By Val Black
Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted for many things and if you were to pin down just one, the most common denominator would be the belief the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
But did they really kill Jesus? Let’s take a look at some history and a few scriptures pertaining to the question at hand.
At the time of Jesus, Judea was controlled by Rome under Emperor Tiberius Caesar. Pontius Pilate was the Roman Procurator, or Governor, who was chosen to represent Caesar in Judea. Pilate was the official who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered His crucifixion.
Even in the midst of heavy-handed ruling of Rome, there was still a certain degree of independence held by the Sanhedrin, a group consisting of 71 religious leaders making up a Jewish court to rule over religious matters of the area. The leader of the Sanhedrin at this time was Caiaphas who served as High Priest when Jesus was tried.
There were two principal religious groups who made up the Sanhedrin. They were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were an arrogant, holier-than-thou bunch who liked to make a show of their piety. They believed what Moses had written but they also believed tradition and oral laws were just as important as scripture and in fact, the Talmud, an interpretation of scripture by Jewish sages, was viewed by the Pharisees as having just as much authority as scripture.
It was the Pharisees who were the main persecutors of Jesus and they were always trying to trap Jesus into saying something which they could use in their plot to have Him killed.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, angels, nor a spirit but the Pharisees believed in all of them. (Acts 23:8) However, it was the Sadducees who gained more favor from Rome and the highest positions in the Sanhedrin. In fact, almost 90% of the Sanhedrin was made up of the Sadducees. This is an important fact to remember as we search for an answer to the question, Did Jews Kill Jesus?
There was a lesser group called the Scribes. Scribes were dedicated to copying the Law of Moses in the smallest detail but they also added many man-made traditions while overlooking the spiritual value. It became so bad that the things they added became more important than the Law itself. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus pointed out to the people that following the righteousness of the Scribes would not get them into Heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
Now let’s consider the common people of Judea, the tradesmen, the shoemakers, the carpenters, the fishermen, the farmers, etc. For hundreds of years, the common people had been taught to look for the coming of a Messiah, an Anointed One of God who would deliver the people. Deliverance to the people of that time meant a leader, a strong, charismatic politician or even a military man who would help them break the bondage of Roman occupation and the heavy taxes imposed on them by Rome. It was the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees who taught the common people to look for a Messiah who was more a political leader than a spiritual one.
Jesus fed five thousand people with two fish and five barley loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) and another time He fed 4000 with seven loaves and a few fish. (Matt. 15:32-39 & Mark 8:1-9) Notice the numbers of people who followed Jesus where ever He went. The common people could see by the healings and miracles that Jesus was more than a politician Who came to deliver them from Rome. The common people revered Jesus because He demonstrated a love of people and cared nothing about personal financial gain.
When the common people went to the Temple to worship, before they could do so they had to present sacrifices for their sins. Most of them could not afford more than a dove and very rarely a lamb to bring as a sacrifice. Mary and Joseph offered two doves when they went to the Temple for purification rites of Mary and for the dedication of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, Mary was considered “unclean” until 40 days after giving birth. It was the duty of every mother to wait 40 days after giving birth and then go to the Temple to present a sacrifice so the priest could declare them clean. In addition, the firstborn male was to be dedicated to the Lord so the Temple visit this time took care of both obligations. The sacrificed doves were for Mary’s purification and not for Jesus.
Everything connected with the Temple was in the control of the Sadducees and the head Sadducee at that time was a man named, Annas, a retired high priest and the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest in charge at that time. The stalls at the Temple in which the moneylenders, the sellers of doves and lambs made a living, were not owned by the merchants themselves but rented to them by the Sadducees.
The Temple and the merchant stalls were viewed as more of a source of income to Annas than they were of a sacred place of worship. If a person brought a lamb as a sacrifice, chances were pretty good a priest would find a flaw in it so the person would have to purchase another lamb approved and sold by the Temple merchants representing Annas.
Being a devout Sadducee, Annas didn’t believe in the resurrection so when Jesus resurrected His friend Lazarus after four days in the grave, Annas and other Sadducees had some explaining to do. After all, the resurrection of Lazarus was witnessed by numerous people so it could not be denied.
In those days a person was declared legally dead after 3 days in the grave. But Jesus waited until the fourth day to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the grave, which made it all the more troubling to Annas and the rest of the Sadducees. Their pride and prestige were beginning to decline in the eyes of the common people.
Then to top it off, Jesus went through the Temple and drove out the moneylenders and other merchants. This was a sizeable amount of income to Annas and others so they decided they had better do something and do it swiftly before things got out of their control.
Jesus was continually putting down the Pharisees and Scribes. Here are some examples:
- Ye blind guides (Matt. 23:16).
