Who Really Killed Yeshua?
|Written by Mitch Glaser|
Whe question of who killed Jesus is not one which Jewish people are fond of revisiting. To put it bluntly, for two thousand years Christians have pinned the rap on us for this heinous crime with no statute of limitations in sight. When is enough?
Now, just when we thought it might be safe to breathe the same air as our Christian neighbors, along comes Mel Gibson with his film, The Passion. I am not judging here whether the movie is good or bad. But it is the issue it brings out that always seems to plague the Jewish people. The name of the movie alone conjures up visions of the anti-Semitic extravaganzas that have seemed to us a once-a-decade invitation to commit unrestricted mayhem against Jewish communities throughout Europe. Couldn't he just have made Braveheart II?History's Tale
Who really killed Jesus? Jewish people quite naturally point to the Romans. After all, Israel was under Rome's political sway during the time in question. And doesn't the New Testament record that the Romans killed him? But many Christians just won't have it that way. For one thing, it's hard to find a Roman centurion to hurl insults or rocks at any more. On the other hand, the Jewish people are most conveniently still here.
I recognize that not every person that says he or she is a Christian is a true follower of the Messiah (in fact, it's been my experience that those who really love Yeshua love the Jewish people). Some so-called "Christians" point to "the Jews" of the New Testament as the guilty culprits. According to them, the Romans may have pounded the nails in, all right, but it was the Jews who were behind it all. But isn't it true that Yeshuas' own disciples and his other first followers were Jewish? Somehow, that fact seldom seems to surface. No, it seems that all Jews everywhere and for all time are deemed guilty of the murder of Jesus. The real question is, what does the Bible have to say on the subject?The Meaning of Messiah's Death
The importance of who killed Jesus rests on the assertion that he is the Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. The writers of the New Tes t ament wer e a l most all Jewish and it was to the Jewish Bible that they looked for confirmation of the truth. Their expectation of the Messiah was, at first, that he would be a supernaturally empowered Son of David who would free them from the Romans and restore Israel to its place of leadership among the nations.
As Jesus' works and words show, their expectation would be met but only in part. He did not appear then as the triumphant military victor. He did, however, fulfill the first function of his role as Messiah. He would voluntarily die as the means through which our estranged humanity could be reconciled to the God of Israel.
Looking deeply into the Hebrew Scriptures, the writers of the New Testament discovered a truth that puts the question of Jesus' death in its proper perspective. Although the Romans executed him and some of the Jewish leaders sought this, Jesus went willingly to his death out of obedience to God. He did so for our sake, that through Messiah's death we might be reconciled to God.
Seen in this light, the question, "Who killed Jesus?" becomes clearer. We all - Jew and non-Jew alike share the guilt. Yet, it is for the guilty that Messiah willingly chose to die.Who Killed Yeshua?
By: Alan Shore
Growing up Jewish in New York City, I lived in a neighborhood where there were all sorts of churches. I knew there was some kind of difference between Protestants and Catholics, but I had no idea what it was. I certainly knew, though, what they had in common: a dead man, nailed to a cross.
This man was everywhere - on small silver crosses around schoolgirls' necks, on big wooden crosses in art museums, in paintings and in the movies. I actually thought for a time that the huge stone cross that loomed over the graves in the cemetery in Woodside, Queens, was where He was buried. A little later, I learned his name was Jesus. Oh yes, and one other thing. I learned that we Jews had killed him.Why Us?
There are many expressions of contempt for the Jewish people and right at the top of the list is the epithet, "Christ-killer." It was hard for me to believe that some people could hold me responsible for what seemed like such a distant event, but I knew it was true.
This, I gather, is how the indictment against us reads: "The Jews killed Christ. That's why they are a cursed breed, condemned to wander throughout the earth. That's why they have suffered God's punishment, and we are happy to be the instruments God uses to inflict his judgment upon them." Case closed.
