Who is guilty of the death of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ was charged with blasphemy by the Jews and with political rebellion by the Romans. At his trial, the courts have respected some legal proceedings but with an innocent prisoner, false witnesses, a parody of judgment by men (Caiaphas, Pilate) led by their passions.


The Gospels show more the guilt of Pilate and less the responsibility of the Roman soldiers in the crucifixion of Jesus. They give an unflattering portrait of the Roman procurator, confirmed by secular history.
A competent administrator, he was a contemptuous and provocative man with a quick , cruel and violent temper. Convinced of the innocence of Jesus, he made several pitiful attempts not condemn him and at the same time not to acquit him because of the Jews, discharging his responsibility on these.

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude. “ I am innocent of this man’s blood, he said, it is your responsibility”. Matthew 27.24

But do we not act sometimes likewise, as Pilate, whose conscience was stifled by the views, the requirements of others, and who was compromised by his cowardice?

The Jewish leaders

The Jews and their priests are the most directly responsible for the death of Jesus. Without title nor recognized authority, Jesus upset the traditions of the Pharisees. He accused them of worrying about ceremonial requirements of the law rather than being concerned about people, moral purity and love. But above all he declared himself to be equal to God, what was, in their eyes, a blasphemous statement. Beyond the reasons given for his arrest, there was particularly their jealousy stirred up by their pride, feelings that made them look at Jesus as a inconvenient rival.

Judas is responsible for his betrayal of Jesus Christ

An instrument of Providence to accomplish God’s purposes or a toy accomplice of Satan, Judas remains responsible for its despicable betrayal. According to some scholars he was a zealot [1] and would have delivered him out of political disillusionment or to force his hand. Rather it was his greed that explains the sordid calculation of the “sale” of Jesus for the price of a slave; this same sin is also the source of many abuses and dishonesty in all ages.

All are guilty

The point is not to unload the Jewish people from their responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ, even with extenuating circumstances, but to be aware that all nations share this responsibility and that we too are guilty. However, Jesus did not die as a martyr, an unwilling victim of sin of men, but he chose to give his life according to the will of his Father.

Beyond appearances

By dying for our sins, Jesus Christ suffered our own death, not as a result of his sins, but as a criminal punishment for ours. Having never sinned, he could return to heaven without dying, but deliberately chose the death we deserved.
John Stott offers a theological approach beginning with the events of the upper room, Gethsemane and Golgotha.

Three lessons of the Last Supper

By the actions and words of the Last Supper in the upper room, the Lord makes visual for his apostles what will be the fate that awaited him, and teaches them three lessons
• The cardinal role of his death, at the center of his thoughts and his mission
• The purpose of his death which makes possible the new covenant and his promise of forgiveness
• The absolute need for everyone to appropriate his death personally.
Thus Jesus announces the substitution of Passover by the Last Supper by identifying himself with the Passover lamb itself and by engaging in death as the true Paschal sacrifice.

The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus Christ was considering his ordeal with extreme apprehension and acute mental suffering [2].
The bitter cup is the symbol not only of the wrath of God against his disobedient people but also of the universal judgment for the sinner. This cup is neither the death nor the suffering, but the spiritual agony that consists in taking over the sins of the world and in suffering the divine punishment for these sins. It is with this objective that he enters death, keeping a serene and resolute confidence in God.

Four explanations were proposed for the cry of abandonment on the cross:

• A cry of anger, disbelief and despair for not having been rescued at the last moment. According to this incorrect interpretation, Jesus was in error and has lacked confidence on the cross
• A cry of loneliness, “the dark night of the soul”, experienced by many believers of the old and the new covenant. This interpretation is possible, but it does not take account of Psalm 22: the experience of a man truly abandoned by God.
• A shout of victory, according to Psalm 22, which ends on a note of confidence, a shout of triumph. But why would Jesus have cited the beginning of the psalm, if he wanted to allude to its end?
• The cry of Jesus expresses a real state of abandonment, a true abandon, willingly accepted by the Father and the Son, but without breaking the unity of the Trinity.

The cross highlights three fundamental truths about ourselves, about God, about Jesus Christ

• Sin is a horrible reality. We must realize its seriousness in order to place our trust in Jesus as our Savior.
• The cross gives us a glimpse of God’s love which goes beyond the imaginable and is offered to those who do not deserve it.
• The salvation offered by Jesus Christ is a free gift and the most powerful stimulus to a life of piety and holiness.

NB: literal or approximate quotes of John Stott are in italics
To be continued
C. S.
[1] Rebellious movement against the Roman ruling power
[2] B.B. Warfield in On the Emotional Life of our Lord

Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26– 36. He served under Emperor Tiberius, and is best known today for the trial and …