Notice in the above Acts 2 text that Christ was delivered up according to God’s definite plan. That is, God the Father was responsible for the death of Christ. It was the Father who gave up his Son (John 3:16). This was not some type of abuse by God the Father towards God the Son but rather an act of love and sacrifice. Nevertheless, the Father planned this from the beginning of time.
In another sense though, Christ Himself, the God-man, gave up His own life voluntarily. "I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:17–18, ESV). Being the divine God-man, He gave up His life in willing obedience, not forced coercion. "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8 ESV).
The Crowds Killed Jesus
Although Peter tells the crowd, in the above Acts 2 sermon, that the Father determined Christ’s death, note how he also lays blame on the people of the city. They were not just instruments of Christ's death. They are also morally responsible and culpable for it. They killed Jesus. Maybe even some of these people Peter is speaking to were the one’s yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Note that, again, in Acts 2:36, Peter lays responsibility on the crowds – “this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Here we see a critical interplay between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Man is morally responsible but God is providentially working. If there is any doubt of God’s hand behind Christ's death, note that Peter tells the crowd that Jesus could never have been kept down by death: "God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it" (Acts 2:24 ESV).
We Killed Jesus
However, lest we begin to take on a distant stance from the death of Christ (not being physically there in the crowds, calling for Jesus’s death), we must stop to remember that we too killed Jesus. For those that belong to Christ as His sheep, it was our sin that sent Him to the cross. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Jesus took our death so that we might have His life.
These words from “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” summarize this truth powerfully:
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life -
I know that it is finished.
(Stuart Townend © 1995 Thankyou Music)
So, who killed Jesus?
God did. The crowds did. We did.