ASK Commentary
February 29, 2004 

Who Killed Christ? - Part 1

Commentary for February 29, 2004 — Before Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ Movie

Read Part 2 at: http://www.askelm.com/news/n040311.htm

I wanted to write some words before I see the controversial movie produced by Mel Gibson. I will write more after I see the movie.

The movie is purported to be a movie portrayal of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life primarily from the Gospels. In addition, Gibson “fills in” material that the Gospels do not speak about from the writings of Westphalian mystic, stigmatic, and ecstatic, Anne Catherine Emmerich, an Augustinian nun. Emmerich dictated her visionary revelations to a friend with the result that the book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich became a Catholic best seller of its day in the 1800s. For details about Emmerich see the article from The Catholic Encyclopedia about her: www.newadvent.org/cathen/05406b.htm.

In scenes from trailers of the film Jesus has the typical long hair and beard. This is ridiculous both from Jewish tradition and from Roman style, but most importantly it is opposed to God’s commands. For a review of this issue, see chapter 24, “The New Jesus of the Fourth Century” in Dr. Martin’s book Secrets of Golgotha (Portland, OR: A.S.K., 1996), pp. 345–357. See also the article “Pagan Images of Christians Today” on the ASK Website.

However, important as this fact is to reality, the main message of Gibson’s movie is Jesus sufferings for our sins. This is what he has said in several interviews I have seen. Gibson is clear that we all “killed Christ” because of our sins and that Christ needed to suffer so we might receive forgiveness through His death. This is ultimately true. As Paul makes clear Christ solves Adam’s (and our) problem of sin through His life, death and resurrection, wherein we can be raised with Christ (see Romans 5:12–6:14). We are responsible for Christ’s death in a general and a particular sense.

Who Is Responsible

The historical characters involved in Christ’s death were Jews and Romans. The Jewish people loved Jesus when He made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–17, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:29–44 and John 12:12–19). Days later they wanted His blood on their heads and demanded He be crucified. Many of those same Jews were likely people who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45).

It is clear that the chief priests and the elders of the people sought to put him to death (Matthew 26:59, 66, 27:1; Mark 14:55, 64, John 11:46–53). It is clear that if they legally could put Jesus to death they would have done so. This is confirmed by the words that it was “the chief priests and rulers and the people who brought Jesus to Pilate (Luke 23:13–14). Pilate said to Jesus Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you unto me” (John 18:35) when Jesus was brought to Pilate the second time, to again request He be put to death (Luke 23:15; John 18:31).

When Pilate offered to release Jesus instead of Barabbas, the multitude was persuaded by the chief priests and the elders to choose Barabbas (Matthew 27:15–23; Mark 15: 14; Luke 23:16–23; and John 18:40. It was the people — the multitude — who demanded Jesus be crucified. The entire scene of Pilate washing his hands in front of the multitude was for the purpose of showing them that he felt innocent of the blood of Jesus. While Pilate was still responsible, the people accepted this and shouted,

“Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’”

Matthew 27:25

This is a clear statement that the people accepted responsibility. Did the Romans kill Jesus? Yes. Did the Jews kill Jesus? Yes. They were our representatives in doing so. The Romans were also God’s agents in this matter. In fact, the power of death that the Romans had over Jesus is specifically said by Jesus to be a gift from God. Note the dynamics of all the participants in this scene and note especially what Jesus said about Pilate’s power over Jesus:
“When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ Pilate said unto them, ‘Take you him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.’ ... Then said Pilate unto him [Jesus], ‘Speak you not unto me? Know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me unto you has the greater sin.’”

John 19:6–7, 10–11

Make no mistake; anything that is given by God is a gift from God. It is not a thing that is earned. God gave Pilate the power of life or death over His Son Jesus to serve God’s purpose. The Romans represented you and me as agents in Christ’s death. The Jews (all the people, except a few) represented you and me as agents in Christ’s death. They further insisted that Pilate kill Jesus (John 19:15). You would have done the same thing.

The people, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders mocked and reviled Him on the tree of crucifixion (Matthew 27:30–44; Mark 15:29–32; Luke 23:35–38, cf. Psalm 22:8, 109:25). “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). Who was Jesus forgiving? Could anyone think Jesus meant the Romans? No. He meant the Jews, who represented you and me at that moment. Our sins made that act necessary, according to God’s plan.

God’s Plan

When Isaiah wrote Isaiah 53, he was writing about the Jews as well as all human beings, but note who was ultimately responsible, YHWH Himself:

“But he was wounded for our transgressions [Jews and all of us], he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we [Jews and all of us] like sheep have gone astray; we [Jews and all of us] have turned every one to his own way; and YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all [Jews and all of us]. ... Yet it pleased YHWH to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you [God] shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of YHWH shall prosper in his hand.”

