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A few years ago the movie The Passion of the Christ sparked renewed debate over whether Jews should be held responsible for the death of Jesus. Sadly, from the days of the first century there have been professing Christians who have promoted the idea that Jews should be punished for Jesus’ crucifixion.
That idea has been responsible for much anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews through the centuries. And it is based on utter ignorance of who Jesus was and why he came, and it is totally contrary to everything Jesus taught and stood for.
Jesus said of his life in John 10:18:
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father”
Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s will. It was Jesus’ will. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world—Jews and gentiles alike—so much, that he sent his Son to save the world by dying and rising from the dead.
The Jesus who cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing,” is the same Jesus who rose in glory and is our Advocate with the Father. He is the same Jesus whose Spirit moves us to love one another as he commanded.
Blame the Jews, or blame anyone, for killing Jesus? Nothing could be farther from the heart of Jesus than setting blame, because all humanity is to blame, but in Jesus, all humanity is forever forgiven for all sin.
God chose the Jews to do what had to be done for the sake of all humanity. All humans are sinners and rebels against God. All humans would have done away with Jesus, given the opportunity. But God chose Israel to be his people – the people through whom the Messiah would come, and the people to whom the Messiah would come. And God did it for the sake of the whole world, so that through Israel, all humanity would come to know him.
Would Christians who “blame” Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus prefer that Jesus not have been crucified? Would they prefer that he not have shed his blood for the sins of humanity and been raised from the dead?
Every human is to “blame” for the crucifixion of Jesus, because every human has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Paul tells us in Romans 3:23. But Jesus gave himself freely, not because anyone made him, or because he had to. He did it because he loves humanity. For this purpose he came, and for this purpose he lives that we all, Jews and gentiles alike, might live in him, blameless before God.
It was God’s free grace toward undeserving sinners that led to Jesus’ crucifixion—undeserving sinners like you and me. The crowd that shouted, “Crucify him!” were no bigger sinners than those of us who sing “That Old Rugged Cross” on Easter morning.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them…” And the Father did.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.