IF THEY WERE FULFILLING BIBLE PROPHECY, HOW ARE CHRIST’S MURDERERS CULPABLE OF WRONGDOING?
by Shawn Brasseaux
If the Old Testament prophecies about Calvary had to come to pass, how are the Lord Jesus Christ’s killers guilty of misconduct? In other words, was it not Father God’s will that He die anyway? Were His murderers actually killing Him in faith instead of unbelief? These are some fascinating questions, and we tackle them now!
Let us consider some passages about Christ’s sufferings being predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures.
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:…” (Acts 2:22-23). “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).
Luke chapter 24: “ Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?…  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:….”
Acts 13:27-29: “ For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.  And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.”
On the basis of these verses, some will argue the following: “Jesus’ killers were in no way guilty of wrongdoing. After all, the Law of Moses and the Psalms and the Prophets all needed to be fulfilled. Israel was simply following these verses by faith in order to bring prophecy to pass.” While the case seems weighty upon first glance, it is actually revealed to be defective. Go back to the above passages, and carefully examine them. The exact opposite is true. Israel killed Christ in unbelief. While Calvary was indeed a fulfillment of prophecy, Israel was in no way trying to cooperate with God.
Scripture refers to Israel as having “wicked hands” in her slaying of Messiah. Acts 2:22-23 again: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:….” Such was not the behavior of faith but rather unbelief/wickedness!
Let us re-read Acts 13:27-29: “ For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.  And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.” Christ’s killers were inadvertently or unintentionally fulfilling prophecy. Such unawareness could in no way be faith!
We consult Acts 3:17-18 now: “ And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.  But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” Could the Bible be clearer? Calvary was the result of Israel’s ignorance of Messiah, not her faith in Him.
Israel did not kill Jesus in faith. Their goal was to get Him out of the way so they could continue doing what they wanted to do. Such is the very definition of sin—that is, ignoring the Creator God, being your own authority, doing what you want to do. Unbelief was their motivation in crucifying Christ.
Read from John chapter 11, paying special attention to verse 51: “ Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.  And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.  Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” (Verse 51 suggests Caiaphas did not realize what he was endorsing in putting Jesus to death. God was using Caiaphas as a spokesman here, without Caiaphas’ consciousness.)
“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14). “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6). Read the contexts of these verses. This was unbelief not faith.
Mark 11:15-18: “ And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;  And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.  And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.  And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” Luke 19:45-47: “ And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;  Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.  And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,….”
“But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him” (Matthew 21:38-39). “But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard” (Mark 12:7-8). “But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Luke 20:14-15). This Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen was Jesus’ illustration of His nation’s apostate religious leaders plotting to kill Him. Immediately upon hearing Him utter such words, they were convicted and outraged, finally conspiring to put Him to death! Such is unbelief not faith.
“And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46). “And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way” (Mark 12:12). “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign [pretend] themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor” (Luke 20:19-20).
By the way, read Proverbs chapter 1, King Solomon writing about 1,000 years before Calvary. It describes Israel’s evil scheming to put Jesus on the cross, that He not reign over them: “ My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.  If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:  Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:  We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:  Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:  My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:  For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.  Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.  And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.  So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.” (This corresponds to the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, Israel’s apostate religious leaders conspiring against Jesus.)
Even at Jesus’ trial, these apostates Jews lied about Him so as to fabricate charges worthy of death (Matthew 26:59-62; Mark 14:55-59). Again, they put Him to death in unbelief. They were in no way attempting to kill Him in faith and fulfill prophecy. Had they been operating in faith, during the final phase of His trial, they would have claimed Him as their King. In reality, they were in unbelief, and cried out they had no king but Caesar! John 19:14-16: “ And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pontius Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!  But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.  Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.”
Although they fulfilled prophecy in putting the Lord Jesus Christ to death, apostate Israel was not behaving so as to fulfill prophecy. They thought they were operating independently of God. Neither puppets or robots, they crucified the Son of God. So as to not have Him reign over them, so as to keep their nation and religion for themselves, they sentenced Him to suffer the worst mode of execution ever invented! If we claim God manipulated them—“God said it had to come to pass and thus made them do it”—then we charge God with wickedness. After all, they had “wicked hands” in crucifying and killing Christ (Acts 2:23). It was not faith but doubt. Calvary was not an accident but premeditated murder. Israel plotted to bring it about, having no idea their refusal to accept God’s Son would ultimately bring about His master plan: His finished crosswork at Calvary was in His wisdom all along! For more information, see our study about “propitiation” linked below.
» Who was more responsible for Jesus’ death, the Jews or the Romans?
» What is a “propitiation?”
» How could Jesus say His killers knew not what they were doing?
» How do God’s foreknowledge and our free will work together?
» Why did Jesus offer Himself to Israel if He knew they would reject Him?