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What Jesus did NOT die on the cross for
With this post I would like to invite people to engage in the question of the meaning of the death of Jesus. I have been growing up with a very calvinistic (Jesus died as a ransom for our sins) tradition of Jesus’ death on the cross. In recent years I have questioned more and more this prerequisite I grew up with: The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to die for us. Before I want to make my point I want to say that I myslef see different approaches in the NT about this question. The position I am going to present is not a perfect one. However, and otherwise I wouldn’t post this topic, I believe it is a better one (meaning more biblical one) than the calvinistic (or should I say evangelical) position. It goes as follows:
Not to be misunderstood: Yes: Jesus came down on the earth; He lived a just life; the people (both Romans and Jews) cruxified him; He rose from the death; He ascended into heavens. This is the story of Jesus. This is what happened to him. The above two statements I questioned are assumptions, or interpretations of the story of Jesus that I do not find strongly supported in the Bible.
The reason I believe many christians support the idea that God sent his son to die for us is twofold: a. this is what they are told from sunday school on and is portrayed as one of the fundamentals of christianity; and b. is based on the assumption that since God foreknows everything and therefore also Jesus’ death he must somehow also have ordained it.
I would like to start of with a very interesting parable that Jesus himself is telling. If you have a moment, please read the parable at the beginning of Mk.12, the so called ‘parable of the tenants’. Very interesting here is verse 6. Accoring to this verse God did not send his son to death; but was hoping the people would respect him; since he is his son. According to this parable it was not the landlord’s intention that his son wiould be killed, even though this was the risk he took.
This is how I feel most of the NT is in harmony with. God sent his son to reconcile the world to himself. It indeed was a risky enterprise but the intention of his mission was not to die (a dead Messiah also in jewish tradition was not something that was expected), but to live and bring the people of Israel back to their God. I think we misread many passages in the NT. Many verses talk about God ‘giving’ his son. I don’t know exactly why, but we always sweem to read ‘death’ in it. If Jesus gives his life then he gives his life! He might give his death also, but only in so far as his death is part of his life. In John 3.16 for example I can’t see a reference of Jesus death. It talks about his life; not his death. For example. no one really thinks of the death of christians (even though death might be a consequence) when reading Romans 12,1. ‘give life’ or ‘sacrifice’ does not necessarily imply death. (even though it can).
I do not see ‘a law from the Old Testament’ that Jesus had to die for. According to Hebrews is Jesus explicitely NOT a priest in the tradition or accordance with Levi which tribe performed the killing sacraments, but according to Melchisedek, who was before the law was given, and therefore the tradition of sacrifices was started. So all those sacrifices do not really apply to Jesus (in my opinion), neither is he the fullfillment of those.
According to Paul in Romans 5:18 it is the righteousness, and not his death that brought about justification before God.
Also, from the times of Abraham by the latest, it was forbidden to offer human sacrifices to be killed. God could not possibly violate this law by purposely sending his own son to death.
If God is God then he really does not need a human sacrifice (or if you are trinitarian: a sacrifice of himself) to forgive sins. How on on the basis of what other than his souvereignity and mercy in the parable of the lost son in Luke 15 then did the father forgive his son when he asked to come back? Jesus was telling this parable BEFORE his death. How can Paul say that Abraham was justified by his faith? No sacrifice has been offered.
The evangelical view of these things in my opinion dismisses the scandal that took place. They killed Jesus! Hey, they killed Jesus! Evangelicals wake up; they killed Jesus!!!!!!!!!! They killed the only one that was righteous! No, God did not kill him; they did! He came and healed and loved and helped. And they killed him!!!! That is a scandal! They killed a member of God’s family!!! This is unbelievable!! Don’t just accept this as ‘an OT law’ or ‘because they had to’, or because’God sent his son to die’. As if God and the mean Romans / Jews would have collaborated in the murder of Jesus! No!!!! it is a murder and nothing less. And if there was a law that Jesus had to die for it is the law that humans can’t stand rightous people and people that do not compromise and are not corrupt.
And here is the amazing story: Even though we humans killed the son of God; killed a beloved member of God’s family: God’s one and only son; God is not at the end with us. He did not give us up. He uses what has happened against him and his son as a sign of love. as a sign of love that the world has never seen before: The cross is an invite to come and become a son and a daughter of God like the one they killed. To also come to God’s family. And as an eternal sign that God is souvereign and this is really true: he rose Jesus from the death and started the biggest track of humankind: we can all follow Christ towards God. No, this isn’t theology or a new theory besides Calvin. this is just telling of what happened with Jesus and with God. Or you might call it narrative theology; I don’t know.