In Matthew 27:22, during Jesus’ so-called trial, Pilateasks the crowd, “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” The crowd answers, “Crucify him!” Pilate publicly proclaims Jesus’ innocence, but “they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” (verse 23). Pilate then famously washes his hands, declaring himself to be “innocent” (verse 24) and telling the crowd that Jesus’ death “is your responsibility!” It is a responsibility that the mob accepts, shouting the chilling words, “His blood is on us and on our children!” (verse 25).
It is important to remember who was speaking these words. Matthew 27:20 says, “The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd.” Yes, the mob at Jesus’ trial was comprised of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Passover, but they were incited by religious leaders who had rejected Jesus years earlier (Matthew 12:14). The mob’s ringleaders bear the most responsibility, as does Pilate, who presided over such a travesty of justice. Also, the mob’s self-indictment was spoken by some Jews, not all of them. Jesus was a Jew, as were all His disciples, and they certainly did not call a curse upon themselves.
The Jewish nation did indeed suffer for their rejection of their Messiah. On His way to the cross, Jesus hints at a coming judgment (Luke 23:31). Within one generation of the crucifixion of Christ, Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans. The Jews were scattered, and for almost 1,900 years (until 1948), they had no homeland. There were spiritual ramifications, as well, as the gospel was brought to the more receptive Gentiles (see Acts 18:6). The apostle Paul likens the Gentiles’ inclusion in salvation to wild branches being grafted into a cultivated olive tree. The Jews (the natural branches) are not completely forsaken: “If they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23).
In rejecting Christ, the Jews “stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:32; cf. Isaiah 8:14). But they are not cursed by God. Paul asks the rhetorical question: “Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:1–2). In fact, there is coming a time when “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).
How can the Jews be “cursed” when God had made an unconditional covenant with Abraham? “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3). God also promised the Jews a large extent of land in Genesis 15. Israel has never had full possession of the land God promised, so the prophecy still awaits fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom.
People reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7), and disobedience brings sorrow. When the people of Israel fell into gross, unrepentant idolatry, they lost their land for the 70 years of the Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 29:10). When they rejected their Messiah, they lost their land for even longer. Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). But God’s promise still stands: “The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: ‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your Savior comes!”’ . . . They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted” (Isaiah 62:11–12).