In just a few weeks, Christians around the world will observe what to them is the most important holiday of the year. It is our remembering the horrific suffering entailed in the bleeding and dying of Jesus Christ on the Cross and our great rejoicing in the bodily resurrection of our crucified Savior. The unmitigated truth of the vicarious death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity. There can be no Gospel without it. This truth is as essential to Christianity as is the heart to the body. If the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Christ are mere fables, and we omit them from our doctrine, then Christianity is as dead as a human body without a heart.
Christianity is no more than a sad story, a hopeless philosophy, and some pathetic and silly superstition that is of no more value than that of an Easter Bunny.
But still, after all these centuries, Christians are not agreed about one aspect of Jesus' death at Calvary. The question is, "who was responsible for His death?" "Who killed the only begotten Son of God?" "Who is to blame?"
Many believe that surely it was the traitor, Judas Iscariot. Judas began as an enthusiastic, but an unconverted, disciple of Jesus. It seems that Judas was nothing more than a political zealot who hated the Romans. He eventually realized that Jesus was not going to lead a political revolt against the despised Roman occupiers. Judas then became the great betrayer, possessed by Satan and motivated by his greed [John 12:6]. He was a dupe and willfully gave himself to be the instrument of Satan to affect the betrayal and capture of Jesus to the religious leaders. Was he guilty of Christ's death? Absolutely!
But what about the religious and political leaders of that day? The Sadducees and Pharisees were both enraged by His rebukes and His rejection of their interpretations of Moses' Law. But the most despised and alleged "blasphemous" issue Jesus' repeated claim that He was the only begotten Son of God. The Romans believed that when Jesus was hailed as "King of the Jews," that He was usurping Caesar's authority. The result was that the Jewish religious court, the Sanhedrin, accused Jesus of "blasphemy." While in the Roman court, the charges were "sedition and treason."
Jesus was arrested, charged, questioned, witnesses called, a verdict rendered, and a guilty verdict and death sentence pronounced in both courts. Albeit, the Gospels are clear that Jesus was not guilty, the trials were a farce, the witnesses lied, and the sentence was a miscarriage of both Hebrew and Roman justice. Surely the religious and political leaders were guilty of Jesus' death.
But there are others too. Those who did the execution were Roman soldiers. The soldiers mocked him and ridiculed him. They spat on him, slapped his face, gambled for his garments, and beat the crown of thorns into his head. They then crucified him. Yes, the Roman soldiers are guilty.
And what about Pilate? He had the power to release him and was convinced of Jesus' innocence and said so twice. But Pilate didn't want to get in trouble with Caesar. He tried to pass the buck and sent him to Herod and later offered to compromise with the Jewish leaders by having Jesus scourged. But when cornered, he agrees to his death. He then hypocritically professes his innocence by "washing his hands" of the whole matter. But that does not exonerate him before God. Neither does it absolve the self-righteous who feel no responsibility for Jesus' death.
Yes, all the above were to blame for Christ's death. But we dare not forget there was another who is responsible. The suffering of Christ was much more than the awful torture and physical suffering of the crucifixion. His friend betrayed Him, the religious courts tried Him illegally, and Roman officials condemned Him unjustly. He was shamefully denied and deserted by His followers, His closest friends, and most of His earthly family. Most devastating of all, He endured alone, the bitterness and despair of complete rejection by God. God utterly forsook the Lord Jesus. We must never forget that it was God Himself, who ultimately allowed His Son to die. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" [Rom. 8:32, cf. John 3:16; 10: 15-18]. It was God's love for us sinners and His righteousness and justice that required so dreadful and costly a sacrifice. God, too, was responsible for the death of Jesus Christ.
But there is a remaining guilty killer that above all others, we dare not exonerate. And who might that be? All we need do is look in our mirrors to discover the guilty party. Like Pilate, we may try to wash our hands of the matter, but it will not work. It was our sin that put Christ there. Before we can see the Cross of Christ as something done FOR US, we must understand and accept his crucifixion as something done BY US!! The 19th-century Scottish preacher and songwriter, Horatius Bonar wrote these indicting words:
'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 crowd I see, mocking the Sufferer's groan.
Yet still my voice, it seems to me as if I mocked alone.
William "Ed" Nicholson is a native of this area. He holds graduate degrees in both bible and education and is pastor of the Grace Baptist Chapel in the village of Little Summit in Dunbar Twp. He may be reached at willnpa(@gmail.com or on Facebook