Who Killed Jesus?

Rembrandt Raising the Cross

If we ask the question, “Who killed Jesus?” we might get differing answers. Pontius Pilate sentenced him to death, but the religious leaders encouraged him to do so. Do we blame Caiaphas, the High Priest? Or the angry mob who yelled, “Crucify him!” One BBC article I read said that many experts believe that, more than anyone else, the person responsible for the death of Jesus was Jesus himself. There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that everything he did was planned and that he knew what the consequences would be.

I believe the answer to who killed Jesus lies in this oil painting by Rembrandt. Jesus is being hoisted toward the sky. A shovel sits in the foreground, a number of onlookers are in the shadows, and soldiers are straining under the weight of the cross. The man at the center of the painting seems a little out of place. He has both hands around the beam and seems to be doing most of the lifting. Rembrandt has made him the focus of the painting, bathing him in light so he cannot to be missed. Who is he? This man with the blue artist beret is Rembrandt himself.

Rembrandt understood the gospel and he knew that it was he, himself, who killed Christ. The Raising of the Cross, by Rembrandt

But he doesn’t stop there. The man in the background on the horse is also Rembrandt. His eyes are intently looking at us. His gesture is pointing towards us. It’s as if Rembrandt is asking if we are willing to see ourselves in this painting, with our hands around the rough wood, slivers digging into our fingers, our brows furrowed.

Being Human connection: Like Rembrandt, we stand at the feet of Jesus. Our sin put him there. Our sin drove the nails. No longer do I see Rembrandt at the foot of the cross, but I see myself: a sinner in need of a Savior.

Featured image: Rembrandt, The Raising of Christ, 1633