One of the profound questions coming out of the movie The Passion of the Christ is who crucified Jesus?
If we would look at history alone, we would have to say that Pontius Pilate certainly was guilty. Legend has it that years after the crucifixion he was frantically washing his hands trying to cleanse himself from the blood of Christ. And, of course, Caiphus the High Priest certainly bears his share of responsibility. So do the crowds who yelled, "Crucify him." So was it the Romans or the Jews, the venality of Pontius Pilate or the passion of the mob?
It was both and neither. The Jews didn't cause the death of Jesus, nor did the Romans. They were merely instruments carrying out what God had decreed. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so that the sins of mankind might be forgiven. And those who take Scripture seriously have always known who killed Jesus: You and I and all other sinful human beings did so.
Mel Gibson understands this. In his movie, The Passion of the Christ,the hand holding the spike being nailed through Christ's wrist is Gibson's. Who killed Jesus? Mel Gibson knows. And he made the very point with his own hand that he was responsible, not the Jews.
Similarly the Dutch painter, Rembrandt painted The Raising of the Cross as a self-portrait. As Christ hangs on the cross while it is being lifted into place, the soldier pulling it up is Rembrandt. Who killed Jesus? Rembrandt knew. He did. And I did. And you did. We're the ones who sent Jesus to the cross loaded down with our sins.
All of us, whether Jew or gentile, whether living during biblical times or living today, had a part in putting the Son of God on the Cross of Calvary because of our own sins.
So, who is responsible for the Crucifixion? How did this happen in time? The Bible is very clear about who crucified Jesus. You find it in the tremendous prophecy of Isaiah in the 53rd chapter.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted(Isaiah 53:4)
Where our natural side wants to start blaming others things -- Do we want to blame the Romans or do we want to blame the Jews who lived at that time?-- even Isaiah says we esteemed Him stricken and we think He was smitten by God.
But the real message is in Isaiah 53:5:
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
There is not a limitation here. If you are a sinner, you belong in that group of "our," every one of us.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
When you look to the question who crucified Jesus? Well, I did. Every one of my sins cried out, 'Crucify Him!' Without Jesus, there is no forgiveness. There is no hope for me. With Him, there is. But I have got to recognize and I have to own that every one of my sins is responsible for the Crucifixion. I can't lay the blame on Pilate. I can't lay the blame on the Sanhedrin. I have got to own it. That's what it is all about when we come to the Cross is acknowledgment that it is our sin that put Jesus there. It was His love that drove Him to do that. He didn't have to do it. He could have escaped it. He could have said, 'I am not going to do this. I am not going to sacrifice Myself.' His love compelled Him; my sins made Him. It is me who is responsible.
So when we look at this controversial verse that Mel Gibson has agreed to take out of the film because of complaints from modern-day Jews, -- and if I were a modern-day Jew, I wouldn't trust Christians, either -- it is for the historical fact that whenever passion plays were performed in Europe, there was, following those performances, extreme violence against the Jewish community and this was responsible for anti-Semitism that then spread throughout Europe and led to the Holocaust in Germany. But, I think as Christians, we need to look at this verse and realize it is not limited to the Jews of the day because it says all the people.
So enough of this foolish controversy. My advice to Christians is that you make it abundantly clear to your friends and neighbors that we are the ones responsible for the death of Jesus for He died for OUR sins. Explain to your friends and neighbors, why it was necessary for Jesus to go to the cross. And be ready with a biblical answer for your Jewish friends who hear all of this propaganda, most of it stirred up by professional activists.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that it is not who is to blame that really has everybody up in arms. The media elite know that if people see this film, the right answer to the haunting question "Who Killed Jesus?" will be clear. What strikes terror into the hearts of the media elite is that people might once again be convicted of sin, repent, and come to faith in Christ. However, that will not be the result for the simple fact that there is NO gospel message at the end and NO asking the people to repent of sin and turn to Christ, but can you really expect that from a film that is purely Catholic in viewpoint and purpose?
Thanks to Newsweek for asking the right question, even if it does not have the right answer. But now it is up to us Christians to do our job to educate our neighbors about the truth of the Cross and the Passion.