I recently finished reading Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard who also wrote Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. O’Reilly and Dugard did an amazing amount of research for all three of their best-selling books and do a good job of taking you into the actual time period in which each of the accounts takes place. Their description of the time in which Jesus lived was especially interesting with regard to the corruption, immorality, violence and brutality of the Roman Empire. Makes God’s choice of timing of when to send His Son into the world even more amazing, since He knew exactly what would ultimately be involved in the gruesome beating and crucifixion.
I do disagree, however, with how O’Reilly and Dugard portrayed Jesus as being a “victim” of the hypocritical Jewish leaders and the brutal Roman politicians and soldiers. At one point it mentioned how Jesus was in a panic to get everything done that needed to be accomplished. Jesus, although He was fully man, was at the same time fully God, and was always in complete control of every situation and was never “in a panic” as to the details of His mission. He was never the “victim” of His circumstances, but rather the “orchestrator” of them.
Many a discussion has taken place as to “who killed Jesus?” Obviously the Jewish leaders did not like the swelling popularity Jesus was receiving, the threat to their authority, the way He violated their “rules” and the danger it might cause with Rome. Because Jesus healed people on the Sabbath and claimed that the Father was working in and through Him, the Jews became determined to kill Him. The Apostle John wrote in His gospel: “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). After Jesus miraculously fed the thousands of people who had come out to hear Him teach, John records: “And after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee; for He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him” (Jn. 7:1). When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time and, just before the Passover was teaching daily in the temple (Lk. 21:37,38), Luke tells us: “And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people” (Lk. 22:2). So, was Jesus a “victim” of the hatred of His fellow Jews and their scheming to put Him to death? Well, on several occasions when they did make an attempt to kill Him, they couldn’t do it, for it wasn’t time yet for Him to die and He was in control. John records: “They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hands on Him, because His hour had not yet come” (Jn. 7:30). Finally, as Jesus had His disciples prepare a place where they could celebrate the Passover, He said to them, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples” ‘ ” (Mt. 26:18).
So, if it wasn’t the Jews who “killed Jesus,” surely it was the Romans, for they are the ones who beat Him, scourged Him, and nailed Him to the cross– and what a gruesome scene it was, which Killing Jesus portrays very graphically. But, remember when Jesus stood before Pilate, having been scourged and a crown of thorns pressed down upon His head, a purple robe placed upon Him, and the crowd of Jews shouting “Crucify, crucify” (Jn. 19:6). Pilate, knowing Jesus was innocent and seeking some way to get out of putting Him to death, “said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?'” (Jn. 19: 9,10). Jesus finally spoke, and note how He answered Pilate: “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” (v. 11). Moments earlier, Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews…” (Jn. 18:36). You will recall that when Judas led the multitude of chief priests and elders to arrest Jesus, Peter drew out a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Mt. 26:51) and “Jesus said to him, ‘Put you sword back into its place…do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions (thousands) of angels?'” Jesus was not a “victim” of the Jews hatred nor the Romans power and brutality. Jesus was a “victor,” carrying out His rescue mission because of His great love for us. He was in total control of the circumstances and of the timing of all the events surrounding His sojourn on earth, from His birth and throughout His life, including His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus referred to Himself as “the good shepherd” who “lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). He went on to add, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (Jn. 10: 17,18). Although in His providential plan, God used the hatred of the Jews and the mercilessness and brutality of the Romans in the death of Jesus, He was always in total control, and Jesus “lay down His life” of His own will. He went voluntarily to the cross. After crying out from the cross, “It is finished!” Jesus “Bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (Jn. 19:30).
Well, we do know that it was our sins for which Jesus died, so did we nail Him to the tree? Are we responsible for the “killing of Jesus?” While it is true that He died for the sins of the world. He didn’t have to. He was not a victim. He “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5). And, praise God, not only did He have the authority to lay down His life, but to “take it up again” (Jn. 10:18). Jesus conquered death and the grave could not hold Him. He was the victor over sin and death. As a result we too “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Ro. 8:37). Have you entered into His victory through faith in His death, burial and resurrection on your behalf? If so, you have “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) and nothing “shall be able to separate (you) from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:30. We have “Victory in Jesus!”