Time and time again this smoldering charge has been whipped into a firestorm of hatred against our people. One of the worst calumnies is the infamous "blood libel," which accuses the Jewish people of the ritual murder of Christian children at Passover. This baseless charge has proven to be deadly to the Jewish people. In 1903 in Russian Moldavia, a pogrom erupted during Easter that resulted in the death of 49 Jews, with another 500 injured and roughly 2,000 made homeless.
Now, with the publicity surrounding the release of Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion, Jewish people are understandably nervous. When the question is inevitably raised, "Who killed Jesus?" will the fingers that are pointed be pointed directly at us?
Perhaps it is time to reopen the case. Who really killed Jesus? Let's take a fresh look at the
The most detailed accounts of the death of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels. They agree that, by the urging of the Jewish religious authorities, Jesus was sentenced to death under Roman law and crucified by the Roman military. The Romans employed this particularly gruesome method of execution frequently, not only as a horribly painful punishment, but also as a deterrent to offenders against civil order. So, for whatever reason, the Romans actually killed him.Searching for Motive
Why was it done? Any inquiry stops short without a look at the underlying reasons for the act itself.
We have an itinerant Jewish rabbi whose following is largely in the hinterlands of Galilee. He is a worker of miracles. He speaks as one of the prophets of old. He comes to Jerusalem,where the religious authorities try to size him up, according to their own criteria. He refuses to flatter them.
Worse than that, He frightens them. He is a divisive figure. Some are already openly declaring that He is the Messiah who has come to restore the throne of David. Israel is already a political powder keg, ready to blow sky high, and the religious leaders well knew Rome's forceful response to civil unrest.
The consensus is that He must be gotten rid of - Rome must be appeased. The religious status quo must be reinforced. Caiaphas, the High Priest, can even rationalize that the end justifies the means. Addressing the uncertain members of the Sanhedrin, he declared, "You know nothing at all, 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" (John 11: 49-50).
Yeshua was condemned and handed over to the Romans by a hastily convened meeting of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish "Supreme Court"). Abetted by an urgent crowd of witnesses, a reluctant Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. Yeshua was pronounced guilty of the trumped-up charge of Roman treason?? not Jewish heresy. The sentence was almost immediately carried out. Yeshua was crucified, and his tomb was sealed and guarded by Romans at the behest of the Jewish leaders who accused him and who were understandably anxious to keep the body from being taken away.
Only it did not quite work out that way. According to the Gospel accounts, an angel rolled the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, God raised the Messiah from the dead, and a new chapter in history began.Finding Guilt and Passing Sentence
So who, then, is guilty? The short answer is that the guilt lies with a ruthless system of government which, at the instigation of some corrupt religious officials and aided by the indifference of ordinary people, carried out the deed. Yet this assessment touches only the superficial facts and leaves the underlying realities unexplored.
The Bible itself paints a far more complex picture of the meaning of the death of Yeshua. The most striking fact is that, although human beings conspired to bring it about, it could not have happened apart from his own obedience to the role He was appointed to fulfill as the Messiah of Israel.
The Jewish faith teaches that our guilt before God requires an offering through which we may be reconciled to God. Yeshua the Messiah willingly became that offering, so that through faith in him, we might have peace with God.
As the "Servant of the Lord" described in the Hebrew Scriptures, Yeshua was indeed revealed as the "Man of sorrows" who was "wounded for our transgressions" (Isaiah 53).
However, this was part of God's plan to restore us - "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5: 21).
Are we all, then, guilty? More so than we could possibly know. And this awareness, oddly enough, is the first step toward our exoneration through the risen Messiah who has already forgiven us.Anti-Semitism and the Bible?
From the time the Church triumphed over the paganism of the Roman Empire and assumed the mantle of worldly political power, the dark shadow of anti-Semitism has been its lasting shame. This deadly shadow has hovered above the terrible deeds of the Crusaders, the Inquisition, the pogroms and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. What is the basis of this horrifying hatred? Does anti-Semitism spring from the New Testament itself?
In a quest for the roots of anti-Semitism, many authors have asserted that texts of the New Testament are "tainted with anti-Jewish allegations." The Gospel of John has often been singled out as particularly guilty. The foremost reason is John's frequent use of the term "the Jews"- many times in hostile or confrontational settings. Although this is true, it must also be said that the Gospel affirms that Yeshua is a Jew and that there was a segment of Jews who were supportive of him (John 7: 40, 8: 31, 10: 19-21, 42).
