Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

[This is a conversation I had recently with a delightful Christian minister.}

“What I don’t understand, Pastor, is why. Why does God need to kill Jesus in order to save humanity?”

I was speaking to a very kind and thoughtful minister of a local church. The topic was Jesus and my lack of faith in him. “If you explain to me why God needs to send His Son to earth to be murdered, then perhaps I can better understand how Jesus is my savior.”

“It is clearly stated in the Gospel of John: God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son…”

“But why?” I interrupted. “When Abraham was to show his love of God by sacrificing Isaac, God stopped him. Why is God willing to do what he demanded Abraham not do?”

“That only shows God’s love is greater than Abraham’s. God just could not stand the idea that people would suffer in hell for their failure to live up to His Law. So He sent Jesus to suffer punishment for us. Jesus died for your sins.”

“And I am grateful for that, but none of this explains why the Almighty God could not find a less bloody way to carry out his aims. In the Prophets God wants compassion and justice rather than blood and barbeque. Yet with Jesus, at least as you understand Jesus, God has gone back to the older sacrificial model. Why?”

“I don’t think there is an answer to this,” the pastor said. “To know the answer is to know the mind of God, and we humans cannot do that. You simply have to believe.”

“And that is where I fail,” I said. “I can’t believe. I can’t believe in a god who sets laws we can’t fulfill. I can’t believe in a god who is only satisfied by blood. I can’t believe in a god so angry that only murder will mollify him. Nor do I believe Jesus believed this either.”

“Well now you are speculating. Jesus knew why he was sent to earth. He came to die as a way of ransoming humanity from sin and the consequences of sin.”

“Again, this is why I can’t be a Christian. The Jesus I meet in the Gospels, official and Gnostic, is a prophet, a spiritual genius who confronts the powers of domination and exploitation both religious and political, and is willing to die to make his point that we must not collaborate with evil, that we can defeat evil by noncollaboration, and that we must cease to do evil and do good. It isn’t Jesus’ death that saves us, but his life. Jesus offers us a paradigm for living that is intrinsically holy and redemptive.”

“The fact that you are willing to explore Jesus is a start and I pray that in time you will come to see Him as I do.”

“Thanks, Pastor. I will pray the same for you.” Amen.


Huw Richardson said...

Hi Rabbi -

The "Kill His Son" theory is not the only theory out there. It is the most commonly heard in this part of the world because you and I live in the Bible Belt and it is popular among conservative Protestants. But It's not, for example, the main theory of the Eastern Orthodox - where it is only a minority opinion.

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Deborah Saunders said...

Thank you, Rabbi, for writing this piece on your blog. I've had similar conversations with "christians" who've asked me "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" And, I've had to reply that I don't know what that means. I don't understand how Jesus' dying saved us from our sins. And, then it seems that according to some people this "saving" only counts if you accept Jesus Christ. It's never made sense to me as a child and still doesn't.

Thanksgiving First said...

I just read your question...Jesus had to die in order to live. t was necessary for him to pass thru death unto life to overcome satan and receive the authority over death. Two things had to happen to overcome the corruption of the earthly priesthood. A new Temple that would be a forever temple to God and a new priesthood that would never again pass away. Christ being the son of David in the Davidic lineage fulfilled the Kingship role and receiving the mantle of priesthood passed on from John the Baptizer to Christ (as John was in the line of Aaron as High Priest) carried the mantle of priesthood over to Christ Jesus (Yeshua) as being the next High Priest (the washing of the priesthood upon service started with Moses washing Aaron and his sons)..and therefore the prophecy of "thou art a priest forever in the order of Melchisadec" was a result of Melchisadec having both title roles of High Priest and King of Salem....Christ being now both King and Priest could therefore now offer sacrifice to God (being the last sacrifice to offer up and would replace forever the offering of animal sacrifice which God really detested over time)...and Christ could also be the sacrifice at the same time. But most important was that it must be a death that would fulfill prophecy and result in an 'eternal forever priesthood'...therefore it was necessary for Christ to die in order to live and receive the mantle of Heavenly High Priest and as the New Temple that God hath made and not man. It was necessary for Christ's blood to be of the Holy Spirit and not the seed of man so that his blood would be perfect and without blemish. Abel's blood cried out to God for vengeance....Christ's blood cried out to God for forgiveness....the work was finished at the cross at Golgotha....and the prophecy of Daniel 7: 13, 14 had been completely fulfilled on that day when Christ ascended to heaven as reported in Acts, chapter 1 and confirmed by Stephen who saw 'the son of man' seated in power in a vision before he was stoned to death.

hope this helps...took years for me to understand it...and God's Spirit is the teacher.