Who Put Jesus on the Cross?A Sermon on the Passion of Jesus Christ
Preached March 31, 2010 at a Mission in Downtown Birmingham, AL by Jake Hanson. Click here for audio of the sermon.
The Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ
Who Put Jesus on the Cross?
Do you ever wish you had a time machine, so that you could go back in time and put something right that once went horribly wrong?
If we could travel back to the time of Jesus, what would we see? Who are the people we would see who put Jesus on the Cross? Sometimes, when I think of this great injustice—the greatest injustice in the history of the world, I would like to go back in time and set things right. If I could just get my hands on these enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Tonight, I want to look at the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, and find out Who Put Jesus on the Cross.
As we search the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we find our first culprit, the first enemy of the Lord, and one of the men who put Jesus on the Cross. His name is Judas. By most appearances, Judas did not seem an enemy of Jesus. Indeed, he was one of Jesus’ twelve Disciples—one of a select few who devoted his entire life to following Jesus. But as you scratch at the surface of the life of Judas, you realize that things are not as they appear on the outside.
You see, Judas was a man who followed Jesus with the wrong motives, for the wrong reasons. The Bible tells us that Judas was an exceedingly greedy man, and as the money-holder for Jesus, he hoped that he would become rich and powerful when Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ overthrew the oppressive government they were under. But when it became increasingly clear that Jesus had other plans that included, not fame and riches, but death and suffering, Judas became an enemy of Jesus.
Just think. Judas could have just walked away from Jesus—many others had walked away from Him, but the greedy man that he is, he thought he might be able to make some money off Jesus.
So we read in Matthew 26:14ff that Judas went to the chief priests—the religious rulers who were enemies of Jesus, and he asked, “How much money are you willing to give me to deliver Jesus to you?” This was appealing to the chief priests. They had already made a plan to secretly capture Jesus, so that the crowds of His followers would not cause a stir, and they planned to kill Him. Judas would give them a perfect opportunity to lay their hands on Jesus. And for this, they would give him thirty pieces of silver. That’s something like $10,000 in today’s money. That is actually a lot of money in my opinion, but did Judas not hear Jesus when He asked, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Judas did not even get the whole world—just a few silver coins for his soul.
We read that Judas returned to Jesus and the other Disciples to dine with them for the Passover feast. We know this meal as “The Last Supper” or the institution of the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus declared, “Take, eat; this is My body…[and]drink, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” All the while at this most precious moment of intimacy with Jesus, Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. And Jesus knew it. Jesus knows the secrets and intensions of all people. There is nothing hidden from His eyes.
After dinner, Jesus took His disciples to a garden to pray—all of His Disciples that is, except Judas. Judas had found his opportunity to betray Jesus. Jesus was like a sitting duck as He prayed in that Garden, and so Judas gathered the enemies of Jesus and surrounded Him. And Judas went up to Jesus to give Him a kiss. A kiss. A kiss was a sign of peace and acceptance and affection. But this kiss. This kiss was a declaration of war, of rejection and of hatred. Could it be said more forcefully of anyone in the history of the world, “You honor Me with your lips, Judas, but your heart is far from Me.”
Judas could go away happy with his precious silver coins. He had done his deed. But he did not. He could not. Matthew 27 tells us that when he found that Jesus had been condemned to death, he “felt remorse” and tried to return the money. But it was too late. The deed was done. The money was now useless. It had been used to betray an innocent man. And indeed, Judas—it was Judas who put Jesus on the Cross.
But as we read, we find that there are others who put Jesus on the Cross.
When Jesus was captured He was taken to Caiaphas, the High Priest. The High Priest was the religious leader of the Jews. He was like the pope of the day, like a Billy Graham, or John Piper. He was the man everyone looked up to for guidance. And what was the guidance? It was to put Jesus to death. The religious leaders called on witness, after witness who falsely accused Jesus, until finally someone came up with something close to what Jesus said. And when Jesus let on that He was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, Caiaphas tore his robes and cried out, “He has blasphemed!” And then Caiaphas asked the people what they thought, and they cried out eagerly, “He deserves death!” Death, for telling the truth about His identity. But they would not have the truth.
So they took Jesus, and they bound Him, and they blindfolded Him, and they began to spit in His face to humiliate Him and disgust Him. And they began to punch Him, and others began to slap Him, and they started to mock Him, calling out to the blindfolded Messiah, “If You are a prophet, tell us who it was who hit You.” Jesus said nothing. Oh, but He knew. He knew who it was who hit him. It was His enemies, and He knew their names.
It was these religious rulers who put Jesus on the Cross.
Oh, but there are more who put Jesus on the Cross. The religious leaders had no power to put Jesus to death, so they sent Him to Pilate, the Roman Governor who did have the power to put Jesus to death. As Pilate questioned Jesus, Jesus sat silently as charges were made against Him. And Pilate was impressed. In fact, he was so impressed that he knew—he knew—that Jesus was innocent. But for Pilate, it did not matter. He was indifferent to Jesus. Jesus was a problem for other people. Not for him. And when Jesus said that He had come to testify to the truth, Pilate replied, “What is truth?” Little did he know, nor care to know that the very Truth stood before him. For Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
So Pilate put the problem back on the people. He gave them an option. He would either release Barabbas, a man who had committed murder, or Jesus, a man who was completely innocent. Indeed, Pilate declared, “I find no fault in this man, Jesus.”
