Who Killed Jesus, and Why? Understanding the Crucifixion

Lesson ▪ 2002
Tags: Jesus Christ; Crucifixion; Acts 2:22-23
Related Resources: Does Jesus’ Rejection by Men Negate His Claim to Be Messiah? A Negative Response from Matthew 11.2-19


For some time my oldest son (now three years old) and I have been working our way through a heavily illustrated Bible story book. This week we reached the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Understanding the significance of this story, I was somewhat nervous as I tried to explain it. In addition, the more that I said to him, the more I came to recognize the complex nature of the death of Christ.

I don’t know that I communicated the meaning of the crucifixion very well to my son. I found myself at a loss to explain to him that Jesus’ death was at the same time motivated by Jewish hatred, carried out by a perversion of Roman justice, and ultimately necessitated by our own sin. As I reflected on the challenge of explaining the crucifixion to a young mind, it struck me that Jesus’ death involved an interplay of factors. In a real sense, seven separate persons or groups could be considered responsible for it.



The Roman Government

Matthew 20

18   Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19   And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

John 19

10   Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
11   Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
16   Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.


Unbelieving Jews

Acts 2

36   Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Acts 3

13   The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14   But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15   And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

Acts 4

10   Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11   This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Judas Iscariot

Luke 22

21   But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
22   And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!



Genesis 3

15   And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Luke 22

3   Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
4   And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.



Isaiah 53

4   Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5   But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6   All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Romans 4

25   Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

1 Peter 1

18   Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19   But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:


God the Father

Philippians 2

8   And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

1 Peter 1

18   Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19   But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20   Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

Revelation 13

8   And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


Jesus Himself

John 10

17   Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18   No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

1 Timothy 2

5   For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6   Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.



Responsibility for Jesus’ death cannot be laid on any single person. His death sentence was the product of a number of factors. And though men were personally involved in betraying, capturing, and crucifying him, God--and indeed, Jesus himself--sanctioned the entire process.

God ordained the death of his Son for his own glory and the benefit of mankind, and Jesus willfully complied with his Father’s will. Thus the death of Jesus displays at once the depravity of man and the grace of God. The co-participation of God and man in Jesus’ death were perhaps best expressed by Peter on the day of Pentecost:

Acts 2

22   Ye 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 ye yourselves also know:
23   Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

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Teacher's notes (3 pages)  13k v. 2 Mar 7, 2011, 6:38 PM Greg Smith