- Ye fools (Matt. 23:17).
- Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees…for ye are like whited sepulchers…full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matt. 23:27).
- Ye serpents (Matt. 23:33).
- Ye generation of vipers (Matt. 23:33).
- Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Luke 11:44).
- Ye are as graves which appear not (Luke 11:44).
In contrast to the hatred of Jesus by the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees, the common people followed Jesus in great numbers as sheep following a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
Consider these other scriptures:
Matthew 14:14, “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”
Matthew 15:32, “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”
People were drawn to Jesus because He cared for them, loved them, healed them from sickness, blindness, lameness, delivered them from demons, and asked nothing in return. His kind of love shown towards everyone only existed within families, like the love a mother has for her children and as a father has for an only son. The people of that time had a hard life. They were taxed to the “nth” degree. The ones they turned to for spiritual uplifting, the Pharisees and Sadducees, showed no such love, although there were a few exceptions. But none of them exhibited the same Godly wisdom and miraculous power as Jesus.
I believe the common people of Jesus’ day were more convinced Jesus was the true Messiah than were the religious “experts” who could argue over a minute point of Scripture for hours upon end. They knew the word of God according to Moses and the prophets but when they came face-to-Face to the true Living Word, Jesus, they were morally and spiritually bankrupt and without a clue to His true identity.
The common people, the sheep, were won over to the Lord and that became a major issue with the religious crowd of that day. They were losing control and prestige. Something must be done they thought, and so they set out to plot against Jesus.
When John the Baptist began his ministry in the desert people were also drawn to him because he spoke not of the same religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees with their strict laws, rules, and regulations, which did nothing but add to the burdens of a people already overloaded with oppression and taxation. But John spoke of repentance for every individual, a self-mortification reaching to the very soul of man, tearing at his heart and resulting in a quest for righteousness.
John attracted the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees so they sent Temple priests and Levites out to see him. They asked John, “ . . . Who are you?”. John confessed, “I am not the Christ.” “. . . . And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (John 1:19-29)
John was the messenger who foretold of the coming of another Messenger, Jesus Christ, as stated in Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.”
John preached repentance, he baptized the people and taught about the coming of the One Who would be known as the Messenger bringing good news to the world, a message of salvation, hope, love, and grace. I believe the common people understood this enough to silently question the authority of the religious “experts” of that day, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes and looked forward to this Messenger from God. The miracles that Jesus did confirmed their suspicions but there was still a small amount of doubt in their minds when Jesus didn’t cause an uprising to overthrow the Roman government.
If you study scripture closely you will find instances when the enemies of Jesus were afraid of the people, afraid that if they were too careless and expose their plot against Jesus they may cause an uprising which would not please Caesar in Rome.
Here are a few scriptures that I have been able to find that speaks to just that possibility:
Matthew 27:62-64, “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
After the death of Jesus, the Pharisees appealed to Pontius Pilate to seal the tomb. I believe this indicates a fear of an uprising of the people. Notice how the Pharisees described Jesus to Pilate. In verse 63 they called Him a “deceiver”. They had convinced Pilate that Jesus was a false prophet, deceiving the people into believing He was their answer in overthrowing Rome’s occupation of Judea.
In verse 64 they said if the people believed Jesus had really risen from the dead, the “last deception” would be worst than the first deception. This implies an uprising among the people against Rome.
Mark 11:31-32, “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘From men’ “–they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.”
The religious crowd was always trying to trick Jesus into saying something they could use against Him in court. But Jesus knew exactly what they were doing and was always many steps ahead of them. In this particular instance, the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to Jesus with a question they themselves wouldn’t have an answer for so they thought this was one time they had Him where they wanted Him. But Jesus countered their question with a question. It’s very obvious in Mark 11:31-32 that they feared the people if they gave the wrong answer. The common people revered John the Baptist because they knew he was a true prophet of God. If they answered Jesus’ question by saying John was sent from heaven, their false religion would have been exposed. If they said he was just another man claiming to be a prophet, the people knew different and would have started some trouble.
Mark 12:12, “And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.”
This time the chief priests, scribes, and elders were so mad they wanted to take Jesus into custody but they feared the reaction of the people. The common people loved Jesus and the religious crowd knew it.
Mark 14:1-2, “After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
Why do crooks plan their evil deeds behind closed doors and in the dark? Or whisper their plans to steal, cheat, and kill others? It’s because they know they are wrong and have a fear of a “higher power” ready to punish them if they are caught. In the case of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, chief priests, and elders in their plot against Jesus, the “higher power” was either Rome or the common people. They believed they were on the right side of God and Jesus was on the wrong side. Thereby in their own blinded, religious minds, they could justify a plot to kill Him.
