Whodunit (Mark 14:40-43) (Easter Series)
WHODUNIT (MARK 14:40-43)
Nobody could have predicted the controversy that erupted over the Aramaic-speaking, English-subtitled movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Months before the film’s release, rabbis went on the offensive and questioned publicly the appropriateness of such a movie. It seems that every year in Europe past when Passion plays were staged around Easter, many Jews would suffer mindless persecution and be called Christ killers.
Polls that surfaced subsequently were divided if the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. ABCNEWS asked 1,011 adults the question “Are Jews today responsible for the death of Jesus?” Overall, 8% believed so.
The Pew Research Center, however, in its poll of 1,703 adults, found a higher 26 percent of respondents believe Jews were to blame for the Crucifixion. The greatest increase was among young people and blacks. 34% of those under 30 believes Jews were responsible, whereas 42 percent of blacks hold that view. The survey did not ask whether respondents believe Jews today should be blamed for the Crucifixion.
The Greek word for “kill” (apokteino) occurs 76 times in the Bible – 49 times in the gospels alone. So who killed Jesus, according to the Bible? Were the Jews or the Romans the bad guys? Was Judas Iscariot or Pontius Pilate ultimately responsible?
The Jews Sought to Kill Jesus
For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. (John 7:1)
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matt 16:21)
A fourteen year old Jewish boy asked a rabbi on Jewish.com:
Q: “I am a fourteen year old Jew. I have a lot of Christian friends, and I have one certain friend that has a very strong opinion of Judaism and Jews. He keeps telling me that the Jews killed Jesus, and I am going to hell if I don't let him in my heart. What really bothers me is the thing about the Jews killing Jesus…Did the Jews kill Jesus?”
A: “Your friend certainly has a “old-fashioned” view of things, since official Christian doctrine, which once spread that lie about the Jews, no longer does. Of course, it was a disciple, Judas, who betrayed him to the Roman authorities, and all the disciples were Jews. Some of the Christian sources depict a scene in which “the Jews,” given the choice of saving Barabbas or Jesus from crucifixion, chose Barrabas…So, even here, some Jews had indirect responsibility for his death. Finally, from a political point of view, we know that some Jewish leaders - appointed by the Romans - may have wanted Jesus out of the way because he seems to have been a political threat. After all, if indeed he claimed to be “king of the Jews,” the Romans would have wanted him silenced, and Jewish leaders may have been “under the gun” to silence him. The final decision, of course, lay with the Romans, who alone used crucifixion as a means of killing criminals and who alone had authority to impose the death penalty. Now, even if Jews were involved in Jesus' death, I might add that that was then, and this is now. Certainly, no Jews since Jesus died played a role in his death. Furthermore -- and most importantly -- since it was Jesus' resurrection that began Christianity, if anything we should be praised for having him killed!”
To supplement what the rabbi said, verse after verse, chapter to chapter, and gospel after gospel say that the Jews merely sought to kill Jesus, but not that they actually killed Jesus. They were guilty of plotting and seeking to kill Jesus, but not the very act itself. “The Passion of the Christ” was supposedly adapted from the gospel of John, but John was most explicit in saying that the Jews “sought” to kill Jesus, but not the job itself. The apostle records that the Jews tried all the harder to kill Jesus for breaking the Sabbath, calling God his own Father, and making himself equal with God (John 5:18). Jesus stayed away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life (John 7:1). People in Jerusalem were aware the Jews were trying to kill him (John 7:25), but they never concluded the Jews killed Jesus. Jesus, unapologetically, also accused the Jews of seeking to kill him (John 8:37, John 8:40). The NIV said they were ready and determined to kill him. By John 11, the chief priests and the Pharisees even called a meeting of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus (John 11:47, 53). Again, the attitude and aim of the Jews were firm and clear, but not the act itself.
Not only John, but Matthew (Matt 26:4) and Mark concur with John’s assertion. Matthew claims that “the chief priests and the elders of the people…plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him,” and Mark (14:1) says that the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.
