Someone told me that Acts 2:23 talks about the fact that every human being
who ever lived contributed to Jesus’ death. But all I read is that Peter
is talking to the crowd who agreed that Jesus be put on the cross. I
don’t understand how my sin is a contribution to Jesus’ death 2000 years
ago. I know that I’m a sinner, need to be responsible for my sin. I need
Jesus’ blood to cleanse me of my sins at baptism (by the way it doesnt
offend me if my sins really did kill Jesus, it just doesn’t make sense to
me). Am I wrong in my understanding?

To some extent, it is a semantic question who put Jesus on the
cross. Probably none of the people in the large crowd at the temple in
Acts chapter two were involved in the actual crucifixion of Jesus. It
was Roman officials who condemned Jesus and Roman soldiers who killed
him. Peter is obviously not saying that the crowd actually crucified
Jesus. What he is saying is that they are somehow responsible for the
fact that he was crucified.

Let me get to the principle question you ask. First of all,
you seem to be assuming that the crowd present at the Pentecost
celebration at the temple were more or less the same which agreed that
Jesus be put on the cross. This assumption is not correct. The Pentecost
celebration was one of the main celebrations of the year in Jerusalem,
along with the Passover and the Day of Atonement. During such a feast,
the population of Jerusalem would swell by several times. The great
majority of the crowd in Acts 2 were not from Jerusalem. That would
explain why Peter and the apostles had to speak in so many different
languages other than Aramaic. Besides, the courtyard where Jesus was
condemned was not nearly as big as the temple grounds. It is clearly not
possible to make any sort of accurate estimation, but it would probably be
safe to assume that less than ten per cent of the crowd Peter spoke to in
Acts 2 had anything to do with the decision to crucify Jesus, and probably
quite a bit less than that–perhaps as few as 1 per cent.

The conclusion is that when Peter told the crowd that they
were responsible for the death of Jesus (“God made this Jesus whom you
crucified…”) he was speaking of their indirect responsibility for his
death. Peter was implying that for most of those people, if they had been
in the crowd, they would have made the same decision. Presumably, Peter
could say the same about humanity in general. The crowd who called for
the death of Jesus did it by proxy for all humanity. When we sin, we
choose to reject God. A number of other Bible passages support this
interpretation. For example, Isaiah 53:4-6;

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,

Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our

The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,and by his wounds we are

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;

And the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all.

From a human perspective, Jesus was killed by the Roman
government authority, under the urging of a relatively small number of
Jews in the courtyard that day. However, from God’s perspective, Jesus
was killed for our sins (“he was pierced for our transgressions.”) We are
spiritually responsible for his wounds, and we are spiritually healed by
his wounds. If you want to accept the healing power of his wounds, you
must be able to accept the responsibility of your part in his death
because of your own personal sins. I sense from your question that you
are not struggling with accepting responsibility for being a sinner. The
fact that your sin was laid on Jesus at his death becomes the most
powerful conceivable motivator when you understand what he did for you.
Hopefully, you, like those in the crowd Peter spoke to in Acts chapter two
will be cut to the heart and will ask, “brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts
2:37)about the death of Jesus.

John Oakes, PhD

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