A question asked down through the ages. The responses are often simplistic finger-pointing. A true response must consider all sides of the issue. Let’s take a closer look.
An Apostle – Playing Games, Avarice
Judas is not a popular name and for good reason. For over three years he heard Jesus’ teachings, witnessed His miracles, and observed His compassion. What got into Judas? Was he playing games? After he betrayed Him, “when he saw that Jesus was condemned, felt remorse” (Matt. 27:3). It seems to me that Judas thought everything would end up fine; and when it didn’t, he committed suicide.
The only direct clue into his character was his love of money. “Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, ‘What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?'” (Matt. 26:14-15). It’s not the first time Judas was after money. Remember the time Judas spoke up for poor folk? “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it” (John 12:6). Judas clearly loved money more than he loved Jesus.
The Clergy – Unbelief, Envy
The crucifixion was instigated by the top religious leaders. “The chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people sought to destroy him” (Luke 19:47). The Gospels are filled with the clergy challenging Jesus, refusing to believe in Him. Jesus did not conform to their concept of what the promised Messiah should be like. And, of course, they could not tolerate Jesus exposing their hypocrisy and false teaching.
There was a deep character flaw involved. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him'” (John 12:19). Pilate “knew that because of envy they had delivered him up” (Matt. 27:18). Rather than believe in Jesus because of His miracles and take to heart His teaching, they let envy rule.
The Masses – Ignorance, Fickleness
As His final week opened, “the multitudes… kept shouting, ‘Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Matt. 21:9). Before the week was out, “the chief priests stirred up the multitude… they cried out exceedingly, ‘Crucify him!'” (Mark 15:11-14).
Weeks later in a porch of the temple, Peter told the people, “Now, brothers, I know that you did this in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17).
I am reminded of the mob scene in Ephesus: “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was in confusion. Most of them didn’t know why they had come together” (Acts 19:32). Follow the crowd. Everybody’s doing it. No personal conviction or even understanding. Just get on the band wagon.
The Governor – Politics, Fear of Losing His Job
“Pilate, wishing to please the multitude… handed over Jesus, when he had flogged him, to be crucified” (Mark 15:15). “When Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, but rather that a disturbance was starting, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person'” (Matt. 27:24). Innocent? No way!
“The Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you release this man, you aren’t Caesar’s friend!'” (John 19:12). Uh-oh: his job was in danger. His position was more important to Him than doing what was right.
Soldiers – Doing Their Job, Derision
The soldiers might have defended themselves as just doing their job. But it was much worse than that. Like cat and mouse, they played with the victim. They dressed Him in a royal purple robe, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and cried out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And, “bowing their knees, did homage to him” (Mark 15:15-20). It’s easier to poke fun than to seriously face facts.
You and Me – Sin
A Bible student knows that all of the above are historical truths, whereas none of the above get to the heart of the matter. “He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). “Who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). Inasmuch as your sins and my sins nailed Him to the cross, all of the above are meaningful only to the extent they help us search our own hearts for attitudes and motives that may be influencing us.
Jesus – Offered Himself
But we need to go deeper than even that. Jesus was no victim! Jesus was no martyr. Jesus could have avoided it all. “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). In the Garden when Peter swung his sword, Jesus replied, “Do you think that I couldn’t ask my Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so?” (Matt. 26:53-54).
All the details we could recount make Jesus’ claim abundantly clear when He said: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself” (John 10:17-18). “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).
God the Father – Sacrifice for Sin
But the ultimate answer to who crucified Jesus is that God crucified Him. One of the best-known verses in the Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). God “didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). Centuries before it happened, it was said in past tense that “Jehovah has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). That’s what Peter clarified on Pentecost: “Jesus… being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men crucified and killed” (Acts 2:22-23). Not only did God have foreknowledge of it, it was His “determined counsel.” God planned it – for you and me.
Peter continued his message: “‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’… Then those who gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:36-41).
Have you gladly received this word – and responded?