Man’s Greatest Evil, God’s Greatest Good

by Cliff McManis

The greatest act of evil in the history of the world was used by God to accomplish the greatest good ever achieved. In fact, God was overseeing the most egregious act of injustice known to man. God planned it in eternity past, He predicted it in the Old Testament, He orchestrated all the events leading up to it in the New Testament, and He carried out its execution to the bitter end.

Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, became a public scandal. Although it brought in over $600,000,000 worldwide, it was boycotted by standard American distribution companies, Hollywood elites, and even by a few countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. The controversy was over the question: “Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?” In Gibson’s film it was the Jewish leadership that spearheaded Christ’s death. As a result, Gibson was branded an anti-Semite. All the pundits chimed in with their opinions. Most suggested it was either the Romans, or Pilate, or Judas or the Sanhedrin who killed Jesus. Few, if any, in the public arena were consulting the Bible for the answer. But the Bible is clear on who was responsible for killing Jesus. Those responsible include the following: (1) the Jewish Sanhedrin (John 11:47-53), (2) Judas (John 18:1-3), (3) Herod (Acts 4:27), (4) Pilate (John 19:16), (5) the Roman soldiers (John 19:17-18, 23) and all sinners, including you and me (Isa 53:5). Christ’s execution was a corporate act.  

Amidst the furious debate at the time of Gibson’s movie, one candidate was entirely left out of the discussion regarding who had Christ executed—and that was God the Father. God was never associated with the betrayal, arrest, torture and death of Christ, the greatest act of evil humanity has ever known. Yet Scripture teaches that God the Father was in charge every step of the way. God planned Jesus’ death in eternity past: “blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet 1:19-20; cf. Rev 13:8). God announced 4,000 years before His death that Jesus would be “wounded” (Gen 3:15). One thousand years before the crucifixion, God said Jesus would be pierced in the hands and the feet (Ps 22:16). God predicted 700 years before Christ that Jesus would be murdered by evil men even though He, Himself, would be absolutely innocent (Isa 53:9).

Not only did the Father plan Jesus’ death in eternity past and predict it in the Old Testament, the Father was active in the death of Christ and even punished Jesus, His own Son, while Christ hung on the cross for nearly six hours. Isaiah clearly says that God the Father was the One who punished Jesus on the cross: “Smitten of God, and afflicted…the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (53:4, 10). Smitten, afflicted, crushed…by God the Father Himself! Some evangelicals blatantly deny this key truth about the atonement. Many others misplace the emphasis of Christ’s sufferings either by overemphasizing the physical pain He endured or by saying he was passively abandoned by the Father. Tim Keller says at the cross Jesus experienced “cosmic rejection and pain,” but never explicitly says it was the Father who punished Jesus.1 Christian philosopher, Douglas Groothuis, says Jesus did not even really know why He was dying on the cross at the time of the crucifixion!2 What made Christ’s death on the cross so horrendous was not just the physical pain as much as the invisible transaction that took place as the Father poured out His full fury of wrath and hatred toward sin on Christ as He hung on the cross.

Not only did the Father plan Jesus’ death in eternity past and predict it in the Old Testament, the Father was active in the death of Christ and even punished Jesus, His own Son, while Christ hung on the cross for nearly six hours.

This is also the clear teaching of the New Testament: “O Lord…For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, who Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:24, 27-28). God predestined, or planned in eternity past, the death of Christ by means of evil wicked sinners to accomplish His perfect plan of salvation for the world. At the cross, God poured out His full fury of holy torment toward sin on Jesus. It was the cup of the Father’s wrath that Jesus would absorb (Mark 14:36). Jesus was punished by the Father as the perfect substitute for sinners and thus conquered Satan, subdued death, overcame the world and appeased God’s holy hatred of sin. The most heinous evil human act in history—the death of Christ—achieved the greatest good ever known—salvation for sinners.

Neither raw human logic, nor esoteric philosophy can answer the dilemma of the problem of evil. Only God can. And He has chosen to reveal what we need to know about it in the Bible. There is much about it that God has chosen not to reveal, and that is to His glory. In the end, with humility and faith, we must submit our hearts to God and solicit the prayer of Abraham who said to God: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen 18:25).


NOTES

1. Tim Keller, The Reason for God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 30.

2. He writes, “Nor did Jesus himself fully understand his own redemptive sufferings while he agonized on the cross. Otherwise he would not have cried out in dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt 27:46)”; Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 643. This is a ghastly interpretation from an evangelical on the true meaning of Jesus’ words here. Jesus knew full well why He was dying. He said, “My God, my God,” because He knew He was fulfilling every detailed prophecy about the crucifixion of the Messiah as stated in Psalm 22 that was written 1,000 years before Jesus’ death. Jesus was purposely quoting Psalm 22:1, thus declaring to everyone at the foot of the cross, and to the world, that He was indeed the promised Messiah and Suffering Servant, who was absorbing the Father’s wrath for the sins of the world by virtue of His death.

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