Who Was Responsible for the Crucifixion of Jesus?

The discussion over who killed Jesus may at first seem like a simplistic question. However, this question has been asked by many people throughout church history.

Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 26, 2024
Who Was Responsible for the Crucifixion of Jesus?

Every year, we remember Good Friday and the events that led to Jesus’ death on the cross. Arrested and handed over to be tried by Roman officials, He was condemned to death. The crowds watched as the Lord endured the agony of crucifixion, hurling insults at Him. Jesus died the agonizing death of a criminal and sinner even though He was completely innocent.  

Who would do such a thing? 

The discussion over who killed Jesus may at first seem like a simplistic question. However, this question has been asked by many people throughout church history. Was it the Romans or the Jewish people? Historically, people have emphasized the fault of the Jewish people to justify antisemitism. This attitude of prejudice is unbiblical, though, and the position fails to consider the entirety of scriptural teaching.  

When we examine the biblical account, we find that the answer is more complex.  

The Romans  

During His ministry, Jesus told the disciples that He would be handed “over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19, NIV). This occurred when the Jewish leaders handed Him over to the Romans, requesting that He be put to death (John 19:6-7).  

Pilate investigated the charges brought against Christ and found Him innocent, but still agreed to have Him crucified. Although Pilate washed his hands of the matter, not taking any blame for Jesus’ death, he was involved (Matthew 27:24). Jesus told the Roman governor that “the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11, NIV). Pilate was not as guilty as the others involved, but he still bore a part of the blame.  

The Romans were the ones who nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross. They put Him to death through crucifixion. Yet they were not the ones who were solely to blame for killing Christ.   

The Jewish People and Religious Leaders 

After Judas’ betrayal, the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and brought Him before the high priest for questioning. Because Jesus declared Himself to be the Son of God, they decided He was deserving of death (John 19:7). Under these charges, the religious leaders took Him to Pilate, requesting Christ’s death because they were not allowed to execute anyone (see John 18:31).  

Pilate found Jesus innocent after interrogating Him. Thinking that the Jews would want their King back, Pilate offered to release Jesus as a favor for Passover (John 18:38-39). However, the religious leaders urged the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas instead, calling for the crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:20; John 18:40). They took responsibility by saying, “His blood is on us and our children!” (Matthew 27:25, NIV).  

An important aspect to remember in this discussion is that just because the Jews of that time were guilty does not mean the blame falls on Jews today. Many Christian groups have misused Scripture, including Matthew 27:25, to promote antisemitic views. In history, this has caused people to mistreat and oppress Jewish people.  

As followers of Christ, we should not hate or oppress anyone. Antisemitism has no place in the Christian life.  

All the events on that Good Friday fulfilled what Jesus said would happen. He had told the disciples multiple times that the Jewish leaders would hand Him over to be killed (see Mark 8:31; 10:33). Both the Jews and the Romans of that time were responsible for putting the Lord Jesus to death.   

The Sins of All People 

Although the religious leaders, Jews, and Romans put Jesus to death, all people are guilty. Christ came to the world to die for the sins of humankind. Our sins are why He endured the humiliation and pain of being crucified.  

To understand this, we must go back to the beginning. Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world when they disobeyed the Lord (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12). As a result, every person is born with a sinful nature and freely chooses to do wrong (Romans 3:23). Everyone deserves eternal punishment for rebelling against God by sinning.  

We can do nothing to wash ourselves clean of sin or do enough good things to outweigh the bad we do. In our natural, sinful state, we are without hope

Because of the plight of humankind, Jesus came into the world. He did not have to come to save us, but He chose to because of His love (Romans 5:8). By adding humanity to His divinity, He was able to enter our world and bear our sins. Through His death on the cross, Christ took our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV). The punishment we deserve was placed on Him so that He satisfied the wrath of the Father and paid for the sins of all people.  

When individuals place faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, they trust that His shedding of blood on the cross was for them. He died in their place, enduring the punishment they deserve to give them a salvation they do not deserve. Believers know that Christ endured the cross for their wrongdoings.   

We could argue that every person is guilty of killing Jesus, even those who were not physically present at the crucifixion. He died for our sins. Without His sacrifice, we would have no hope of salvation or eternal life.  

Jesus Willingly Gave His Life 

Another aspect of the discussion about Jesus’ death that we must consider is that He was sovereignly in control. He faced many dangerous situations during His ministry in which people wanted to kill Him. Yet, Jesus walked away unharmed because it was not His time (John 7:30).  

Jesus clearly stated, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18, NLT). This authority was exercised throughout His trial with Pilate. Jesus allowed Pilate to condemn Him, just as He had allowed the Jews to arrest and charge Him (John 19:10-11). He could have prevented these things but did not (see Matthew 26:53).  

This does not mean the Jews, religious leaders, or Romans at that time were free from guilt or blame for killing Christ. He mentioned that handing Him over to be put to death was a sin, of which Judas and the religious leaders were found more guilty (John 19:11). Peter also acknowledged this blame during his Pentecost sermon, in which he said that Israel was guilty of putting Jesus, the Messiah, and Lord, to death (Acts 2:36).  

We should acknowledge the guilt of those who handed Jesus over to death and crucified Him. However, we also need to remember that Christ freely gave His life. No one overpowered the Lord’s sovereign control over His life. He gave it willingly in love.   

Why Does This Matter? 

The question of who killed Jesus has been the topic of discussion throughout history. Who carries the blame? Although the Jews and Romans of that time were guilty of putting Christ to death, people today also had a part in the crucifixion. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. He took our place, which means our sins also put Him on the cross.  

In answering this question, though, we must recognize that Jesus was in control. No one took Jesus’ life from Him. By His authority, He gave it – just as He exercised His power to take it up again at the resurrection. 

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/RomoloTavani

Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening. 

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