What went wrong?
Next: Session 17 ... God’s choice ... man’s choice »
Session 16 ... transcript
What went wrong?
Jesus was a Jew. The apostles were Jews. The writers of the New Testament were Jews. The early church was made up entirely of Jewish believers in Jesus.
They were a minority of all Jews. Most Jews refused to accept that Jesus was the Messiah.
Most of the sons of Israel were looking for a Conquering King to deliver them from the rule of the Romans. A Suffering Servant who came to die on a cross wasn't acceptable.
They couldn't get past the thinking that He was cursed, to die on a cross. Their minds couldn't make the leap to where they saw that He was bearing the curse that was on them for failing to obey all The Law. The Law that they had obligated themselves to obey, in full.
The Hebrew Scriptures foretold a suffering servant, but the Hebrew Scriptures also speak of a conquering king.
When Jesus returns, He is coming as a King ... to reign. First the cross, then the crown. First the thorns, then the throne.
This thinking is not appealing to fallen man. Man, without the help of the Spirit, wants the reward before the work ... the victory without the sacrifice.
Most Jews missed seeing Jesus as the promised Messiah. The Jews who first came to faith in Jesus faced hostility from the majority of Israel. They also faced persecution from the pagan world. They were outcasts from society.
Sixty years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the last of the Jewish apostles who had been with Jesus had died. Now the church had become a predominantly Gentile affair. Non-Jews took charge.
The first mistake they made was to get organised. They didn't want the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow them wherever He chose. They wanted man ... men ... to take charge.
When Israel had demanded a king (back in the days of Saul and David), God said: "They are rejecting Me. Give them a king. But, it will hurt them. And it did hurt Israel. There's a lesson in that.
The second mistake was to point a finger ... to blame others ... and to see themselves as more worthy.
Among the so-called church fathers in the first few hundred years of church history, men blamed the Jews for killing Jesus (eg, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, John Chrysostom, Jerome)
Around 300 years after Jesus, church councils at Nicea and Antioch decided to reject Jewish influences, even the Jewish roots of the faith.
Augustine, writing about 400 years after Jesus, formalised the thinking that the church was now triumphant. "Jews deserved death", he wrote, but they were destined to wander the earth as a testimony of the victory of the church over the synagogue.
About 500 years ago, Martin Luther became one of the most bitter anti-Semites in history. He described Jews as: "worse than devils", "poisoners", "ritual murderers", "parasites". He said that Jews should be expelled from Germany and synagogues should be burned to the ground.
During World War II, Adolf Hitler told the German people that in his "Final Solution" and the slaughter of 6 million Jews in the concentration camps, he was simply "completing the work that Martin Luther began".
Did Jews bring all this on their own heads? Did the Jews kill Jesus?
Well, if you read the Bible, and you pick out certain passages, and you don't get the whole story, then, "Yes", you can say that the Jews killed Jesus. The apostle Peter, a Jew, accused his own people of condemning Jesus to death. He said, "... you put Him to death ..." (see Acts 2:22-23, and Acts 4:10).
However, it's a mistake to draw attention to Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus, without also noting that it was Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Israel, who passed sentence of death on Jesus (see Luke 23:4, 13-15, 22-23).
And, it was Roman soldiers who carried out the excution (see John 19:16-18).
However, we can now go beyond what the Bible says about who "did the deed", and look at the deeper theology of the cross.
The Bible says that it was the will of God the Father that Jesus pay the price for the sin of the world (see Acts 2:23 and Mark 14:35-36). Also, the Bible makes it clear ... Jesus was not a helpless victim. He willingly laid down His life (see John 10:14-18).
Jesus paid the price for the sin of the whole world. Everyone has sinned. Everyone is guilty (see Romans 3:23).
Jesus' death on the cross provides atonement for sin for anyone and everyone who believes in Him. However, each of us has to learn to go beyond the observation of who did the deed, and beyond theology, and take personal responsibility for their sin.
The truth of the matter is that "I crucified Jesus". It was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. I am guilty. Jesus was paying for my sin.
The Lord has to bring us each to the place where we accept full moral responsibility for our behaviour and confess our need for the mercy of God. When we do so, we gain a full appreciation of what Jesus accomplished for us and a revelation of His love.
This brings us to the matter of man's free will. Remarkably, many Christians have been influenced by a theology that denies free will and eliminates moral responsibility. This is something we have to understand properly.
Go now to the next session: "God's choice. Man's choice."