The major Christian accusation repeated throughout history against the Jewish people has been that they are Christ-killers. The charge is foolish and false. It is actually a denial of the gospel. Let's look at it both from an historical and a theological perspective.
In its Vatican II declaration, the Roman Catholic Church said: "The Jewish
people should never be presented as one rejected, cursed or guilty of deicide. What happened to Christ in His Passion cannot be attributed to the whole people then alive, much less to that of today. Besides, the church held and holds that Christ underwent His Passion and death freely, because of the sins of all men and out of infinite love."
In 4000 years of Jewish history, fewer than 1% of all Jews were even living at the time of the crucifixion. Of the fewer than 1% who were, fewer than 20% were in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion. Of the fewer than one-fifth of 1% who were, fewer than 1% were involved in the crucifixion in any way - as instigators, observers, or mourners. That means that fewer than .002% of all Jews were involved in the crucifixion as either instigators, observers, or mourners.
The number of Yeshua's Jewish disciples was greater than the number of Jews who sought his death. Even on the Sanhedrin, at least 2 members were his disciples. Numerically, very, very, very, very few Jews were involved in any way.
What is the Biblical view? The most comprehensive list of those responsible for the death of Yeshua is given in Acts 4:27-28. The Jewish believers in Jerusalem were praying and mentioned five different parties who were responsible. "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy Servant Yeshua, whom You did anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." The five parties mentioned who bear responsibility for the crucifixion of Yeshua are 1) Herod, 2) Pontius Pilate, 3) the Gentiles, 4) the peoples of Israel, and 5) God.
Certainly the greatest responsibility is God's, for He planned it from the
beginning. He sent Messiah expressly for that purpose. Isaiah prophesied of Messiah that, "the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting him to grief; If he would render his soul as a guilt offering...By his knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as he will bear their iniquities." (Is.53:10)
The specific individuals who were responsible bear their own guilt. What about the peoples who are mentioned - "the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel"? Those who mentioned this in prayer were Jews themselves, part of the people of Israel. In their prayer, they were speaking of the specific historical event, they were not presenting theological conclusions.
Everyone is either Gentile or Jewish. If all Jews were guilty, then all Gentiles would be too. Is there a sense in which every single person is guilty of the death of Yeshua? Not exactly.
The Bible is clear that every single person sins and therefore every single person needs atonement for that sin. The death of Yeshua is God's ultimate provision of atonement, which every person needs, but that is not the same as saying that everyone is guilty of the crucifixion.
Peter preached to a crowd at the Temple, "you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, - a fact to which we are witnesses....And now brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away..." (Acts 3:13-15,17-19)
There are several things to note in what Peter preached. 1) He spoke as a Jew to fellow Jews about an historical event. 2) He did not hold himself guiltless. He said, "you disowned" Yeshua. This is the same Peter who disowned Yeshua three times in one night, the night before the crucifixion, a fact which he had not forgotten. So when Peter said "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away," we can rest assured that he was not speaking abstractly. He knew and had experienced what he was talking about.
3) Peter said, "brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also." Peter himself had rebuked Yeshua when he told "his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." (Mt.16:21) At that time, Peter, in ignorance, had rejected God's provision for the forgiveness of his own sins.
What he preached was the same as what Yeshua had prayed while dying: "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk.23:34) That prayer brought forgiveness to anyone who was guilty of the crucifixion. Before God, no one is guilty of the crucifixion. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him." Jn.3:17 Yeshua said, "No takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." John 10:18
Everyone stands guilty before God for their own sins. The death of Yeshua was not a means of making the world guilty. The world was already guilty. The death of Yeshua is the means of taking away the guilt. It is God's gracious provision of atonement for anyone who will receive it.
Paul also could speak strongly about the sins of others because he knew his own sins. "I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.... Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." (1Ti.1:12,15)
Could you or I have been among that small group which condemned Yeshua? Yes. Yeshua rebuked those who said, "If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets [or of the Lord]." (Mt.23:31) Those who say such things are only deceiving themselves.
Every human being is capable of turning away from the light and embracing darkness. It is only God's grace that draws us to Him. Every human being has made decisions in his or her heart that merit the judgment of God. To see the sins of others and not our own makes us incapable of receiving the grace of God.
This is indeed the greatest deficiency of the Vatican II document. After seventeen centuries of presenting the Jewish people "as one rejected, cursed or guilty of deicide," the Roman Catholic Church decided that this should not be done, but that hasn't stopped the contempt and condemnation. And what about the millions of Jews throughout that time who were brutalized and murdered because of this teaching of contempt? What about the guilt of the Roman Catholic Church? and that of the other churches which have done the same?
It is not sufficient to recognize that the Jewish people are not guilty of the crucifixion. It is necessary that the Church recognize its own guilt in the horrendous crimes of seventeen centuries. It is necessary that the Church repent and seek to make restitution of what is incalculable.
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and
renounces them finds mercy." Prov. 28:13 The Church has sinned against God and against His people, the Jewish people.