Was the death of Jesus evil?
This question is often asked of those of us who do not believe that God initiates evil. If God predestined the death of Jesus, does this mean that God commanded or ordained the evil acts of men? A Calvinist website describes God’s ordaining of evil this way:
Remember, regarding the death of Jesus the Biblical text says, “…both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:27-28)
So the Bible itself testifies that God ordained evil men to crucify Jesus. Acts 2 says the same. So you need to be able to develop a theology which fits that into your view. While you may not understand it, you must yield to what the Scripture teaches regarding God’s meticulous hand of providence in all things:
Was the death of Jesus evil: Let’s look at the facts.
Jesus’ life was not taken by the will of man. Jesus claimed that the authority to give up His life came from God and the action was His own initiative:
17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 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.”
The death of Jesus is a commandment to Jesus, not a commandment to evil men.
Man’s failure to kill Jesus
Men tried to kill Jesus by throwing Him off a cliff. They expelled Him out of the city and drove Him to the very brow of a steep hill, but they could not finish the act of murder:
28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
Jesus just passed through their midst and went on His way. These men had no power to touch Jesus because this is not the manner in which God had determined that Jesus would die. Jesus did not lay down His life to death by falling.
Another time, the Jews tried to stone Jesus in the temple:
John 8:59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
Once again men were unable to finish the act of murder. In this instance, Jesus hid Himself from those who were acting according to their murderous rage. They had no power over Him because it was not God’s time. Jesus did not lay down His life to death by stoning.
The Father decided the time of Jesus’ death
When the Jews were unable to stone Jesus on yet another murderous plot, they tried to seize Him. The implication is that the Jews would seize Him and drag Him into court to condemn Him to death by crucifixion:
30 “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” 39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.
Even with God’s appointed mode of death, it was not God’s time. Man’s time would not rule the day as God was in charge of the time of the death of Jesus.
John 7:30 So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
John 8:20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
His hour had not yet come. God held the key to that hour. When it was God’s time, Jesus experienced great distress in His soul because of the enormous weight of carrying our sin, but He determined to come to the hour in obedience without saving Himself.
John 12:27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
This was God’s right time.
The Father decided the manner of death
Jesus did not die by stoning or death by a fall from a cliff. God predestined the cruelest type of death for Jesus. This was the predestined way that Jesus would lay down His life.
Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
It was exactly as God determined it would be. God would give Jesus as a gentle lamb to be slaughtered, shamed, taunted, and brutally murdered by men who had murder in their hearts all along. They wanted to kill Him. They finally got their chance. God gave Jesus into their hands.
27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
This was God’s way. Man did not determine the way Jesus would die. The Father did.
God’s way for our good
1. Jesus experienced hostility and shame
Jesus endured the shame of the cross. The mode of death that the Father chose for the Son caused Him to endure shame.
Victims were almost always executed without clothing, probably to make them more susceptible to blows and to increase their shame (Artemidorus II.61; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Roman Antiquities 7.69). Melito, the second century AD bishop of Sardis, wrote in his sermon on the passion of Christ: “The Sovereign has been made unrecognizable by his naked body, and is not even allowed a garment to keep him from view” (Passion 97; translation in Hall, Melito, 55). Because people of his day had witnessed crucifixions, Melito knew that the victims were executed without clothing. Seneca also indicated that the genitals of the victim were sometimes impaled. Fiensy, D. A. (2016). Crucifixion. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Psalm 22:17–18 (NASB95)
17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
2. Jesus experienced great Suffering
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
3. Jesus was forsaken
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
4. Jesus was the example of endurance
Jesus submitted to the death of the cross which was determined for Him by the Father. Despising the shame, He became the model of endurance.
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Who is to Blame for the MURDER of Jesus?
1. Judas, the betrayer
Luke 22:22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
John 19:11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
(For our article on whether Judas was predestined to be lost, click here.)
2. Our Sins
Romans 4:25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
3. Herod, Pontius Pilate, Gentiles and Jews
Acts 4:27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
4. The High Priest and Council
27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.
1. The righteousness of God
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2. Promises made to Jesus: children
Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 2:13 And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.”
3. All drawn to Jesus
John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
Was the death of Jesus evil?
The giving of Jesus was a righteous act.
Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
When the church celebrates communion, it is for the sacrifice of Jesus, not an evil act. Was the giving of the Son into the hands of evil men an evil act? Never! God did not command men to murder Jesus. The Father gave Jesus into their hands in the manner that was determined by God alone. He did not force these evil men to murder Jesus. He gave Jesus into the power of evil men whom He knew would take advantage of that giving.