The Synoptic gospels, however, add a twist to the word “kill” not found in John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke note that Jesus did not name the Jews, or even their religious leaders, as his killers. In Jesus’ teaching to his disciples, as recorded by Matthew (Matt 16:21), he explained to them that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he “must be killed” and on the third day be raised to life. Jesus predicted his “suffering” at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, but not “death” at their hands. He said that “he must be killed” but he did not identify who the killers were. Matthew was not alone; Mark (8:31) and Luke (9:21) echo Matthew’s assertion that he “must be killed,” using the passive voice. Language experts discourage the use of the passive voice and use it sparingly but usefully to emphasize an object (“he” must be killed), to de-emphasize an unknown subject/actor when the actor is unknown and if the readers need not know who's responsible for the action.
The Gentile were the Christ Killers
33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”(Mark 10:33-34)
32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:32)
One of the most sympathetic figures in the movie “The Passion of the Christ” was Pontius Pilate, who comes across as unwilling to kill or crucify Jesus due to the positive influence of his wife, Claudia, who was cast as sweet like Mom and apple pie. She comforted Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene in the movie when Jesus was arrested and flogged. Even though evangelicals are rock solid in their support for Mel Gibson’s movie, Mel Gibson is still a traditionalist Catholic at heart and in belief.
According to Matthew 27:19, the only thing the unnamed wife of Pilate ever did was to send her husband a message not to have anything to do with Jesus, whom she called innocent, for she had suffered a great deal that day in a dream because of him. Unlike the gospel account, in the movie, Pilate’s wife has a name, is a believer and is good, godly and generous. The kind portrayal of Pilate as an innocent governor caught up in the crowd’s demand has nothing to do with Scripture but everything to do with Catholicism.
According to Christianity Today, Mel Gibson had read the works of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a late-18th, early-19th-century nun who had visions of the events of the Passion. The movie reflects Ememrich’s account from her book “Dolorous Passion of Our Lord”: “After the flagellation, I saw Claudia Procles, the wife of Pilate, send some large pieces of linen to the Mother of God. I know not whether she thought that Jesus would be set free, and that his Mother would then require linen to dress his wounds, or whether this compassionate lady was aware of the use which would be made of her present. … I soon after saw Mary and Magdalen approach the pillar where Jesus had been scourged; … they knelt down on the ground near the pillar, and wiped up the sacred blood with the linen which Claudia Procles had sent.” (“The Passion of Mel Gibson” Christianity Today March 2004)
Unfortunately, the Jews have been erroneously called “Christ killers” for as long as Christianity exists. According to the Bible, the Gentiles were the real Christ killers. Most notable and notorious of all involved was Pilate’s role. Luke the Gentile (23:4, 14, 22) reports that three times Pilate found no fault with Jesus. The first time, Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). The next announcement, after Jesus returned from Herod, was: “I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death (Luke 23:14-15), and finally he said, “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him” (Luke 23:22).
The angelic or saintly deeds of Pilate’s wife are unknown to the Bible. Her contact with or attention to the two Marys was straight out of Hollywood. Her concern was primarily for her own and her husband’s interests, and not for Jesus or the women’s wellbeing.
Unlike Mark and Luke, Matthew did not charge the Gentiles with killing Jesus; he used another word – they “crucified” Him (Matt 20:19). Both the words “kill” and “crucify” resolved the Jews from blame. Jesus predicted his crucifixion but he never blamed the Jews. Nowhere in the Bible did the gospel writers charge that the Jew crucified Jesus. Matthew and Mark were similar in their account of the series of events happening and who to blame for the crucifixion. Matthew asserts that Pilate had Jesus flogged and handed him over to his soldiers, who then led him away to crucify him (Matt 27:26, 31, 35). Mark records that Pilate released Barabbas to satisfy the crowd, had Jesus flogged (Mark 15:15) and then handed him over to the soldiers, who led him out to crucify him (Mark 15:20). The Greek text in both Matthew and Mark, however, records Pilate doing the flogging. Instead of the NIV rendering of “he had Jesus flogged,” the Greek directly says “he flogged Jesus” in both Matthew and Mark (Matt 27:26, Mark 15:15).