Luke 19:45-48, “Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” 47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.”
Here again, the people were surrounding Jesus and listening attentively to Him teach the true Gospel, a Gospel void of so many things the Pharisees and Sadducees had devised by adding their own rules and regulations to the Law of Moses.
When a church or denomination adds anything to the Gospel and declares it having as much authority as the Word of God, it should be a “red flag” to Christians that all is not right.
The verses above in Luke 19 are keys to understanding one of the main reasons why the enemies of Jesus began a campaign to have Him killed. As previously mentioned in this article, the stalls in the Temple area were in control of former high priest Annas and his brood. Money and greed were the instigating factors in their plans to kill Jesus. Jesus drove out the merchants and declared it a holy site, not to be corrupted by business dealings carried on by cheating moneylenders and vendors doing business with scales that weighed merchandise more for the benefit of the seller. If they let Jesus continue to have His way, they could lose a lot of money. So, they planned together. The longer Jesus lived, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, priests, and elders had a lot to lose.
Luke 22:1-2, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.”
If it had not been for the crowd of people around Jesus, the religious rulers would have captured and killed Him. Verse 2 above said, “ . . . they feared the people”. Why did they fear the people? Because they loved Jesus.
John 18:1-3, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.”
The above scripture, I believe, is a most revealing one. It tells of Jesus crossing over to the Mount of Olives where He prayed while waiting for Judas to lead the band of Temple guards and officers to arrest Him. Notice that they carried lanterns and torches, which means they waited until nighttime to arrest Jesus.
In those days farmers and others took advantage of as much daylight as possible to work outside so people went to bed early, usually after sunset and woke at dawn or before. So as the Pharisees and Scribes had Jesus arrested with a mock trial following, most of the population of Jerusalem was sound asleep. In the early morning, they were waking up and conducting business as usual. By that time, Jesus had been convicted of blasphemy and was being led to Calvary.
Jerusalem was full of people at this time of the Feast of Passover, many came from very far distances to worship in the Temple. I believe this may have been a factor in the religious rulers finding enough strangers to Jerusalem and being unaware of Jesus and the miracles He had performed, to persuade some that Jesus had claimed He was the Son of God, the King of Jews, and would destroy the Temple. Most likely they also paid some to testify against Jesus to have Him convicted by the Sanhedrin and then taken before Pontius Pilate for sentencing.
Let’s consider the common people of that day. There were multitudes that followed Jesus and I believe some, if not most, had recognized Him as the Messiah as was prophesied. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save, we pray”. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, Hosanna was an “utterance of praise, rather than prayer”.
When “the multitudes” asked who it was the others were praising they answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee”.
I don’t believe the common people worshiped Jesus one day and then called for His crucifixion 7 days later. That would have been the case if they waved palm fronds and laid their cloaks along the way for Jesus to enter Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9) and then on Passover 7 days later, asking that Barabbas be spared instead of the One they loved and praised. (John 18:40)
The next scriptures clearly define the intentions of the religious rulers. It was after Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave.
John 11:45-53, “Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. 53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.”
It is useless to try and understand their logic in their plan to kill Jesus. Several dead people had returned to life just at His bidding. And now the religious, sanctimonious Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes feared Rome and the people so much they believed the answer to their problem was to put to death Jesus Christ, the Author of life.
Dear reader, I hope and pray that by this article, you are beginning to see how the corruption, lies, plotting, greed, and egotism, of the majority of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes had gained control over the people. For anyone to gain so much popularity among the people that multitudes followed Him where ever He went, it presented a great liability to their way of life. The religious rulers in control dismissed the miracles and healings by Jesus, even His raising of the dead! Their status was being jeopardized and they had to put a stop to it, even if it meant killing Jesus.
Who killed Jesus?
Not the common people, which were mostly Jews. They loved Jesus and did not call for His death.
Pontius Pilate had a chance to save Jesus but washed his hands of the affair, he didn’t kill Jesus.
The Roman Centurions who nailed Jesus to the cross and pierced His side did not kill Him.
So who killed Jesus?
We could say it was the greed and the egotism of a few who were responsible for the spiritually of the people, the religious rulers, the Sanhedrin.
But it goes even deeper than that.
Scripture says Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world were even laid. (Revelation 13:8) If that’s the case, none of the above-mentioned people, the commoners, Pilate, the Sanhedrin were even born. They were just instruments in fulfilling God’s plan as it is outlined in Genesis 3:15,
“And I will put enmity (hatred) between you (Satan) and the woman (Mary, the mother of Jesus), And between your seed (fallen angels, demons) and her Seed (the Church of Jesus Christ, Children of God, the Body of Christ, etc.); He (Jesus) shall bruise your head (Satan), And you (Satan) shall bruise His heel (Jesus).”
