Who Nailed Jesus to the Cross?
By Mike Benson
in 2004, Mel
Gibson produced the move, The Passion of
the Christ. Ironically, he didn’t star in the film.
He did, however, have a
small, yet significant, cameo in the actual movie. Don’t
recall seeing him?
Watch it carefully again. He’s there. You don’t see
his face or body, but you
do see one of his appendages.
the scene when Jesus was being nailed to the
cross? You don’t see the soldier who held the hammer and
drove that long nail
into the Lord’s flesh, but you do see the soldier’s
left hand. That was
Gibson’s hand. Gibson said he reserved that role for himself
because he wanted
his audience to know that his sins made the crucifixion necessary. He
“I’m first in line for culpability. I did
In truth, we all did it.
We’re all responsible for Calvary.
Scripture says, “For all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “All have
sinned.” That means
everybody. Our transgressions put the Savior on tree of Golgotha.
what do we do? If we’ve sinned, and we have (Romans
3:10), and if sin separates us from God, and it does (Isaiah 59:1-2),
is our recourse? What do we do? My denominational friends would say,
There’s nothing you can do, because if you do anything, you
negate the grace of
God.” However, dear Reader, is that accurate? Biblical?
in your New Testament to Acts
2. On the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter
listeners, “Therefore let all the house of Israel
know assuredly that God has
made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ”
(v. 36). Like
Gibson, Peter’s audience had nailed Jesus to the cross. In
this case, literally.
Now notice how they responded: “Now when they heard this,
they were cut to the
heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men
and brethren, what shall we do?’” And how did the
apostle respond to their
sincere inquiry? He said, “Do? My friends, there is nothing
you can do. If you
do anything, you negate the grace of God.”
Read the next verse. “Then Peter said to them,
‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of
Jesus Christ for
the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
38). Repentance (Matthew 12:41; Luke
refers to change. Change requires effort, in essence, doing (Jonah
something. Baptism refers to immersion in water (Acts 8:36-39). Again,
(Acts 22:16) something. Now pay close attention to that little word,
“Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ FOR
(Greek, eis) the
remission of sins.” For means, “in order
to” obtain. Repent and be baptized in
order to obtain the remission or forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:15-16).
What would have happened to these believers on Pentecost had they not
been baptized? Obviously they would have been lost! They recognized
that’s why two verses later we’re told,
“Then those who gladly received his
word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added
(v. 40). Now did any of these 3,000 earn or merit God’s grace
they obeyed Peter’s command (cf. Acts 10:38)?
Could any in that assembly proudly thump his breast and say,
“Look what I’ve
done to save myself?!” Of course not.
object, “Mike, you’re confusing effort because of
what Jesus did for us, and effort we exert in an attempt to merit the
grace.” Friend, if works—of any kind—have
absolutely no role whatsoever in our
salvation, then it matters not if they are before or after. In truth,
us can earn or merit our salvation. Period. Underline that statement.
it. Catholicism says, “Earn it.” Calvinism says,
“You can’t earn it, so do
nothing.” Both extremes are unscriptural. Meritorious
works can’t save (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9;
but a dead,
non-working faith (James 2:17, 19) can’t save either! Only
coupled with works (Galatians 5:6) of obedience (Acts 10:34-35; James 2:14-26; Philippians 2:12) can we
lay hold of the free gift of God’s grace.
through Hebrews 11
and then consider the following questions in the context of our study:
Did Noah earn his salvation when he built the ark (Hebrews 11:7; cf. Genesis 6:22)? What if he
had never constructed it
in the first place? After the flood waters abated, could the aged
have smote his chest and say, “Look how I’ve saved
myself?!” Was he saved
before or after he expressed his faith? Did Abraham earn his salvation
obeyed God and left his home for a foreign country (Hebrews 11:8; cf. Genesis 12:4)? What if he
had never moved as God
decreed? Did Moses earn his salvation when he kept the Passover
What if he had
not slain a lamb and placed its blood on the doorposts? Was splashing
the door a meritorious act? Did the children of Israel
earn their salvation when they passed through the Red Sea
on dry ground (Hebrews 11:29; Exodus
Could one among those thousands have objected, “Hey, we
can’t cross over! If we
do anything we’ll be negating the grace of God!?”
Did the children of Israel
when they marched around the city (Hebrews
11:30; cf. Joshua 6:1ff)?
was a gift (Joshua
6:2; cf. 2:9, 14). If the Israelites hadn’t marched around
the city as God had
required, would they have received the “gift”? Did
Rahab merit her salvation by
hiding the spies and later tying the scarlet cord in the window
cf. Joshua 2:ff;
6:17ff)? All of
these Old Testament accounts illustrate without question that
it’s not a dead,
non-working faith that saves, but a living, obedient faith that saves.
why the Bible says, “He who believes [a work of
obedience—John 6:28-29] AND is
baptized [a work of obedience—Titus 3:5) will be
saved” (Mark 16:16; cf. 1
guilty. We’re all culpable. We all had a part
in nailing Jesus to the cross. That’s the bad news. The good
news is that
Jehovah has enacted a gracious plan by which we can receive divine
must (1) believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 8:24), (2) repent and
from our sins (Acts 17:30; 26:20), (3) confess that Jesus is the Christ
8:35-38; Romans 10:9-10)
then be immersed (Galatians 3:27; cf. Acts
8:12-13, 36, 38; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1
God has done His part. Will you do your part (1 Thessalonians 1:3)?
my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but
more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and