Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone of it with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
As long as I’ve been a Christian I have noticed that some are still preoccupied with the issue of whom to blame for our Lord’s death! There are principally two (2) groups who are blamed for the death of Jesus Christ: the Jews & the Romans. Individuals from both groups played major roles in the Passion.
Judas Iscariot, a Jew & one of the 12 disciples, betrayed Him to the Jewish authorities;There can be no doubt of the guilt of these individuals involved for their individual sins. Yet I would still contend that concerning the Crucifixion, blame is simply not an issue.
Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Jews, had Him arrested, put on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, & turned Him over to Pilate because they wanted Him put to death. Later, he even led the crowd in chanting, “Crucify him! Let his death be upon us & our children!”;
King Herod, the Roman governor, mocked & ridiculed Jesus when Pilate attempted to put the matter in his hands, but ultimately found no fault in Jesus; yet he failed to order Hs release;
Pontius Pilate, the Roman offical who actually sentenced Jesus to the cross, did so knowing that he sent an innocent man to his death.
To make my point, let us first examine these two groups:
Throughout history, Christians have blamed the Jews for the death of Christ. The term “Christ-killer”, in fact, is most often used as an anti-Semetic accusation.
Part of this attitude stems from the fact that some Christians have taken a rather unBiblical view of the Jews. These folk think that the Jews had their shot with God and blew it. They think that Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s Chosen People. Some even feel that God has forsaken them for “murdering” His Son!
The Apostle Paul asserted that such was not the case. The Jews have not been forsaken, but rather are being provoked to jealousy. By allowing the Gentile world an equal chance to become His People & His Children, He hopes to provoke them to seek Him and no longer take Him for granted. We’ve benefited from this Divine Provocation , but let’s not make it more than it is.
This Gospel is offered to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – not the other way around! Just because Christianty has of late been comprised of far more Gentiles than Jews doesn’t mean we can take their inheritance from them. Instead of condemning them, we should pray for their salvation.
The rest of the blame on the Jews stems from the Biblical account of
Jesus’ arrest & trial at the hands of the Sanhedrin,
their part in His Roman trial which led to His Crucifixion, and
their part in the attempted cover-up of His Resurrection.
Yet whatever part Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him, Caiaphas, or the Sanhedrin played in His arrest and condemnation, we cannot indict the Jews as a race. In doing so, we would condemn His disciples, Paul, Timothy, and all of the earliest Christians, who were all Jews. We would condemn Joseph of Arithmathea, who provided is own tomb for Jesus’ burial, and Nicodemus, who provided the spices & ointments with which to prepare His body for burial. In condemning the Jews as a race, we would even indict our Lord Jesus Christ; or did you forget that He, too, was a Jew?
Yet we often seem to forget that the Jews didn’t act alone. The Jewish authorities had no right to execute a man, under Roman law – only the Romans could do that. The Romans involved had plenty of chances to set Jesus free.
Many commentators have argued that the Romans are perhaps a rather convenient scapegoat, since there remains no longer a “Roman” people. In blaming them, we escape the racism of blaming a people who are actually in existence, so we think that makes it OK.
“See? They’re gone. God has punished them by utterly wiping them from the face of the planet!” they trumpet of the Romans. Of course, until 1948 some made the same claim concernng the Jews. When Israel became a nation, it ruined a lot of “good” sermons. Of course, as someone once said, “Truth never stands in the way of a good story.”
This synopsis of a non-existent Roman people is, however, misleading. The Roman Empire is gone, but the people are still there. They were Italians, Germans, Britons…. The Empire overtook almost all of the known civilized world of that day & age. So rather than saying they are gone, it would be more accurate to say that the Romans became the World (ie- the rest of us Non-Jews).
That places us in uncomfortable territory, to say the least, for that would mean that if both the Jews & the Romans were responsible for Christ’s death, then the ENTIRE WORLD can be blamed for the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Fortunately, blame is simply not an issue…
A man named Zerubbabel is mentioned in our text. He is a type of Christ; in fact, many think that this passage follows the Law of Double Prophecy, being both about Zerubbabel & Jesus Christ. Upon reading the surrounding verses to gain the proper context, I’m prone to agree with the latter opinion.
In our text, Zerubbabel levels a mountain in his path by shouting, “Grace, grace!” So too did Christ level a mountain of Sin, Condemnation, Death, &, yes, Blame. THe whole world stood guilty before Him. By rights, He could’ve called down more twelve legions of angels to pluck HIm off the cross and righteuosly punish the Human Race (Matthew 26:53). Yet He chose Redemption in place of Revenge, Cure in place of Curse; When Jesus uttered those wonderful words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He may as well have cried out
At that moment, before He even gave up the ghost, the matter of blame was settled. No one stood accused. The matter was cast into the Sea of Forgetfulness, never to be remembered again.
Since there is no longer an issue of blame, we cannot any longer use this matter as an excuse for antiSemetic biggotry!! If Jesus Himself forgave the Jews & the rest of us for the deed, while He was yet on the cross, suffering it’s agonies, what right do we have to blame & condemn them?!? If you deny Jesus’ right to forgive others, you deny Jesus’ right to forgive yourself!
So put hatred and biggotry aside and forgive, that ye may be forgiven. Thank God for transforming a Slaughter into a Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind – for you.