(Part Six of the Ten Commandment Series)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, infants, and toddlers within eleven miles of the town were murdered. This went beyond abortion; it was mass infanticide. Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire’s client king Herod I (Luke 1:5). Herod knew what he was doing. The wise men declared that a king had been born, and Herod was trying to kill the Messiah before he could take away Herod’s throne. He wanted to wipe Jesus off the face of the earth. As Matthew records for us in his Gospel:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matt. 2:16)
Other examples of people attempting to kill Jesus abound in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus often told his disciples that he was going to be killed (Matt. 17:22–23). Early on in his ministry, the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for calling himself God (John 5:18). We’re told repeatedly that there were religious groups that sought to kill Jesus, and he had to hide from them (John 7:1). The chief elders and priests of Judaism plotted to kill him (Matt. 26:4), and eventually, they succeeded by forcing Pontius Pilate’s hand:
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Mark 15:6–15)
Jesus was crucified on a cross at the demand of the Jews, at the hand of the Romans, and by the will of the God-man himself. The sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13). This commandment was broken at the cross of Jesus Christ when he was publicly crucified. Sure, the Roman soldiers killed Jesus with their hands, but the Jewish leaders had already put him to death in their hearts.
Truly, many of us are guilty of murder every day when we feel envy, hatred, anger, or seek revenge against a fellow image-bearer. Maybe we’ve never acted upon that desire—but we’re just as guilty as if we had when we let it fester within our hearts. As Jesus instructed his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt. 5:21–22)
The heart is the crime scene where most murders take place. God regards anger as a sin that is on par with actually killing someone in cold blood. His reason for this is not because he is unfair or unreasonable but because we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, and hatred of any kind violates this commandment. When we treat others with such animosity, we are breaking God’s holy law. It was not just the Romans and the Jews who killed Jesus. It was our sin that held him there—we are the true Christ-killers.
In Mark 7:21, Jesus teaches us that from inside “the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” The birthplace of all evil is the cesspool of the rebellious, fallen, and depraved human heart. The only remedy to such evil is the goodness of God in Jesus Christ to save us from ourselves by becoming sin for us.
When Jesus was murdered, he bore the wrath of God against human sin so that your murderous, slanderous, and selfish heart could be forgiven. Your soiled heart is washed as white as snow through the broken body and shed blood of the Lamb of God, “who takes away the sin of the world.” Do you believe in Jesus, and will you let him become your substitute to stand in your place before the judgment seat of God? Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, and against whom the Lord counts no iniquity (Ps. 32:1–2).
For more on this series on the Ten Commandments, check out “No Other Gods,” “Christ the Idol Smasher,” “A Reputation Worth Keeping,” “Why Sunday Should Be a Day of Rest,” and “6 Things to Know about the Fifth Commandment.”