WHO CRUCIFIED JESUS?
A Catholic priest and a Jewish woman were walking through the streets of Warsaw. As they passed a
cathedral with a great cross on its steeple, the woman shuddered. The priest asked her what made her do that. She said it
was the sight of the cross. “But why would the cross -- a symbol of God’s great love -- cause such a
reaction?” he said. “To me the cross means the Crusades, the pogroms, Kristallnacht, Auschwitz,”
Through the centuries Christians have labeled the Jews “Christ-killers.” They have
accused them of the crime of deicide -- killing God. What are the facts?
The New Testament blames the Jewish priesthood for the death of Jesus. The high priest Caiaphas himself
led in the conspiracy against him (John 11:49-50) and presided over the trial that condemned him (Mathew 26:63-68). He
was joined by “the chief priests and the elders of the people” who “took counsel against Jesus to put
him to death” (27:1) and also accused him before the Roman governor (vv.11-12).
Even the religious reformers of Jesus’ day -- the scribes and Pharisees who despised the corrupt
priesthood and strove to keep the written and oral laws -- were severely denounced by Jesus in this withering curse:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets ... saying,
‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the
prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then,
the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I
send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your
synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood
of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:29-36).
Jesus blamed the Pharisees for not only plotting his death, but for killing the prophets before him.
Did the Romans crucify Jesus? It was a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who scourged Jesus and then
ordered his death (John 19:1; Matt. 27:24-26). And it was Roman soldiers who pounded the nails through His hands and
feet (John 19:23).
Was Jesus’ death caused by a mob lynching? The rioting mob screamed, “Let him be
crucified!” It was the mob who uttered the words that have been hurled against the Jews through the centuries:
“His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:24-25).
After Jesus’ death, his disciple Peter told a large Jerusalem crowd, “This Jesus ...
you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).
There is no escaping that the New Testament blames the Jewish priesthood, the Pharisees, the mob, the
Roman governor, and the Roman soldiers for Jesus’ death.
But the culpability for his death is far more widespread. I suspect that if in subsequent centuries Jesus had
come to the Church instead of the Jewish nation, he would have fared no better. His lifestyle of poverty and self-sacrifice, his
demands for total allegiance, his disapproval of sin, would create the same bitter resistance from the majority of Christians. In
any encounter with Jesus there is always resistance to him.
Many more share responsibility for this tragic crime. The prophet Isaiah describes it this way:
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
All of us -- the whole human race, every sinner who has ever lived -- crucified Jesus. Human evil -- the
greed, the indifference to the sufferings of others, the deceit, the lust, the injustice, the violence, the oppression, the sins of
apartheid and genocide -- the whole tide of human woe engulfed the innocent Victim and crushed out his life at the cross.
The human race stands condemned for the death of Jesus.
But that’s not all. God Himself is responsible for the death of Jesus! “We esteemed him
stricken, smitten by God and afflicted” (v. 4). God is a God of justice. Every sin that is ever committed
demands a just punishment. In His divine justice God has decreed that every sin must be punished. And He did it -- He
punished every sin! He did it at the cross in the person of Jesus Christ. “It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he
has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin ...” (v. 10). “The LORD has laid on him the
iniquity of us all” (v. 6). Through this means God offers salvation to anyone who accepts the death of Jesus in his or
Did I crucify Jesus? A New Testament writer declares that when we sin we “crucify the Son of
God afresh” (Hebrews 6:6). Sin causes immense pain to the heart of God. “The cross is a revelation to our
dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God.”
The truth of the matter is that all humanity -- everyone who has ever sinned -- is responsible for the death
of the Son of God. We are all Christ-killers! We are all guilty of deicide!
But that’s not the end of the story. As widespread as the oilslick of guilt suffocating our planet, so
wide is God’s clean-up for this planet. As intense as God’s hatred of sin, so intense is His love for the sinner.
With the same breath that Jesus denounced the Pharisees, he sobbed out the words:
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often
would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Jesus prayed down God’s forgiveness on His crucifiers: “Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34). They did not know that they were torturing the one who had come to save
them from eternal ruin. Had they known they would have been filled with remorse. But “that prayer of Christ for His
enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end
of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered.”
And Jesus responds to the terrible cry of the mob: “His blood be on us and on our
children!” by turning the curse into a blessing. “The blood of Jesus Christ ... cleanses us from all sin”
(1 John 1:7). What better blessing is there for the Jews and the whole world than for his blood to “be on us and our
Once there was an ungodly sea captain who was stricken with sudden illness in mid-ocean. He called the
ship’s doctor who informed him, “Captain, you cannot live more than twenty-four hours.” The
captain was distraught. He wasn’t prepared to die. So he sent quickly for the first mate, a man named Williams.
“Williams,” he said, “the doctor says I can’t last more than twenty-four hours. I want you to
get a Bible and read something to me and pray with me.” Williams responded, “Captain, I’ve
always carried out your orders, but you’ve given me an order now that I cannot carry out. I don’t have a
Bible and I don’t know how to pray.”
The captain called for the second mate. “Thomas,” he said, “my rope is running
out. I want you to get a Bible and read to me and pray with me. I’m dying.” Thomas replied in a similar vein.
“But,” he added, “I’ve seen a Bible in the hands of a boy on this ship -- the cook’s
boy named Willie Platt.” The captain said, “Go get him.” Thomas went down to the kitchen where
Willie was helping the cook. “Willie, get your Bible and go up to the captain’s cabin,” he ordered.
Willie obeyed. The captain said, “I want you to read something about God having mercy on a sinner like me.”
Willie searched his memory for something to comfort the desperate captain. Then he recalled the chapter
his mother had often read to him -- Isaiah 53. As he read, he came to the fifth verse where, speaking of Jesus, it says,
“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.”
The captain said, “That sounds like what I need. Won’t you read that over again?”
So Willie read the words over again. Encouraged by the captain’s response he said, “Captain, would you
like to have me read this verse like my mother taught me to read it?” The captain said, “By all means, read it
just like your mother did.”
Willie put his name into the text. “But he was wounded for Willie’s transgressions, he was
bruised for Willie’s iniquities: the chastisement of Willie’s peace was upon him; and with his stripes Willie is
healed.” The captain leaned over the side of the bed. “Son, read it again and put your captain’s
name in there.” The boy read, “He was wounded for John Clout’s transgressions. He was bruised
for John Clout’s iniquities: the chastisement of John Clout’s peace was upon Him, and with his stripes John
Clout is healed.”
The captain fell back upon his pillow and repeated the text over and over again, putting his own name into
it. Finally light from heaven broke in upon his darkened soul. By faith he accepted the great sacrifice made for him. Not long
after he died in peace.
Yes, we all crucified Jesus. And we all can be forgiven and cleansed by the blood flowing from the one we
1 Rabbi Singer raises a pertinent question: If the death of Jesus brought
salvation to the world, shouldn’t the Jews be commended for putting him to death? A similar question might be,
Since Haman’s attempt to exterminate the Jews resulted in their triumph, shouldn’t Haman be feted as a
great benefactor of the Jews?
Actually, Jesus was not dependent upon criminals to bring salvation to the world. Explaining His death, He
stated: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I
have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18). His willingness to die was his own
decision, independent of what humans might do to him. But his willingness in no way releases his murderers from guilt.
“It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt. 18:7).
2 Ellen G. White, Education, (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press
Publishing Association, 1942), p.263.
3 White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View : Pacific Press, 1940),