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WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR JESUS' DEATH ON THE CROSS

IT'S ABOUT THE CROSS NO. 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Good morning. Please take your Bible and turn with me to . That is where we will begin for this morning.
Last week we began our Easter series titled, IT’S ABOUT THE CROSS, by looking at the central importance that the cross of Christ had both for Jesus and for the apostles as well. This week, as we continue our series, we will consider who it is that is responsible for Jesus’ death. We will look at things from the human perspective as well as from the divine perspective.
My desire is that we each come to grip with the truth that we ourselves have some of the responsibility for Jesus’ death. And that this truth will penetrate us to the very depth of our soul. Let’s look first at the human perspective.
THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE
As we consider the death of Jesus from the human perspective we need to look at from both a theological perspective and a temporal perspective. Let’s begin by looking at the theological perspective.
THEOLOGICAL PLANE
Last week we looked at how the cross was of central importance to both Jesus and His Apostles. Now let’s consider the question of why Christ died. As we consider this we will see that Jesus’ death on the cross was due to two things, human wickedness and the set purpose of God.
Jesus Death Was Due to Human Wickedness
When we consider that Christ’s death was due to human wickedness there are at least two lines of thought that we can follow. The one is from the theological perspective in that it was because of the wicked condition of man that Christ had to die. The other is from the human perspective in that it was because of the wicked acts of certain first century men that Christ died. Let’s deal with the human perspective first.The New Testament authors hold certain individuals as being complicit in the wrongful death of Jesus Christ. First there is the religious leadership of Israel who were complicit in His death. They sought to have Jesus killed for various reasons. They charged Him with blasphemy which was in their minds a theological reason for seeking the death penalty for Jesus. They also feared that the Romans would take away their homeland and Temple because of a potential riot among the peoples who wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him King. They also did not like His association with people of low morals such as tax collectors and prostitutes. Furthermore, they were envious of Jesus. John Stott wrote:
The Cross of Christ The Jewish People and Their Priests
Radical Corruption
What was the fundamental reason for the priests’ hostility to Jesus? Was it entirely that they were concerned for political stability, doctrinal truth and moral purity? Pilate did not think so. He was not taken in by their rationalizations, especially their pretence of loyalty to the emperor. As H. B. Swete put it, “He detected under their disguise the vulgar vice of envy.”
Stott went on to write that “envy is the reverse side of a coin called vanity. Nobody is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself.” Not only are the religious leaders of Israel held complicit in the death of Christ, but so was Pilate. Pilate knew that it was out of envy that they were seeking for Jesus to be executed. He was the one man who had the political power to put this wrongful death to a stop. But he didn’t. Three times he interviewed Jesus and found Him to be innocent, and yet he allowed this atrocity to proceed.Judas is also held complicit in the death of Jesus. He was one of Christ’s closest associates. He was His friend. Judas was beside himself when Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfume — a blend that was so valuable that it could have been sold for a years worth of wages for a common worker. And yet because he became disillusioned he betrayed the Lord for the sum of about three months wages. The Jewish nation was also held complicit in the death of Christ. When Pilate asked why the crowds wanted Jesus to be crucified since He was clearly innocent of any charge that would mandate death, the people that were in the crowd that day shouted all the louder for Jesus to be crucified. In frustration, and perhaps in an attempt to make himself look good before God, Pilate ceremonially washed his hands with water indicating that he was innocent in regards to Jesus’ death. And the crowd responded this way:
Isaiah 1:5–6 NASB95PARA
Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick And the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it, Only bruises, welts and raw wounds, Not pressed out or bandaged, Nor softened with oil.
NASB95PARA
And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
“Sin has so thoroughly infected us that no part of our being - mind, affections, or will — is free from the taint of sin. We are totally dead spiritually … Our inability is total, too, because their is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our salvation.” (MacArthur, Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology, pg. 93).
From the theological perspective Jesus’ atoning death was the result of human wickedness. It was the redemption price for he many who would by faith embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
NASB95PARA
TEMPORAL PLANE
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
If sin had never entered the world then there would have been no need of an atoning sacrifice. This brings us to consider our next point:
THE ROMANS
Jesus Death Was Due to the Set Purpose of God
There are many, many statements in Scripture that we could look as we consider the set purpose of God in regards to Jesus’ death. But we will limit them to a few.
The Gospels do not describe the actual process of crucifixion
NASB95PARA
The Gospels do seem to hint the Roman Soldiers took delight in being cruel
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
They were following orders, but they didn’t have to enjoy it so much
The Gospels emphasize that Pilate was convinced of Jesus’ innocence. Three times he publicly declared that he found no guilt in Jesus. The first is when he was first approached, shortly after daybreak:
We see in this an understanding on Jesus’ behalf as to why He had to die. We also see a willing acceptance of the mission for which He came. Earlier in John’s gospel Christ stated this:
Luke 23:1–4 NASB95PARA
Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
The second time was after Herod had examined Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate:
NASB95PARA
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so 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.”
Writing in his first epistle Peter stated this:
Luke 23:13–15 NASB95PARA
Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.
NKJVknowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The third time was after the crowd shouted for Barabbas to be released, and Jesus to be crucified:
Luke 23:22 NASB95PARA
And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
The Gospels also note just how much of a politician that Pilate really was, for he was unwilling to clearly commit either to Jesus’ guilt or to His innocence. There are four specific evasions that are recorded for us in the Gospel accounts. First, when Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee he tried to evade making the determination by sending Jesus to Herod, who was at that time in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. A second way of evading the issue was to try giving Jesus part of the punishment, and then releasing Him. A third type of evasion was to try to get the crowd to make the correct decision and ask for Jesus’ release. Finally Pilate protested his innocence by washing his hands in regards to this matter.
Luke 23:5–12 NASB95PARA
But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.” When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
Luke 23:5–12 NASB95PARA
But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.” When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
Matthew 27:24 NASB95PARA
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”
Matthew 27:24 NASB95PARA
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”
This brings us to the next group of people that the N.T. writers held responsible for the death of Christ, the religious leaders of Israel.
THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF ISRAEL
Their were various charges against Jesus by the religious leaders of Israel, throughout His entire career. They charged Him with blasphemy. They charged Him with inciting riots. They charged Him will a lack of morals since He associated with “sinners.” But the fundamental reason for their hostility toward Jesus was envy — even Pilate understood that it was out of envy that they brought Jesus to him. And envy is related to vanity. John Stott claimed that “nobody is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself.”
Not only do the N.T. writers hold the religious leaders as being complicit in the wrongful death of Jesus Christ, they also held —
THE NATION OF ISRAEL
Notice what Peter stated on the Day of Pentecost:
“Men of Israel … you nailed (Jesus) to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (, )
When Pilate sought to wash his hands of this whole mess, the crowd willingly accepted the responsibility for the death of Jesus:
Matthew 27:25 NASB95PARA
And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
In Peter acknowledged that the people of Israel “acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also.”
JUDAS
It was prophesied long ago that one of Messiah’s closest associates would betray Him.
Psalm 41:9 NASB95PARA
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.
But this in no way releases Judas from guilt in regards to his treasonous betrayal of the Lord of Glory. God’s sovereign purpose does not negate man’s responsibility.
Before we move on, there is one more group of people who are complicit in the death of Jesus Christ —
YOU AND I
John Stott wrote:
The Cross of Christ Their Sins and Ours

