the profane salute. It was the Roman soldiers who struck Him on the head and who spit in His face (Mark 15:16-20). It was the same Roman soldiers who paraded Him through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to Golgotha (John 17:16-17; Matthew 27:32). Once they arrived at Golgotha it was the Roman soldiers who affixed Jesus to the cross and set watch over Him there (Matthew 27:35-36).