I remember about a decade ago when Mel Gibson released his film “The Passion of the Christ”, there was a great controversy over who actually killed Jesus. Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? Who should be held accountable? With this in mind, let’s consider the following verses from the book of Acts.
…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:23-24 ESV)
…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)
Considering these passages, it is clear that the death of Jesus cannot be blamed on any particular group of people. In Acts 4, Peter clearly states that Herod and Pilate who were the Roman appointed authorities, the “Gentiles” (non-Jewish people), and the Jews all coordinated in a sort of conspiracy against the Son of God. Simply put, from a human standpoint, everyone bears the blame for the death of Jesus.
However, there is a much deeper and more important answer to this question. Acts 2:23 says that Jesus was delivered up (killed) by the express plan of God. Acts 4:28 similarly says that the death of Jesus went exactly as planned long before the existence of the world.
So who killed Jesus? In an ultimate sense we must say that God did. Now this is the important part – Jesus died according to the plan of God so that he could undergo the death deserved by all and pay the penalty for the sins of even those who were humanly responsible for his death.
Jesus wasn’t a martyr who was misunderstood and railroaded into a terrible death by some human political or social machine. He is the Saviour who loved his murderers enough to die for them, and experienced the full wrath of God so that they might enjoy all the blessings of God and eternal life through faith in him.
The hero dies for the villain. The one owed an infinite debt pays it himself, only to give all his riches to those indebted to him. The insulted king adopts his enemies as children. What a story!