Who put Jesus on the cross?
That’s a question one of my favorite Bible professors liked to ask when he wanted to make his students’ brains bleed. And it’s a question with a hook in it.
So, what do you think?
If you answered, the religious authorities who were in power, you’d be right. The most overtly religious folks of Jesus’ day. Folks who fancied themselves the most “spiritual” of all people killed the Son of God.
Now, by the way, if you think I’m leaning toward any kind of anti-Semitism here, forget it. No. Not only would that be stupid and vile, it would let the rest of us off the hook far too easily. I would argue that, whatever cultural or ethnic setting Christ had been born into, the most “religious” folks in that setting would have killed him.
Want a good crucifixion today? Find folks more religious about their religion than about genuinely loving God, and you’ll find folks leading the charge to crucify people in their midst who truly know their Creator. People who like to fancy themselves as the most spiritual of the spiritual, the most religious of the religious, are dangerous and always first to show up at the site of any crucifixion. (This is even true, ironically, of folks who are incredibly religious about their religion of irreligion.)
Who put Jesus on the cross? If you answered, powerful and prideful religious authorities, you’d be right. But who else?
If you answered, the governmental authorities—in this case, the Romans—you’d be right. Pilate put Jesus on the cross because he was a threat to Pilate’s position. “If you allow this man to live, you’re no friend of Rome!” That pretty much did it.
And the Romans’ puppet, King Herod? Spineless, he was quite willing to help with the deadly charade. Trying to kill Jesus, his father had killed the boy babies of Bethlehem years before. Now Herod Antipas is complicit in the murder of our Lord. Kings don’t care for rival kings, no matter what kind of kingdom they come to bring. So, the governmental authorities put Jesus on the cross, too. Yes, but who else?
Well, Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of his enemies. For whatever motive—we could talk about several possibilities—Judas certainly had a very guilty hand in putting Jesus on the cross. Yes, but who else?
Satan, someone shouts. Satan put Jesus on the cross. Well, yes. Satan wanted Jesus to go to the cross because he wanted to see God’s Son—the gentlest, strongest, and best Son, the Son unbelievably dear to the Father—tortured and killed and God’s plan thwarted. Satan wanted to see mankind spit in the face of the Creator and dash to pieces the best Gift ever given. So, yes, Satan put Jesus on the cross. But who else?
It’s bit of a jarring shift of gears here, but we have to say, Jesus himself. Yes, Jesus, in an amazing sense, put himself on the cross. He didn’t want to go and die, but he wanted to obey, and that meant that he did go. And he did die. When he stood before those who held the power of life or death, he refused to defend himself. Witnesses lied, and he said nothing. The Scriptures remind us, “Like a lamb before its shearers, he was silent.” We’re told that he could have called 10,000 angels to rescue him and to destroy the world, but he chose not to. He let Roman soldiers put nails through his hands and feet. He let them. So, you have to say that Jesus had a very significant part in putting Jesus on the cross. But who else?
Remember Christ’s prayer in the Garden? “Not my will, but Thine be done.” He didn’t want to go to the cross, but he wanted above all else to obey the will of his Father. Yes, you have to say that God the Father, who sent his Son into this world, and whose love for his Son knew no bounds, put Jesus on the cross.
And so we’ve come full circle. It was God who spoke the Incarnation and sent his Son, the Word become flesh, into this world. It was God the Father who watched as humans nailed his sinless Son to a tree.
But why? Because in the list of those who put Jesus on the cross, a list that includes those with the worst motives—religious authorities, governmental authorities, Judas, and Satan—and those with the very best motives—Jesus himself and God the Father—we’ve forgotten some folks who also put Jesus on the cross.
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? And you know I’d rather not. But…
Add your name. Add mine. Your sins—and mine—put Jesus on the cross.
That’s bad news. But Christians believe it is a truth that sets the stage for the best news of all.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.