Who Killed Jesus?

Title: Who Killed Jesus?

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Cross; Crucifixion



A few years ago, when Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, came out, it generated an immense amount of discussion - some positive, and some negative.

Some people said that the movie was not in accord with the Biblical account of the crucifixion. Others felt that it was. Soon after the release of the movie, Franklin Graham was interviewed by Katy Couric on the Today program. I don’t recall his exact words, but in essence he said that even though it contained an occasional element of Hollywood embellishment, overall the movie was very true to the Scriptures, and was a powerful film that would be used of God to touch lives. He said that people were talking about Jesus more than at any other time in his life. He went on to share the plan of salvation with Katie and with her millions of viewers. I pray that you and I will follow Franklin’s good example, and share the gospel when the opportunity presents itself.

A major question that people began discussing as a result of that movie was the question, Who killed Jesus? It is a powerfully important question, the answer to which has profound implications, here and hereafter. So, I want to speak this morning on that subject: Who killed Jesus?

I. Some would answer, “THE JEWS KILLED JESUS.”

Well, there’s no doubt that the Jews played a prominent part - that is, a large number of Jews of the first century who were in Jerusalem at the time.

Many ordinary Jewish citizens were attracted to Jesus and his teachings. Mark 12:37 says that “the common people heard him gladly.” But the Jewish leaders rejected him, and determined to turn the crowds against him. In Matthew 12:14 we read: “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” Why were they so determined to see Jesus put to death?

For one thing, these leaders had misinterpreted the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Messiah, and when Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, they turned “thumbs down.” They vowed to get rid of him.

They also considered Jesus a threat to their personal security. By the first century, Judaism had deteriorated into a dead, dry formalism, with an emphasis on ceremonies and rituals. But when Jesus came, proclaiming that God requires changed hearts and changed lives, he began to upset the “status quo” - and fearing that they would lose their hold on the people, these Jewish leaders began making plans to destroy him.

They were furious that Jesus refused to abide by all of their rules and regulations, and they considered him a blasphemer. John 5:18: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”

Furthermore, the Bible tells that they were just plain jealous. Mark 15:10 says that Pilate “knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.”

Let’s look at a few highlights of what the Bible says about the Jews and their part in the death of Jesus:

After Jesus had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas pointed him out to the Temple authorities and their troops by kissing Jesus on the cheek. Then Jesus was put through a mock trial by the Jewish hierarchy. In Mark 14:61-64 we read:

“...Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.”

Luke 22:63-65: “And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.”

So, if you believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of the living God, as I do, then you can’t deny the part that the Jews of the first century played in the death of Jesus. Facts are facts - and the fact is that many of the Jews, stirred and prodded by their leaders, clamored for Pilate to crucify Jesus, and when he vacillated they were insistent. It was a case of a mob demanding execution.

Look with me at Matthew 27:24-25:

“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, his blood be on us, and on our children.”

Who killed Jesus?

II. Some would answer, “THE ROMANS KILLED JESUS.”

The fact is that the Romans did play a prominent part in the crucifixion of Jesus - that is, the Roman governor and his henchmen did.

Because the Jews could not legally execute anyone, they came to Pilate, demanding that he put Jesus to death. Pilate wanted to curry favor with his subjects, but he was uneasy about the idea of crucifying Jesus. In Luke 23:1-5 we read:

“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying,

Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

Pilate, learning that Jesus was from Galilee, sent him then to Herod, who happened to be in the area. Herod’s rule included Galilee, and Pilate hoped that Herod would take charge of the situation - but Herod sent Jesus back. Then, in Luke 23:20-24 we read:

“Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.”

Matthew 27:26-31:

“Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.”

John 19:17-18: “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they [that is, the Roman soldiers, under orders from Pilate, the Roman governor] crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

So, yes: the Romans - at least the Roman governor and his soldiers - did play a prominent part in crucifying Jesus. The Bible leaves no question about it.

III. But here is “THE BOTTOM LINE” as to who killed Jesus:

Ultimately it was YOUR SINS AND MINE that nailed Jesus to the cross - yours and mine, along with the sins of all mankind - the Jews, the Romans, and everybody else.

Isaiah 53:5-6 says:

“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. 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.”

Someone says, “Preacher, I know we’re all sinners, and I know that includes me - but isn’t it a bit of a stretch to say that you and I are responsible for the death of Jesus? That happened 2,000 years ago, and you and I weren’t born until centuries later. How could you and I have caused his death?

The answer is that God looked down through the corridors of time, thousands of years before you and I were born, and he saw that you and I - like every descendent of Adam - would sin, and that our sin would bring upon us the curse of spiritual death, which is separation from God. God must punish sin, to be consistent with his own holiness. But he devised a plan whereby we could be saved from the deadly consequences of our iniquities - he sent his own Son, who willingly came, to take our punishment for us, and that’s exactly what happened on the cross. Somehow, in a way that defies our full comprehension, on that cross Jesus took upon himself, in one unfathomably tortuous bundle, all the punishment that you and I and all mankind deserve for all of our sins for time and eternity.

The physical suffering must have been horrendous - but the spiritual suffering must have been even worse. Think of it: he was the one perfect person who ever walked the globe. He never had one wrong thought, spoke one wrong word, or did one wrong thing - and yet every sorry, filthy thought, word, and deed that you and I ever thought, spoke, or committed was laid on him as he hung on that cross. It would be outside our frame of reference to try to comprehend that. We are sinners - but he was, and is, perfect. I know that those nails through his hands and feet must have been excruciating - but even more painful must have been the weight of all our sins.

No wonder the poet said: “For none of the ransomed ever knew, How deep were the waters crossed, Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through, Ere he found the sheep that was lost.”

So, when a person reads the account of the crucifixion in the Bible, he is confronted with the awesome, sobering fact of the substitutionary death of Jesus. He died for every one of us, to take the punishment for our sins and offer us the gift of eternal life. In that very real sense, you and I killed Jesus. In John 12:32-33 Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


One of the greatest artists of all time was Rembrandt. In his painting, The Three Crosses, the central figure, of course, is Jesus. Gathered around the cross are many people, with various expressions and various postures. But on the edge of the painting is another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he had helped nail Jesus to the cross.

The message of the Bible is that Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave on the third day, and lives today to save all that come unto God by him - and he promises, in John 6:37: “...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The cross shows how much Jesus loves you. Are you loving him back? If you haven’t repented of your sins and surrendered to him in faith, you’re not loving him back. If you have not publicly professed your faith in him, and been baptized in obedience to his command, you’re not loving him back. If you’ve not placed your membership in a Bible believing church, you’re not loving him back. If you’re not living a clean moral life and looking for ways to serve him, you’re not loving him back.

But if you’ve been guilty of not loving him back, you can change that right now - and we invite you to do just that.

Posted in


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top