Sometimes the most challenging questions on religion come from persons of other faiths. In one such instance a co-worker, after discussing how we observed particular traditions, asked me, “Do you mind telling me who you think crucified Jesus?”
The Gospels offer two possible answers, either the Roman soldiers who physically did the deed or the temple authorities in Jerusalem who persuaded the Roman governor to permit the execution and maintain peace. Historians tell us Pontius Pilate previously had caused a brutal slaughter of Jews and likely feared dismissal by the Emperor over further incidents.
But my questioner emphasized, “who do you think crucified Jesus,” just as Jesus asked, “who do you say I am?” What personal stake do I have in the issue? In a cost-benefit assessment, the Crucifixion can look rather lopsided: here is a piece of God in human form, put through abject human pain and anguish, somehow not avoiding the ordeal, and, in some people’s eyes, making the final sin offering for all eternity. From it, we obtain a divine companion with a distinct recollection of our sufferings.
One way to adjust the formula is to view my own unkindness, anger, selfishness and acquisitiveness as part of the nailing, the thorns, the sour wine and the spear thrust. Doing so yields an answer to the question, with at least one name specified: “I did it. I contributed to the incident. But Jesus somehow found a way to forgive me.”
– Greg Capaldini