Who Caused Jesus To Suffer?

Essential 100—Read:
Isaiah 51:1-53:12

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” ~Isaiah 53:4-6

So who really caused Jesus to suffer and die? Several years ago, after the release of the movie, The Passion of the Christ, Newsweek magazine made this question their cover story—a question that stirred quite a lot of debate, and antagonism.

Did the Jews kill Jesus? Well, in the historical context, the Jewish religious leaders conspired to kill Jesus. Out of jealousy, they plotted to kill Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry right up until they carried it out. Matthew 26:3-4 says,

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.”

And similar indictments are repeated throughout the Gospels at various different times. The Jewish leaders bear responsibility for his death.

But the Biblical record also shows that the Romans were complicit in Christ’s death. The Jewish leaders didn’t want to dirty their hands in this, so they manipulated Pilate, who also, tried to wash his hands of the matter, but couldn’t. John 18:31-32 tells us,

“Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’ ‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.”

The truth of the matter is, the Jews plotted and the Romans carried out the death of Jesus. They were both complicit. And to suggest anything else is to re-write history. You can do that, but the truth remains the truth.

But let’s be clear about something: If Jesus had been born in Paris, Phnom Penh, Pretoria or Portland, it would have been the people in those places who caused the Messiah to suffer and die. Why? Because in reality, it wasn’t the Jews or the Romans, it was the sin of mankind—our sin—that put him on the cross. The Bible is clear that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that the wages of our sin is death. And it took Jesus, the perfect, sinless God-man to pay the cost of our sins to deliver us from eternal death. I Peter 3:18 says,

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

But in a way that defies human reason and explanation, the truth is that God was responsible for Jesus’ death. Peter said in Acts 2:23, “Jesus was handed over to you by God’s set purposes and foreknowledge, and you, with the help of evil men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Further, Isaiah 53:10 points out,

“It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer… the Lord makes his life a guilt offering.”

The message of the cross is that we all put Jesus there…it was our sin. And out of the great kindness and love of God, he sent his Son to pay the cost for us all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Who killed Jesus? I did! Who was responsible? It was ordained in the eternal counsels of a foreknowing God. Who did it? Jesus said, “I lay down my life, and I take it up again.” He did it because he loved you and me!

When you consider the cross and realize the awful price that Jesus paid, out of love, to bring us life, how can we not want to give him our very best, our very lives, in return?

Who made Jesus suffer and die? Lots of people—including me. But I’m so glad he was willingly pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities; that the punishment that brought me peace was upon him. Why? Because it is by his wounds I am healed—now and for all eternity!

“Even Christ pleased not Himself…. As man He ever moved for God. As God He ever moved for man.” ~Geoffrey T. Bull

Reflect and Apply: Read Isaiah 53:1-12 reflectively—and pause to give thanks for such great love.

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