Did God Kill his Son Jesus?
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It also says, “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So the answer is: yes … sort of.
See, there are different kinds of causes. In a sense, it wasn’t God who killed Jesus – it was a combination of Roman and Jewish authorities (representatives of Jews and Gentiles, meaning the whole world) who were the efficient cause of Jesus’ death. It wasn’t God standing there driving nails into Jesus’ hands. It was a Roman soldier. It wasn’t God who gave the order to have him crucified. It was a Roman official. It wasn’t God who arrested Jesus and tried him in a kangaroo court. It was the Jewish authorities who felt threatened by Jesus and his teachings. The sinfulness of all humanity came together in a single moment to conspire to kill Jesus unjustly.
But in another and very important sense, God was the one ultimately responsible. Jesus himself confessed this to Pilate in John 19:10-11:
Pilate therefore said to him, “Will you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release and I have authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would not have authority of any kind over me if it had been given to you from above.”
Jesus’ answer to Pilate has two meanings: (1) Pilate is merely acting as the representative of the Roman government, who gave him his authority; (2) all earthly authority exists specifically because God has allowed it for his own purposes. Paul says something similar in Romans 13:1:
For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
While humanity and human sin are the efficient cause of Jesus’ death, we must also say that God and his plans are the final cause of Jesus’ death, since the efficient causes of Jesus’ death only existed because they had been instituted by God.
Does that make God evil? No, not unless you also consider it evil to let your child go through something painful that will ultimately benefit them far more greatly (getting a shot, for example). Because God didn’t simply allow Jesus to die, he also raised him from the dead. So the end was far better than the beginning, and in his resurrection Jesus experiences great joy that makes his death worth it. Consider Hebrews 12:2:
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
By allowing Jesus to suffer the crucifixion and then raising him from the dead, God accomplished something good whose goodness far outweighs the evil of Jesus’ unjust execution – the salvation of our souls. Jesus’ didn’t simply get tossed under the bus. He was complicit in God’s plan, and for his obedience he was glorified and given all power and authority.