That verse of scripture is all of the Bible in a “nutshell”. Adam had sinned and because of his sin, the earth was cursed and every descendant of Adam was cursed as well. In this day and age when someone curses another person, we may think it means they use four-letter words of hate and revenge. But that’s not the kind of curse we’re talking about.
When Adam sinned he could no longer have a relationship with God because God is holy and without sin. Think of it this way: Let’s say you have a very good friend and you both enjoy walks together while sharing each other’s thoughts. One day your friend changes. He goes on a rampage killing men, women, and children, stealing their goods, raping the women, and although there are times he has some regret, he can’t help himself and continues doing the same things over and over. Would you continue to fellowship with that person? I doubt it. The ex-friend would have to live in his own, evil world. He would live the rest of his life without the fellowship of good, kind people. That would be a cursed life.
That’s a poor example but it may give you an idea of what the curse was and its effect on Adam, Eve, and down through the generations, its effect on you and me. Because of the sin nature within us, we were, or are, the “ex-friend” of God.
Did you know that you were born under a curse? We all were born under the same curse that Adam and Eve had to struggle with through life. Part of that curse was the loss of living forever without sickness and death. Death was something new to Adam and Eve. Also new was diseases. Sickness is an attack on the body by disease in an attempt to bring it to its ultimate goal, death.
So what does this have to do with the question, “Did Jews kill Jesus?”. The truth is, Jesus came to earth to die. He came as a “second Adam”. As the second Adam, He represented every person ever born and everyone to be born in the future. If the first Adam had not sinned, either we would all be living in the Garden of Eden today, walking and talking with God or never born at all because God was satisfied fellowshipping with just the two, Adam and Eve.
Because God is omniscient, meaning He knows everything, including what is going to happen in the future, He and His Son, then known as the Living Word, made a covenant together in order to rectify the damage the first Adam was going to do in the future. The covenant, or more correctly, the blood covenant, had terms which had to be followed to be effective. The terms called for the sacrifice of the Son Jesus, the second Adam.
So, in God’s perfect time, the Son, or the Living Word, was manifested in the flesh and became Jesus, all man and yet, all God. He was to live a life as a Man without sinning one time, which He did. He lived His whole life tempted in all points of sin but never yielded once to them.
Again, in God’s perfect time, just as Adam was tempted in a garden, Jesus was also in a garden when tempted by the devil to back out of the commitment of the covenant which called for His blood to flow, ending in death. He was to be the ultimate sacrifice, once and for all, so the first Adam’s descendants would have a choice of where they would spend eternity, either in heaven or hell.
Even as terrible as the consequences would prove to be, Jesus didn’t give in to the temptation to back out of His commitment, thereby qualifying Him as the perfect second Adam and the perfect sacrifice, to physically suffer and die in the place of you, myself and every person ever born. As descendants of the first Adam we were cursed to die and suffer eternity in hell. But, when we make a decision to enter into the covenant, we become the descendant of the second Adam to spend eternity in heaven as children of God.
The bottom line is this: Jesus had to die for our sake. If you, myself or anyone else had never been born, or if the first Adam had never sinned, Jesus would not have had to come to earth and die for us. So, it doesn’t matter who killed Jesus because we are all to blame because of sin, our own and the sin of the first Adam.
I know what you read next may seem crude and possibly sacrilegious to some, but the truth is, we should all be thankful that Judas killed Jesus, as God planned from the foundations of the world. It was only because of the death of Jesus that we are offered a choice to become children of God and spend eternity with Him in heaven, or to remain children of the Devil and spend eternity in hell. If there had been any other way God would have done it. Jesus realized this in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the night He was to be arrested, Jesus agonized over the thoughts of what was to come. He asked if there be any other way . . . but then added, “Not my will, but yours be done”. (Luke 42:22)
As Jesus hung from the cross, Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus looked beyond the suffering at the hands of the Centurions, beyond the flogging, beyond the mockery, beyond the cross and beyond the grave, and saw you and I. That was the joy that helped Him endure the cross.
He rose from the grave with a new Body, one that was glorified and never to die again. As children of God, we will also put on a glorified body at the return of Jesus, when He comes to earth again to establish a 1000-year reign until a new heaven and new earth are made.
If you have not yet made that decision, please consider doing it now. Ask the Lord for forgiveness of your sins and acknowledge that you believe He died and rose again and now sits at the Right Hand of the Father. Once that is done in sincerity, you become a Child of God.
Congratulations! See you in heaven, if not before!