Isaiah 53:5–6, 10

The Lamb of God was brought to the slaughter by God (Isaiah 53:7, John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Corinthians 5:7). As agents of God, the apostle Peter said the Jews killed Jesus, but they did so according to the plan of God:
“You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”

Acts 2:22–23

Peter repeated that the Jews killed Jesus but added that they acted out of ignorance. The many Jews who heard Peter’s words would not have been pricked in their hearts and repented and become believers if they had not felt guilt for their participation in the death of Jesus, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). Peter later repeated this same statement, noting that the Jews were culpable, yet ignorant of what they had done.
“The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Son Jesus; whom you delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. ... And now, brethren, I wot [am aware] that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers.”

Acts 3:13–15, 17

Stephen was brought before “the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council” (Acts 6:12), and said explicitly that Jesus was murdered by them:
“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

Acts 7:52–53

The apostle Paul, a Jew, specifically says that the Jews killed Jesus:
“For you, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.”

1 Thessalonians 2:14–15

If you cannot abide viewing violence on the screen, do not go to see the movie. If you can handle such gore, and want to see what is often proclaimed as a cinematic work of art, then go see the movie. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer. This will not be a light popcorn movie. It is violent and bloody. So was the reality.

The Glory of the Jews

Note all the good things the Israelites (the Jews in Paul’s day) were given by God:

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertains
[1] the adoption, and
[2] the glory, and
[3] the covenants, and
[4] the giving of the law, and
[5] the service of God, and
[6] the promises.
Whose are the fathers [promises], and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”

Romans 9:4–5

This is quite an impressive list of gifts that God gave to Israel. The greatest gift that fulfilled all of the promises was that Christ would come in the flesh through Israel. It was the role of the Jews to serve humanity with all these gifts. They did so through Christ. Even though they have failed and besmirched those gifts of God, the Jews will still be received by God, as all humanity will be, when God performs His promises:
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.’ As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”

Romans 11:26–29

The gifts that God gave to Israel (Romans 9:4) are the same gifts that Paul refers to in Romans 11:29. Israel’s rejection is temporary (Romans 11:1–10). God loves the Jews just as He loves all humanity, even though all humanity is guilty (Romans 1:29–32).

Christ’s Self-Sacrifice

In reality Christ sacrificed Himself:

“For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. ... So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Hebrews 9:26, 28

As Dr. Martin noted the Jewish leaders had no choice except to kill Jesus. If Jesus was not the Christ, the Messiah, they were obligated to punish Him as a blasphemer. If Jesus was the Messiah, then they could call upon God’s mercy later. They could not know for sure, especially when we later know that their eyes were blinded as to who He truly was. They had no choice.

As Dr. Martin relates on p. 127 of Secrets of Golgotha, Jesus’ death was legal. Only the Jews could so condemn Him according to the Law of Moses. Now note carefully: If Jesus’ death was not legal, your sins would have not been forgiven. It was essential that Jesus fulfill all legal requirements of the Law of Moses in order for His blood to be presented on the altar before God the Father in heaven (Hebrews 9:23–28). The Jews played their necessary part. As the high priest Caiaphas so rightly said (though for the wrong reason),

“Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”

John 18:14

It is my understanding that this passage was removed from the Mel Gibson film. It should have remained in. The Jews represented you and me. They did what you and I would have done. They were guilty like you and me. They were saved from before the foundation of the world like you and me. As I said before, someone had to do the act, God chose the Jews. For anyone to put any kind of blood libel on Jews today is blasphemy against God and Christ. To do such a thing would show a great ignorance of Scripture.

The Movie, Again

As I said at the beginning I have not yet seen the movie. From the descriptions of the crucifixion in Dr. Martin’s book Secrets of Golgotha, the reality was probably far worse than what is portrayed in the movie. Jesus’ bones were exposed as the flesh was ripped off in chunks, even though not one of His bones was broken. He was unrecognizable as a human being. Most of the damage occurred when He was stoned according to Old Testament law when He was upon the tree of crucifixion, not just from the flogging by the Romans. See Chapter 22: “The Surprising Cause of Jesus’ Death.”

It may be that this movie may cause a change in the minds of many people to receive the truth of God’s Word. We shall see. I shall report to you after I have seen the film, not so much to give a movie review, but more to give my impressions about the impact it has emotionally and spiritually. Whether you see it or not is up to you. Remember it is a very violent and bloody movie.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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