“This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.”—Matt. 21:38.
“Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”—1 Cor. 2:8.
It is difficult to decide whether the Jewish rulers acted directly against the light of their consciences in crucifying the Lord of glory, or whether they did it ignorantly and in unbelief, as Saul persecuted the church. Several passages seem to favour the former of these hypotheses. They who took counsel to put Lazarus to death, because that through him many believed in Jesus (John 12:10, 11)—and they who replied to Judas, “What is that to us? see thou to it” (Matt, 27:4)—do not seem to have acted ignorantly. The counsel of Caiaphas, to which the rest agreed, did not proceed upon the ground of Christ’s being an impostor, but merely that of expediency, John 11:50. That is, policy required that he should be made a sacrifice; for the Jewish church was in danger. With this agrees the former of the above passages: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” With this also agrees the intimation that some of them had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, which should never be forgiven, by ascribing his casting out devils to Beelzebub, the prince of devils, when in their consciences they knew better, Matt. 12:24–32. Finally, perhaps with this also agrees such language as the following:—“If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin.”—“He that hateth me, hateth my Father also.”—“If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.”
On the other hand, there are several passages which seem to maintain the contrary. Among these, some have reckoned the latter of the above passages, namely, 1 Cor. 2:8, “Had they known,” &c. But I apprehend the term “known,” in this passage, is put for that spiritual discernment which is peculiar to true Christians. The knowledge which the princes, or great ones, of this world had not, is said to be revealed to believers by the Holy Spirit, which proves it to be spiritual. Had the murderers of our Lord been possessed of this, they would not, they could not, have crucified him. But whatever light they had in their consciences, they were blind to the real glory of his character, and such is every unregenerate sinner.
But though this passage be easily reconciled with the foregoing hypothesis, yet there are others more difficult; particularly the words of Peter in Acts 3:17, and of Paul in Acts 13:27: “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”—“For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of their prophets, which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”
I know of no way to reconcile these things but by supposing, what indeed is very probable, that there were some of each description; and that the former passages refer to the one, and the latter to the other.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.