The crowd made its choice. They wanted Barabbas freed. Pilate then asked, “What shall I do with Jesus?” And the crowd cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, but he was either a coward, or did not really care about Jesus or both. So Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. It was Pilate who put Jesus on the Cross. It was that crowd who put Jesus on the Cross.
But there are more who put Jesus on the Cross. Roman soldiers took Jesus and they scourged Him—that is they whipped Him mercilessly. Roman whipping was called by one author of the day, “the Horrible whip.” And horrible it was. The whips had three pieces of leather, with interwoven pieces of bone and bits of metal on the ends, so that when Jesus was hit with the whip, it dug deeply into His flesh. And as they tore the whip away, His flesh would tear off. The person who administered the whipping would decide when to quit—hopefully sometime before the victim died, but many times a victim would die during the whipping. The scourging of Jesus would continue until His flesh hung down in bloody shreds.
But the soldiers were not done. They mocked Him by putting a fake royal robe on Him, and they twisted together a crown made of thorns which dug into His head, and gave Him a fake scepter. And they cried out mockingly, “Hail King of the Jews!” These men—these soldiers—are the ones who put Jesus on the Cross.
So they took this bloodied, tired, and seemingly humiliated Jesus to be put to death on the Cross. We don’t know the name of the soldier who nailed Jesus on the Cross. Perhaps there were more than one. Perhaps some held Him while others nailed the long six inch spikes through His wrists, and through His feet. Can you imagine the agony of the pain? These soldiers pounded the spikes through Jesus. It was them who put Jesus on the Cross.
Crucifixion was an excruciatingly painful way to die. It was death by long, painful suffocation. Jesus hanged on that cross for hours, gasping for breath as He pushed Himself up in great pain with His nail-pierced feet trying to catch a breath. And then He would fall back down, resting on His nail-pierced hands which would cut off His breathing. He would slowly suffocate to death. But still, there were others there who were mocking Him even as He suffered this great pain, shouting, “He saved others; but He cannot save Himself!” And even the two criminals who hanged beside Jesus mocked Him—one of whom repented. These are the people who put Jesus on the Cross.
And finally, Jesus’ body could take no more. He cried out, hanging from the Cross, “It is finished!” And Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Universe, had died. The Gospels tell us that as He died, the earth shook, people were raised from the dead, the sun was darkened, and the veil which separated humanity from the presence and intimacy of God was torn in two. These men had put Jesus to death. These men were the ones who put Jesus on the Cross.
But even if we were able to go back in time and try to put things right, we would need an army to fight against these whose hands put Jesus on the Cross. From Judas, to Caiaphas and the religious leaders. From Pilate and his soldiers, to the crowds which cried out, “Crucify Him!” to the soldiers who nailed Jesus to the Cross and speared Him in the side to make sure He was indeed dead—it is an army of men—enemies of Jesus—who put Jesus on the Cross.
But that is not the end of the story. Scripture tells us of more who put Jesus on the Cross. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.” As much as I would like to get my hands on Judas and Caiaphas and Pilate and the crowds and the soldiers who put Jesus on the Cross, it misses the reality. It was you, and it was me who put Jesus on the Cross. Jesus was put on the Cross because of your sin and my sin.
Indeed, it is in your sin that you handed Jesus over to be killed on the Cross. It was in your sin that you cried out, “He deserves death!” It was in your sin, and your sin of indifference to the Truth that you put an innocent Man to die. It was in your sin that you cried out those horrible words, “Crucify Him!” It was your sin that tore flesh off the Lord, and it was in your sin that you held the hammer that plunged the spikes through Jesus’ hands and feet. Indeed, it was you who put Jesus on that Cross!
You. You in your sin, in your disobedience to God, in your vileness, your drunkenness, your theft, your sexual immorality, your lies, your pride—you! You put Jesus on the Cross.
But that is still not the end of the story. There is Another who put Jesus on the Cross. We read in Romans 8:32 that God the Father “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all.” Indeed, John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It was the Father’s plan to send His Son, Jesus Christ to the Cross in order to pay for your sins, and my sins, if we would just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Father sent the Son to pay the penalty of your sin. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. Jesus was sent to the Cross to pay for your sin.
But Jesus was not reluctant to fulfill this plan. Philippians chapter 2 tells us that Jesus, “although He existed in the [very] form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He emptied Himself…[and] He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross.”
But why? Why would Jesus go to die on the Cross? He had thousands of angels at His disposal. He need not have died such a death.
Jesus went to the Cross in order to get His hands on His enemies. Not the hands which seek to hurt, or to choke or even to murder enemies; but those nail-pierced hands. The hands which gush forth blood—precious, cleansing blood—to wash away sins. Jesus went to the Cross in order to get His hands on you. “For while we were yet sinners [while we were still His enemies we read in Romans chapter 5], Christ died for us.” Jesus went to the Cross so that we could be reconciled into His loving arms.
So, who put Jesus on the Cross? Not just Judas, and Caiaphas and Pilate, but you and I put Jesus on the Cross. And it was not an accident. It was God’s plan to reconcile sinners like you and me to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed, “He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment which brought us peace was upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.”
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.