VATICAN CITY – Source: AP- Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book.
While the Catholic Church has for five decades taught that Jews weren’t collectively responsible, Jewish scholars said Wednesday the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff, who has had his share of mishaps with Jews, was a landmark statement from a pope that would help fight anti-Semitism today.
“Holocaust survivors know only too well how the centuries-long charge of ‘Christ killer’ against the Jews created a poisonous climate of hate that was the foundation of anti-Semitic persecution whose ultimate expression was realized in the Holocaust,” said Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.
The Catholic Church issued its most authoritative teaching on the issue in its 1965 Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate,” which revolutionized the church’s relations with Jews by saying Christ’s death could not be attributed to Jews as a whole at the time or today.
Benedict comes to the same conclusion, but he explains how with a thorough, Gospel-by-Gospel analysis that leaves little doubt that he deeply and personally believes it to be the case: That only a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters were primarily responsible for Christ’s crucifixion.
Consider the following thoughts:
1. No one “killed” Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said, Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (John 10:17-18). His death was a gift to mankind. Remember, God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Never stray from this path. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way (Luke 4:28-30). Calvary was not a murder…not an assault; it was God’s gift to the world- a substitution for all sin.
2. Christ died once. The writer of Hebrews said, So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). He needs not to be crucified again. The Bible says, Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Heb 6:6). Consider the body of Christ and the blood of Christ that is over and over again “crucified” and offered as a sacrament (that which conveys grace) in the Catholic church on a weekly basis? Christ is not to be put to an open shame- He suffered, bled and died once.
3. Who is responsible for the death of Christ? Inevitably, ALL OF US, including the pope. I believe to be true that if Christ walked the earth today men would still cry out, “Away with Him! Let Him be crucified!” See, it was the sin-debt of all mankind that suspended Christ Jesus between Heaven and Earth. It was my sin that held Him to the tree. Paul said, And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Col 2:13-14). The pope can try as he may to exonerate the Jews for the death of Jesus, but do not miss the point- that Jesus, the Redeemer, alone has the power to forgive sins and exonerate the guilty. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son that purchased our redemption and salvation. There is no other “stain-remover” for sin that can wash us from our sins but the blood of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:18-19).
You see, salvation is not the gift of man. It is not a proprietary possession of a church; it is not the possession of religious merchants- salvation is the person of Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me (John 14:6). The point may not even be, “Who killed Jesus?” The larger issue is what you have done with the person of Jesus Christ. Some Jews believed- others rejected. Some Romans believed- some rejected. The Bible says, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31).