Who Killed Jesus? That is a very important question and we are glad you asked. Let’s see what the Bible has to say.
“Therefore My Father loves Me (Jesus), because I lay down My lifethat I may take it up again.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again (John 10:17-18).”
Since all of us are sinners, and because Jesus died in our place to remove that sin, we all are responsible for His death. No one should point to any people group and say that group should take full blame for Jesus’ death. Tragic persecution has happened when people throughout history have blamed one people group without assuming their own personal culpability.
No One Could Kill Jesus Unless He Allowed Them To
Despite how He was tortured, Jesus only died when He released His spirit. The following quote is from Jesus on the cross:
“And Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, released His spirit (Matthew 27:50).
Jesus Knew He Came to Die
The Bible predicted Jesus’ death and victory over Satan from the time Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, sinned in the Garden of Eden. Many of the Psalms of King David predicted details about Jesus’ death, and he wrote those ten centuries before Jesus was born. He wasn’t taken by surprise.
Jesus Predicted His Death
Jesus predicted His death to His disciples shortly before He went on His death march to Jerusalem. At the same time, He told them He’d rise again from the dead three days later.
“He began to teach them that the Son of Man (a reference to Jesus) must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31).”
God’s Plan of Salvation Through the Death of Jesus
God designed His plan of salvation before the foundation of the world. Before He created the first man, He knew that He’d need to send us a Savior. But that doesn’t excuse those who killed Jesus; they were still responsible for their actions.
Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples, yet he betrayed Jesus. He bears some particular guilt for this betrayal. Judas had shared table fellowship with Jesus this same night. Sharing a meal in that culture was a pledge of friendship. Then, to top it off, He betrayed His Lord to the Roman soldiers with a kiss, a passionate kiss!
“Now he (Judas) who betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One. Seize Him and lead Him away safely.” So as soon as he came, he went to Him immediately and said, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him (Mark 14:44-45).”
Jesus Died For All Who Believe
When Jesus came to earth, God sent Him specifically to God’s chosen people, the Jews. The Jews were the human authors of the Old Testament. Their writings foretold that God would send them their Savior, their Messiah. They longed for the Messiah’s appearance, but the Jewish leaders rejected Him and His Kingdom when He came.
The Apostle Peter explained this mistake to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem shortly after they crucified Him, and three days later, He rose from the dead:
“You have taken Him, who was handed over to you by the ordained counsel and foreknowledge of God, and by lawless hands have crucified and killed Him (Acts 2:23).”
But it’s important to remember that many Jewish people believed Jesus was the Messiah, and a minority of the Jewish leaders condemned Him to death. The lawless hands Peter mentioned included the hands of Gentiles–the Romans–who participated in Jesus’ death. At the time of Jesus’ death, the Roman Empire ruled Israel. And Rome didn’t allow the Jewish leaders to put criminals to death. They needed Roman permission to do that:
“Then Pilate said, “Take Him and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying what death He would die (John 18:31-32).”
Pilate represented Roman law when he sentenced Jesus to death. Pilate’s wife had warned him not to condemn this innocent Man. And he tried his best to release Jesus. Pilate gave the crowd a choice between releasing a known criminal, Barabbas, or Jesus. He expected them to ask for Jesus.
“But you have a custom, that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
But they cried out for Pilate to release Barabbas. So, he eventually, after the crowd threatened to report him to Caesar, sentenced Jesus to death.
He symbolically washed his hands–in a futile display to the crowd–to say He wasn’t responsible for sentencing Jesus to death. But the Bible does lay responsibility at Pilate’s feet:
“Then he (Pilate) handed Him over to them to be crucified (John 19:16).”
Conclusion: Who Killed Jesus?
- Since all people are guilty of killing Jesus, no one people group should shoulder the blame for killing Jesus.
- Jesus died according to God’s foreknowledge, and no one could take His life unless He allowed it. He had the power to lay down His life and take it back up again.
- Judas bears particular blame for the despicable way He betrayed the Lord.
- Pilate bears the blame for sentencing this innocent Man to death.