The cover of the latest Newsweek magazine asks the right question: “Who killed Jesus?” This has been a raging debate for a year, since Mel Gibson started his remarkable film project The Passion of the Christ. He immediately ran into a buzz saw of opposition from the liberal media and Jewish groups who were afraid the film would rekindle anti-Semitism.
Now, Jews have a legitimate concern about this. During the Middle Ages, Christians treated Jews terribly. In Russia there were pogroms against the Jews. And of course some of the maniacs around Hitler professed that they were killing Jews to purify the Christian race.
But is this sensitivity today well-founded? If we would look at history alone, we would have to say that Pontius Pilate certainly was guilty. Legend has it that years after the crucifixion he was frantically washing his hands trying to cleanse himself from the blood of Christ. And, of course, Caiphus the High Priest certainly bears his share of responsibility. So do the crowds who yelled, “Crucify him.” So was it the Romans or the Jews, the venality of Pontius Pilate or the passion of the mob?
It was both and neither. The Jews didn’t cause the death of Jesus, nor did the Romans. They were merely instruments carrying out what God had decreed. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so that the sins of mankind might be forgiven. And those who take Scripture seriously have always known who killed Jesus: You and I and all other sinful human beings did so.
Mel Gibson understands this. In his movie, The Passion of the Christ, the hand holding the spike being nailed through Christ’s wrist is Gibson’s. Who killed Jesus? Mel Gibson knows. And he made the very point with his own hand that he was responsible, not the Jews.
Similarly the Dutch painter, Rembrandt painted The Raising of the Cross as a self-portrait. As Christ hangs on the cross while it is being lifted into place, the soldier pulling it up is Rembrandt. Who killed Jesus? Rembrandt knew. He did. And I did. And you did. We’re the ones who sent Jesus to the cross loaded down with our sins.
So enough of this foolish controversy. My advice to Christians is that you make it abundantly clear to your friends and neighbors that we are the ones responsible and then take them to see the film. Let them experience the passion and explain to them why it was necessary for Jesus to go to the cross. And be ready with a biblical answer for your Jewish friends who hear all of this propaganda, most of it stirred up by professional activists.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that it is not who is to blame that really has everybody up in arms. The media elite know that if people see this film, the right answer to the haunting question “Who Killed Jesus?” will be clear. What strikes terror into the hearts of the media elite is that people might once again be convicted of sin, repent, and come to faith in Christ.
So, three cheers for Mel Gibson. And thanks to Newsweek for asking the right question, even if it does not have the right answer. But now it is up to us Christians to do our job to educate our neighbors and flood the movie theaters.
For further reading and information:
Call 1-877-322-5527 to request BreakPoint’s “Guide to Watching The Passion of the Christ“ by BreakPoint Managing Editor James Tonkowich, M.Div., and staff writer Gina Dalfonzo. This guide offers talking points for viewers of The Passion of the Christ to engage others, including unbelievers. (This will be available at www.breakpoint.org at a later date.)
Visit the official website for The Passion of the Christ.
Jon Meacham, “Who Killed Jesus?” Newsweek, 16 February 2004. (Warning: Graphic photos.)
Albert Mohler, “Newsweek Takes on the New Testament,” Crosswalk.com, 10 February 2004.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, “Protesting Passion,” National Review Online, 26 September 2003.
Visit the Premier International Fan Website for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (this site is available in eighteen different languages).
Antonio Gaspari, “The Cardinal & the Passion,” National Review Online, 18 September 2003.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, “Mel Gibson, Feminist,” National Review Online, 2 December 2003.
Michael Novak, “Passion Play,” Weekly Standard, 25 August 2003.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030715, “A Passion for Getting It Right.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030908, “Believe It Or Not.”
Kelley Reep, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” BreakPoint Online, 25 July 2003.
Allan Dobras, “Mel Gibson: Passion and Prejudice,” BreakPoint Online, 23 October 2003.
Mark Gauvreau Judge, “Christ in Majesty,” BreakPoint Online, 6 June 2003.
Mark Gauvreau Judge, “Turning Around Battleship Hollywood,” BreakPoint Online, 15 January 2004.
John Fischer, “The Last Temptation of Mel Gibson,” BreakPoint Online, 1 December 2003.
View Rembrandt’s The Raising of the Cross.