If we were in their place, we would have done what they did. Indeed, we have done it. For whenever we turn away from Christ, we “are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Heb 6:6). We too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” the old negro spiritual asks. And we must answer, “Yes, we were there.” Not as spectators only, but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining and handing him over to be crucified.

Horatius Bonar wrote:
The Cross of Christ Their Sins and Ours

’Twas I that shed the sacred blood;

I nailed him to the tree;

I crucified the Christ of God;

I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude

I feel that I am one;

And in that din of voices rude

I recognize my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,

Mocking the Sufferer’s groan;

Yet still my voice it seems to be,

As if I mocked alone.

Thus far we have been considering the human perspective as to who was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ. Let’s turn our attention now to the divine perspective.
THE DIVINE PERSPECTIVE
GOD’S INTENDED PURPOSE
We have already touched on part of the divine perspective regarding the necessity of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, namely that it was because of man’s radical corruption — or total depravity if you prefer. But I am going to argue that it was God’s intention, even before the creation of the world, for Jesus, the eternal Son of God, to be born as a man so that He could die as our substitute on the cross. Notice what Peter stated in his first epistle:
1 Peter 1:18–21 NIV84
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Did you notice that? Before the world was created Jesus was chosen to redeem His people from their sins. That is mind boggling in the least. On the Day of Pentecost Peter had stated:
Acts 2:23 CSB
Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.
The most basic answer to the question of why Jesus had to die on the cross is that it pleased God. God took pleasure in the crucifixion of Jesus. Not in some sort of a malicious way, as human beings often take a cruel pleasure in someone else’s demise. But the death of Jesus pleased God. Notice what the prophet Isaiah wrote about the Suffering Servant:
Isaiah 53:10 NASB95PARA
But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
At Jesus’ baptism, when God stated that “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” I believe that He was pointing to the cross. I say this because in the same basic context John the Baptist said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29 NASB95PARA
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
We need to note that the cross was not forced upon Jesus by the Father, rather He was a willing participant.
JESUS WAS A WILLING PARTICIPANT
Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus made statements about seeking to please His Father.
John 4:34 NASB95PARA
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
John 8:28–29 NASB95PARA
So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
,
John 10:14–15 NASB95PARA
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
John 10:17–18 NASB95PARA
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so 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.”
Jesus obviously went through a great deal of emotional struggle as the time approached for His crucifixion. Yet He was resolved to see it through until the bitter end. The Samaritans would have nothing to do with Him as He and His followers marched on to Jerusalem because He had His face set on Jerusalem knowing that it was there that He would finish His earthly race. Just days before the cross He stated this: , .
John 12:27–28 NASB95PARA
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
John 12:31–33 NASB95PARA
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
It was very important to Jesus that He fulfill the mission for which He was sent, to give His life as a ransom for many. You and I who have placed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior are numbered among the many. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But can we say, with Fanny Crosby that we love to proclaim the good news of our redemption?
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: No. 516
Redeemed
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