Who Caused the Death of Christ? (Part 2)

A careful search of Scripture yields a nine-fold answer to this question.

In part Part 1 we considered:

1. The physical cause: the Roman soldiers

2. The executive legal cause: the Roman governor, Pilate

3. The passive legal cause: King Herod Antipas

4. The primary legal cause: the Sanhedrin

But these are not the only factors behind the sacrificial death of Christ…


5. The instrumental cause: Judas

Time prevents us from fully examining the traitor. However, a study of the Gospels shows that he was called by Christ and received a special opportunity to learn of Him and share in His earthly ministry. Humanly speaking, Judas may have been a more likely candidate for leadership than the fishermen. He was entrusted with the finances of the twelve.[3]

It is a dire warning to see this potential disciple in the Master’s circle, yet not in a saving relationship with Jesus. Judas called Jesus “rabbi” (“teacher,” Matt. 26:25), but not “Lord.” Iscariot used to pilfer the money from the group’s funds. Mary of Bethany’s expensive anointing of Christ’s feet during the passion week unmasked Judas’ greedy heart. He complained about the valuable perfume being wasted on Christ instead of being turned into cash (that he would manage and steal). He added deceit to his greed by pretending to be concerned about the poor (John 12:4-6).

Although Christ repeatedly gave Judas opportunities to respond in faith, Iscariot hardened his heart and betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver (the usual price of a slave, Matt. 26:14-16; John 13:26,27). Judas identified the Lord Jesus to the soldiers in the Garden of Gesthsemane by his infamous kiss (Matt. 26:49). The real tragedy was played out in Judas’ demise—selling his own soul for a few coins. By this sinister act, Judas chose his destiny as the “son of perdition” (John 17:12). But, Judas was not alone in causing Christ’s death…

6. The deceptive cause: Satan

When the devil was unsuccessful in tempting Christ to worship him, he departed from Jesus “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:1-13). Although we are not privy to all that Christ dealt with in His soul while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Scripture records that His anguish in anticipating Calvary caused sweat to drop from His brow as drops of blood (Luke 22:44). It is likely that the Accuser was assailing Christ in His darkest hour.

When Judas refused the Lord’s token of friendship at the Last Supper, “Satan entered him” (John 13:27). Therefore, Judas’ plot was hatched with a satanic motive. Although the prince of darkness is powerful and knowledgeable, he is devoid of wisdom. Christ’s death and resurrection would end up defeating Satan (Heb. 2:14-18). Christ mad a public spectacle of the devil through the Cross (Col 2:15). Now Christ Jesus holds the keys of Death and Hades! (Rev. 1:18). However, God would have prevented Christ’s death if it were not crucial to His plan of redemption.

7. The volitional cause: Jesus laid down His own life

Humanistic revisions of the New Testament accounts try to paint a picture of a non-divine Jesus who was a mere teacher and political revolutionary. His death is viewed as nothing more than an act of martyrdom—the sad and final end of a folk hero.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Christ recognized that His mission was to “lay down His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6). The Lord reassured Peter (who vainly attempted to defend Him against the arresting soldiers, cutting off the ear of Malchus – John 18:10): “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:52,53). Christ could have escaped the clutches of the soldiers, but instead was willing to lay down His life as a sacrifice. Earlier he had affirmed this commitment: “… I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down [via the Crucifixion], and I have power to take it again” [via the Resurrection] (John 10:17,18). Therefore, we see in the passion of Christ His unfathomable love: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13; Gal 1:4). Yet, Christ’s willingness flowed from the Father’s heart.

8. The providential cause: God the Father gave His Son

In Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s crucifixion, we read these astonishing words; “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin…” (Isaiah 53:10). Christ’s sacrifice was the central redemptive event in God’s plan of salvation. Christ is described as a lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). The Son’s love in His sufferings parallels the Father’s love in allowing Him to suffer: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This ultimate gift of love was prefigured in Abraham’s offering of his beloved Isaac (Gen. 22:1-14; Heb. 11:17-19).

This shows the mystery of providence. Christ was sinfully betrayed and crucified, yet nothing happened apart from God’s ultimate intention. Therefore, the early church declared in prayer and praise: “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27,28). It shouldn’t surprise us that an eternal, all-knowing, sovereign God would work in ways that transcend human logic and reason (Isaiah 55:8,9). This brings us to the last answer to our question.

9. The responsible cause: all of us

This study has been exploring the multifaceted, mysterious answer to the profound question, Who caused the death of Jesus? The intense, brutal, yet reverent portrayal of Christ’s suffering in the film, The Passion of the Christ, raised some concern about inciting anti-Semitism (See answer #4 above). However, we conclude this journey with a humble confession: Christ died for our sins. The apostle Peter declared, “[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18). The Old Testament prophesied: “But He [Messiah] 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” (Isaiah 53:5 emphasis added).

When Christ’s atonement was complete, He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Dear reader, this biblical investigation about the Christ’s death would be no more than an historical, theological exercise unless you have come to personally benefit from this once-for-all sacrifice. How have you responded to the gospel? “Now [God] commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31). All who receive the gift of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ are also summoned to follow Him in discipleship: The Lord Jesus declared, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Thus, His passion becomes our own.

The director/producer of the movie The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson, decided not to appear in this film except for one brief scene. The hands that nailed Jesus to the cross were his. Because of humankind’s sinful state and actions, the hands that nailed Jesus to the cross were ours.[4]

Saved or lost
We’re at the Cross—
In Him victorious
Or suffering loss.

We’re there by faith
In Him crucified,
Or in Adam’s life
Piercing Jesus’ side.

The choice is ours
As Adam’s kin—
Receive the Savior
Or die in our sin.

Our debt He paid
From the Cross forgave;
We receive His life
Or remain sin’s slave.[5]

Since Christ died in your place (1 John 2:2), life’s most important decision is to humbly receive Him by faith, trusting Jesus as your Savior, Lord, and Life.


(Part 2 of 2)

[3] “Iscariot” evidently referred to Judas’ town of origin in the south–Kerioth.

[4] “And He Himself [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

[5] Charles R. Solomon, “We Were There When They Crucified Our Lord.”

Part 1 is archived at https://gracenotebook.com/who-caused-the-death-of-christ-part-1/

Grace Notes © 2004 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Posted in