But the question is whether criticism or unflattering descriptions in and of themselves constitute anti-Semitism. If so, then the Hebrew Bible itself must be judged accordingly. For example, the most sacred work of the Jewish community, the Torah, records Moses calling his people "stiff-necked" and "rebellious." I count no less than eight historical descriptions by Moses of Israel's absolute defiance of their God in the first four chapters of Deuteronomy.
Moses is the first in a succession of Jewish prophets (including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and Amos) who call Israel to task for the profanation of her holy calling. And yet, I am not aware that the Torah or Hebrew Scriptures have ever been labeled "anti-Jewish." Why? We recognize these struggles as an intra-Jewish religioustension in an attempt to aid Israel toward the goal of her high calling; not as attempts to condemn Israel as the worst people on earth.The Death of Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures
I don't remember hearing a lot about Messiah as I was growing up. It was somewhat taken for granted that one day the Messiah would come and bring peace to the world. But very few details about the Messiah were offered.
But actually, there is a lot of information in the Jewish Scriptures about Messiah!
As Jews, we know that the Messiah will be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12: 1-3); He will come from the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49: 10) and be a son of David (II Samuel 7: 16). We also can see clearly the promises of the Hebrew prophets that one day the Messiah will reign on Earth and initiate an age of peace (Isaiah 9: 6-7).
Jewish scholars have produced a very detailed portfolio of Messianic activities, which includes the resurrection of the dead and the return of all Jews to the land of Israel. But they have left out one vital aspect in their description of Messiah's work and character. It is that Messiah was supposed to die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles. Let's take a look at Messiah's death, as predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The purpose for his death is most clearly explained in the 53rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah. In this great passage of Scripture, the statesman-prophet Isaiah describes the coming Messiah. What is especially significant in this passage is to see that Jesus, as the Servant of the Lord, was born to die as a perfect sacrifice for both Jews and Gentiles. This is clearly pictured in the following verses:
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 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: 3-6).
Thus, we find a Messiah whose vindication comes only after He has suffered the indignity of death.
Yeshua died to fulfill these and many other prophecies- willingly, I might add - as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. And it is through the shedding of His sacrificial blood that you and I have forgiveness of sin.
We must admit that this is not an appealing picture. The scene of the crucifixion of Yeshua in Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion, for example, is very realistic and quite gruesome. There is nothing humane or pretty about his death. But it did take place exactly as the Jewish prophets foretold it would.Approaching the New Testament
We must approach the New Testament in the same light. The Gospels were written within the context of Judaism. We must recognize this if we are to understand and appreciate them fully. The main subject, Yeshua, was a Jew. The disciples were Jews. His opponents were Jews. The main themes of divergence were Jewish. The sources are Jewish and the authors of the New Testament, with the possible exception of Luke, were Jews. The struggles portrayed in the New Testament ought to be viewed as taking place within the Jewish family and not as accusations leveled against the Jews by those outside. Yeshua is portrayed as a prophet in the succession of Jewish prophets of Israel, and as the promised Jewish Messiah. Yeshua's identity as a Jew is affirmed and reaffirmed.
Seen in this way, one thinks of what is sometimes said during heated family discussions. If an outsider were to use the same descriptions, it would be a different matter altogether. Any attempt to isolate the charges that Yeshua leveled against his people for use as justification for persecution or hatred does violence to the Scriptures and is an offense to God. For it was this same John who also wrote, "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3: 21).Who really killed Yeshua?
Now that we have the Biblical answer to why Yeshua had to die, we can respond to the question, "Who really killed Yeshua?" The answer is that Yeshua, knowing that his death would be the fulfillment of prophecy, offered himself as a sacrifice for our sin. In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Your's , be done" (Luke 22: 42-44). Yeshua was not forced by anyone to die, but rather He died willingly, in obedience to his Father's will.
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