The Hands of Men Killed Jesus
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matt 17:22-23)
He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:31-32)
What does “betrayed into the hands of men” (Matt 17:22) mean? Who are the men? The angels reminded the women after His resurrection, in Luke 24:7: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'“
Who are the sinful men? They refer to Jews , Samaritans and Gentiles; Romans and Greeks; Judas who sold him for 30 pieces of silver and Peter who denied Him three times; Pilate and Barabbas; the soldiers and the fishermen; the ruling Sanhedrin, the rulers of the synagogue and the unruly mob; the disciples who strayed and the women that stayed; the Pharisees, the Herodians (Mk 12:3) and the Sadducees (Mk 12:18); the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law; the outcast, the beggar, the sick, the leper, the paralytic, the poor, the hungry, the blind, the deaf, the prisoner, the oppressed, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the widowed, the demon-possessed, the shepherds, the Magi, the zealots, ordinary people, the little man, the working people,
The song “Mystery Of Mercy: by gospel group Caedmon's Call has the same theological understanding:
“I am the woman at the well, I am the harlot
I am the scattered seed that fell along the path
I am the son that ran away
And I am the bitter son that stayed
My God, my God, why hast though accepted me
When all my love was vinegar to a thirsty King?
My God, my God, why hast though accepted me?
It's a mystery of mercy and the song, the song I sing
I am the angry man who came to stone the lover
I am the woman there ashamed before the crowd
I am the leper that gave thanks
And I am the nine that never came.”
Our sin and His love nailed Jesus to the cross. We were dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1), but His death on the cross was meant to:
“Save” his people from their sins (Matt 1:21 - sozo)
“Forgive” sins (Matt 9:6 - aphiemi)
“Take away” or “take up” the sin of the world (John 1:29, 1 John 3:5 - airo)
“Wipe out” sins (Acts 3:19 - exaleipho)
“Wash away” sins (Acts 22:16 - apolouo)
“Cover” sin (Rom 4:7 - epikalupto)
Not “count” sin against him (Rom 4:8 - logizomai)
“Do away” with sin (Rom 6:6 - katargeo)
“Free” man from sin (Rom 6:7 - dikaioo)
“Take away” or “remove” sins (Rom 11:27 - aphaireo)
“Die” for our sins (1 Cor 15:3 - apothnesko)
“Gave” himself for our sins (Gal 1:4 - didomi)
“Provided purification” for sins (Heb 1:3 - katharismo)
“Atone” for sins (Heb 2:17, 1 John 1:7 - hilaskomai)
“Remember” sins no more (Heb 8:12, 10:17 - mimnesko)
“Do away” with or “cancel” sin (Heb 9:26 - athetesis)
“Bear” sin (Heb 9:28, 1 Peter 2:24 - anaphero)
“Died” for sins (1 Peter 3:18 - pascho)
“Free” us from sins (Rev 1:5 - luo)
The only person who claimed that the Jews killed Jesus was not a gospel writer, but Paul the apostle, who claimed that the Jews killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets (1 Thess 2:15). How do we reconcile the writings of Paul with the gospel writer’s? It really doesn’t conflict with the New Testament as a whole. Paul asserted the Jews killed Jesus, but the gospel writers asserted the Greeks both killed and crucified Him (Mark 10:33-34, Luke 18:32, Matt 20:19). The collective guilt was not on Jews or Gentiles, but mankind.
Conclusion: It’s been said, “He paid a debt He did not owe because I owed a debt I could not pay.” He is a sufferer but not a victim. Jesus made the choice to come to earth, he chose to die for our sins, and he chose to do so before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4). Peter says in Acts 2:23: “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
However, don’t miss the forest for the trees. The good news is not that He died, but that He died and arose again. The Jews, the Gentiles, the disciples missed the most critical piece of Jesus’ prediction. On three occasions Mark clearly told the disciples the greatest miracle will happen after his horrific suffering and death - in Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27), passing through Galilee (Mark 9:30) and on the way to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). Jesus was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. (2 Cor 13:4)
Do you know the crucified Jesus is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), the Lord of glory
(1 Cor 2:8)? Are you living by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you (Gal 2:20)? Have you crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24)?