Jesus: Did those who killed Him know who He was?
The quick and short answer to this is that they could have and should have but they did not. They saw Him only as an evil troublemaker. The Bible record clearly helps us see all this.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. [Emphasis added]
As I sometimes say, people generally won’t find something they’re not looking for. Should they have known who this Jesus of Nazareth was? Of course! The apostles and some others did, but why didn’t everyone know who He was?
As we consider this question, let’s back up and look at the way so many people handle what we might speak of as common-sense truth. First, there’s the evidence of the creation itself. Shouldn’t it cause people to seek out its Creator? Don’t we all know things don’t just happen? Doesn’t common sense tell us there’s always a cause for everything that’s a part of the creation.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
These verses are telling us that man often refuses to accept things about God he knows to be true. God does not hide from man. From the very beginning of human history, it has always been man who has tried to hide from God and tried to make himself unaccountable to Him [Genesis 3:8-10]. Because of his sinfulness he’s prone to reject the truth that’s given to him.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
The creation itself provides ample testimony to the fact that there is a creator.
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Instead of choosing to live by the light of the truth that’s given to them, they chose the darkness of sin and evil.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
So many end up worshipping something of the creation, rather than God, the one who created all these things. Now notice what happens when they do this.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]
In other words, God turns these people over to their own lusts to live as they please and bear the consequences of their foolish decisions. In the process they can eventually live without any thoughts of there being a supreme being such as God. They end up totally blind to those things and are tied up exclusively with the material and temporal things of life. Because it is these things that mean the most to them, they are then an idolatrous people. We have that situation all over America today. People are totally tied to people, things, and circumstances for their happiness and meaningfulness in life. Such a waste it is!
I now live in a retirement neighborhood where there are many people who’ve lived a lifetime giving little thought to God and what lies beyond the grave for them. Some are now beginning to think about it. Yet they’ve spent a lifetime totally or almost totally occupied with the temporal and material things of life. Therefore, they are quite unprepared for what lies beyond the grave for them. Could things be otherwise for them? Of course! But they chose to believe what they wanted to believe rather than making a habit of searching for the truth. This has always been the trend of mankind overall. Such was, therefore, true at the time Jesus Christ walked this Earth and conducted His earthly ministry. Did people know who this Jesus was and that He was more than just another man? Some did, but most didn’t. Why is that? Here’s some insight the Bible gives us on this.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: [Emphasis added]
When it says they believed “on his name” it is talking about His identity. We all have names and titles that identify us. That’s the way it has always been. In the case of Jesus, He was the Messiah, the long-promised Savior. And in countless ways He made it known He was that promised Messiah and Savior. But as we’ve just seen from the testimony of Scripture, “they received Him not.”
God is not hard to find. He is faithful to respond to all those who seek Him. But the Bible tells us that as a general principle people don’t seek God.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. [Emphasis added]
But obviously he is stating a general principle here because there are other passages that tell us of people seeking Him, even though there aren’t many people who do this.
17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. [Emphasis added]
Once a person is saved, they should seek God and an understanding of His will for them through the teachings of Scripture.
34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
In Israel the word of God was taught at the gates to cities. People would gather there to hear and discuss the teachings.
35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. [Emphasis added]
This is clearly telling us that those who don’t seek His way bring harm to themselves and even others. They create a lot of self-induced misery.
There are many passages that let us know that one’s desire to know God and to know Christ is fulfilled when people choose to seek Him.
2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. [Emphasis added]
On the day of His crucifixion, nearly all Jerusalem and others had come to know that this man Jesus of Nazareth was slowly dying on Calvary. His tormentors sat before His cross and taunted Him.
36 And sitting down they watched him there;
39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Even the “religious” leaders of Israel were at the heart of this.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
How subtle that statement is! If Jesus had come down from the cross, which He could have, there wouldn’t have been anything to believe in for salvation.
43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. [Emphasis added]
The record of Mark and Luke tell us similar things [Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-39]. Again, they, like others, should have known who He was, but because of their negative spirit, they were blind about His identity. They had no spiritual eyes to see Him as their long-promised Messiah. This was the situation even though He had performed countless miracles before them and taught them as no one had ever done before to help them see who He was.
After Christ’s crucifixion and numerous resurrection appearances, some of these same people would hear the testimony of Peter and others concerning Jesus’ identity as their Messiah. They would also see Peter and others work miracles.
12 And when Peter saw it [the miracle], he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Notice next how Peter picked up on what the Lord Jesus had cried out from his cross.
17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
Then notice Peter’s appeal to them.
19 Repent [meaning, change your mind about who you think He is] ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
They at this time, including Peter, had no idea about what Christ had accomplished in paying the complete penalty for their sins. It was when Jesus was on that cross that the complete payment due for the sins of the world were paid.
I John 2:2
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [Emphasis added]
Forgiveness of sins was provided on the occasion of the crucifixion. All this and more would later be fully revealed through the apostle Paul.
I Timothy 2:5-6
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [Emphasis added]
Next, they are told that if they’d repent, Jesus Christ would return and set up His earthly kingdom.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [Emphasis added]
But we know now that this repentance of all Israel didn’t happen and, therefore, the whole program was interrupted and put off for fulfillment in a future day. It is true that some did repent and respond with faith, even thousands, but that was still a small minority of the well over a million who were there.
4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. [Emphasis added]
It is because the greater portion of Israel rejected all this that we, today, have our salvation. We are now said to be members of that which is spoken of as the church which is the Body of Christ.
Yes, these Israelites knew they were killing this Jesus of Nazareth, but they did not see Him as their promised Messiah. They did what they did in complete ignorance. Spiritual blindness is a terrible thing that goes on even today.
II Corinthians 4:4
4 In whom the god of this world [speaking of Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. [Emphasis added]
Are there people in your life who don’t know the identity of this Jesus, our Savior? Of course! They may even be somewhat involved in a church. But has the identity of this Jesus ever been explained to them? In many instances it has not. It is our job today to enlighten people, to help them see clearly that Jesus is their Savior, their only hope for eternal life and more. It is our responsibility to present the good news to people who cross our path, letting them know what happened through the death, burial, and resurrection of this Jesus of Nazareth.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [the good news] which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
II Corinthians 5:19-21
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
Receive Him today and you’ll be saved immediately. There’s no good reason at all for why you should not do that right now.