In The Passion of the Christ, there’s a shot where you see a soldier about to pound a nail into Jesus’ hand. When the movie first came out, a friend of mine said, “You know that’s Mel Gibson, playing the soldier, right? He’s sending a message that he’s just as responsible for killing Jesus as anybody else.”
I’ve watched the movie three times, and, thanks to the miracle of the DVD player, backed up and looked at that frame several times. I can’t see if it’s Mel or not, but the point is a good one.
I remember the controversy over the movie – the idea that it would fire up anti-Semitic sentiment, and Evangelical churches in the US were quick to say that it wouldn’t: “Thank God the Jews did play their role in God’s plan,” one Baptist pastor said in an interview. “Otherwise, where would we be today?”
So who killed Jesus? You could well ask, “Who didn’t?” Was it the religious leaders who demanded His crucifixion? Pilate, who could have spared Jesus but handed Him over? The soldiers who nailed Him to the Cross? How about the multitudes whose “Hosanna!”s became “Crucify Him!”? Or the disciples, who cut and ran when Judas and the posse arrived?
Then there were the people who had experienced Jesus’ miracles and had been healed or had demons cast out: where were they? Could they not have stood up for Him, or at least countered the false witnesses the Pharisees had brought forward?
I think I know where they were. They had hit the road, as so many others had done, telling anyone and everyone about the glory of God and the miracles done by this Man. Sure – had they been in Jerusalem, they probably would have spoken up, but Jesus had told them to go and tell others about the glory of God. But as we know, it was never about whether Jesus’ body lived or died, but that people saw the glory of God and drew near. We could say that Jesus made sure they were not in Jerusalem, so that His Father’s plan could go off without a hitch.
There was plenty of blame to go around, and Jesus’ cry of “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” certainly absolves anyone of blame, but I believe God’s grace goes far beyond simply lifting the blame off the perpetrators.
But look at what Scripture tells us:
Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His Spirit.
— Matthew 27:50
Mark tells us this:
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the Kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.
— Mark 15:43-44
They had had to break the legs of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus to make them die faster, but when they got to Jesus, He was already dead; Pilate “marveled” at that, Mark writes.
Jesus “yielded up His Spirit” – gave up the Ghost. He died voluntarily so that no one could be blamed. He had given Judas absolution – serving him the bread and the wine of His covenant before anyone else at the Passover supper – and forgiven those who were mocking and torturing Him; and now, He was making sure that no one could take the blame.
Truly, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Besides: if He died because #YourLifeMatters, that’s cause for blessing – not blaming.