04 March 2011

Papal exoneration... who is to blame?

Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book.
In "Jesus of Nazareth-Part II" excerpts released Wednesday, Benedict explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus' death.
I remember 1965 and the uproar caused by the pope in those days, John XXIII (Isn't this a SuperBowl designation?) In Nostra Aetate, the pope did what popes had done for centuries. He issued a declaration, an edict if you will. He didn't write a book; he made a pronouncement. Then he said a similar thing that the Jews (as a whole) were not responsible for the death of Jesus. And a new era in Jewish-Catholic relations began. 

But many Jewish leaders in those days rejected the papal decree as forgiving us for something we never did. Therefore it was a waste. Fascinating. Thanks for forgiving us, but we never asked!

OK, so who is responsible? Let's consider five units and their role in the crucifixion.

First, God the Father. The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3.16). Thus the Father who sent the Son (Y'shua) into the world is culpable in the death of Messiah. Again, John 6.57  “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father" Y'shua makes it clear that his living and dying is the Father's responsibility.

Second, the Jewish leadership at the time. The AP article today reports, "Benedict comes to the same conclusion as the 2nd Vatican Council in 1965, but he explains how with a thorough, Gospel-by-Gospel analysis that leaves little doubt that he deeply and personally believes it to be the case: That only a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters were primarily responsible for Christ's crucifixion." Aha, so the Jews are responsible, but not all Jews of all times. I see. 
The Bible does give some attribution to this 2nd group. Peter says, (Acts 10.39)  “And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross" Also Peter said earlier  “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by this name this man stands here before you in good health." (Acts 4.8-10). Cleopas told the stranger on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24.20) "how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him." 

Third, the culpable party is the Roman government and the actual people who nailed him.  Recorded in John 18.12 "So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him," Again in John 19.23. "The Roman soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece." Clearly the actual culprits wer ethe Romans.

Fourth, Y'shua said of his own actions that he was a volunteer. (John 10.18)  “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Even though He was 'slain from the foundation of the earth' he actually died and allowed them to do so. He could have called thousands of angels down to save him but he didn't. He willingly died.

Fifth, and maybe foremost. You and I. We are responsible. Paul said, (1Cor. 15.3)"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures," and again in Gal. 1.4 "Y'shua  gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father," Even John said, recorded in 1John 4.10 "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." It was we, and our sins, that caused him to die. We are culpable.

It's clear then that the Romans received the Jewish leadership's proposition that Y'shua was a culprit and needed removing on that Passover nearly 2000 years ago. It's clear the Jewish leadership wanted Him removed. And it's clear that it was Plan A from the beginning, that Y'shua would come to earth. And die. And he willingly put his hand up to do so. And the benefits of his sacrifice were eternal and 'usward.' We gain significantly if we believe. 

2Cor. 5.17 "Therefore if any man is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come"
That declaration is better than any papal book can inform me. 

Rom. 5.1 ¶ Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rom. 5.2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Rom. 5.3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
Rom. 5.4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Rom. 5.5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Rom. 5.6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom. 5.7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
Rom. 5.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

That's good news, for you and for me. We deserved punishment for our culpability, but God has forgiven us. Hallelujah!

1 comment:

Art said...

Very true, Paul in Romans 5:8 says it all..."But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
What comes to my mind is Peter's words in Acts 2:23 "...this man, who was handed over by the pre-determined plan and foreknowledge of God..." which shows Gods plan of redemption of fallen humanity all the way back to Genesis 3:15