Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
One of the most amazing aspects about God is his perfect timing. This is not only true in our daily lives, but it was also true about the Lord’s timing in sending his son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be involved in the most important event in the history of the world. Today, we’re going to look at the topic of the crucifixion and discover what the Holy Spirit showed me about this momentous event. And so to start, we ask the question: “Who killed Jesus?”
A pretty easy answer to this question might be, “Clearly, the Jews killed Jesus.” I mean consider this: had it not been for the Jews paying off Judas, Jesus might not have been killed at all. Scripture records this awful act on the part of the Jewish leaders and Judas,
Then one of the Twelve- the one called Judas Iscariot- went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:14-16).
Not only did they pay for the betrayal of Jesus, the Jewish leaders also pushed for a trial by the Roman authorities. Take note of how they twist their words around in order to get the Roman governor Pilate to consider their case,
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king” (Luke 23:1-2).
The Jews went as far as to lie to the governor about Jesus so as to push him to a Roman trial. Not only had Jesus not opposed taxes, but actually advocated paying taxes during one of his speeches. When asked on the topic of taxes, Jesus asked for a coin,
They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him (Mark 12:16-17).
So from bribing one of Jesus’ friends to outright lying to the government, the Jews knew no discretion in their betrayal of one of their own. But that wasn’t all. Pilate tried to release Jesus after the Jews brought Christ to him. The Bible says,
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:5-6).
Now, Pilate tried to let Jesus go, but the officials whipped the Jewish crowd into an absolute frenzy for blood. The Bible continues,
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered (John 19:15).
The bloodthirsty cries of the Jews were such that Pilate had no choice than to give Jesus over to crucifixion, otherwise a riot might break out. So clearly, the Jews had a very strong hand in Jesus’ death.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa; you’re missing the facts. The Jews didn’t kill Jesus, Rome killed Jesus.” Now, for this argument, there’s also quite a lot of proof to back it up. For one, the Jews couldn’t actually kill anyone. We learn this from John 18:31,
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.
Not only were the Jews unable to actually carry out capital punishment, but who was it who sentenced Jesus to death? Pilate, the Roman governor; we read,
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:23-25).
Pilate was the man with the power. And as we read earlier, he didn’t even think Jesus was guilty. However, when it came down to it, Pilate didn’t assert his power, and instead let a man, who even he saw as innocent, be hung on a cross until death. It was Pilate’s choice to let Jesus die; and it was his soldiers who carried out the final order. We read,
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others- one on each side and Jesus in the middle (John 19:16-18).
How could the Jews have killed Jesus when they didn’t have the power to do so? Clearly Rome killed our Savior, because physically speaking they were the only ones who could do it.
Alright, what am I getting at? The event of Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins happened at the most perfect possible time in the world. God arranged things in such a way that there couldn’t have been a better time for Jesus to die as a sacrifice for the world’s sins. You see, in the Bible-centric worldview, there are only two groups of people. There are the Jews; these are God’s chosen people. Moses reminds us about the Jews’ status as God’s chosen people,
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
Everyone who does not trace their lineage back to Jacob falls under the category of “Gentile.” So from a Biblical perspective, the world consists of the Jews and everyone else. No further lines are drawn. This fits perfectly with Jesus’ time though because at that time, Rome had conquered most of the known world. If any group ever represented the name “Gentile” so well, it was Rome. For in the western world at that time there was only Israel and Rome. And even more, Rome had taken over Israel, so the two were in close quarters and interacting on a daily basis. The two groups were in an interesting position. The Jews were allowed some measure of autonomy in how they carried on separate from most Roman nations. However, in order to get anything done, they’d need to seek out Roman permission. And so we find that the Jews couldn’t kill Jesus because they didn’t have permission, and Rome wouldn’t have killed Jesus because they let the Jews sort out their own messes. So in the passages above, we find out that the Jews rejected and betrayed Jesus, whereas the Gentiles didn’t care enough to save him.
Why would God set it up so that essentially nobody is guiltless in the death of his Son Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit explained to me that the Lord was making sure that everyone would be able to receive salvation. Paul writes in Romans 11:11 about the Jews, “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Because of their part in the crucifixion, the Jews opened the way of salvation up to the Gentiles, because the Jews rejected Jesus, therefore sending him to them. However, because the Gentiles’ hands aren’t clean either, this allows salvation to still be given unto the children of Israel. Paul goes on in Romans 11:12-15,
But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring?
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Israel’s rejection of Jesus opened the path up for the Gentiles to receive salvation, however the fact that Christ was crucified by the Gentiles keeps things even, and in this way Paul is able to minister both to the Gentiles and the Jews so that salvation through Christ’s death on a cross may come to all. Obviously, the Jews can’t be cut out of the inheritance for betraying Jesus, since the Gentiles did it too.
Therefore, we find that we are all equal under the salvation of Christ. For it is written,
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:17-18).
Paul, writing to the Gentiles, reminds them that although it was because of the Jewish rejection of Christ that everyone else can receive his grace that they shouldn’t lord this over their Israelite brothers, because the focus isn’t on who killed Jesus (because we all did), but rather on Christ and his power to forgive sins and overcome death. We read,
You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either (Romans 11:19-21).
In this illustration, Paul notes that the natural branches (the Jews) were broken off due to unbelief. However, if the Gentiles respond with unbelief, they too will face a similar fate. In this way, God has made neither Jew nor Gentile higher than the other, and therefore equal in the face of Christ’s mercy. For the Jews rejected Jesus, but the Gentiles were apathetic to his plight.
In this way then we’re all given the same choice: whether to believe or not. Everyone has this choice, even you. Paul explains,
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again (Romans 11:22-23).
God has made it so that both Jew and Gentile alike may receive Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf. For we know in John 3:16 it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Since all have an equal part in his death, then all are equally welcomed into God’s love through Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross. So choose Jesus today, and be brought into the folds of his salvation.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
And his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
That God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen!
-Paul, Romans 11:33-36