Did Jesus Have to Die? No. But God Couldn’t Stay Dead, Either.

I have absolutely no idea why this thought is popping up now, but here’s my thoughts and what the heck… Re: The Death of Jesus, Jesus, Christ, Jesus the Christ, Was Jesus God?, The Resurrection, Hope, Eternal Life and all that.

Traditional theology is this:  Jesus and God are One. God chose to/wanted to sacrifice [His] “only Begotten Son” in order to save the world. Jesus went along with this and agreed to die on the cross to save us from sin, even though it was torture. Jesus was willing to die and suffer because God (himself) asked him to. God is good. Jesus is good. Human beings are generally horrible, but can be saved by believing all of the above.

From this, people get stupid/dysfunctional/anti-religion/anti-God/anti-Christianity ideas:  “Good parents abuse their children out of love”; “Good children do everything their parent says, even if it hurts”;  “God is good because he tortured his child”; “God is a man, God is mean, therefore men are mean”;  “God (of the Jews) is mean, Jesus (a Christian) is nice”; “Good Jews are mean or strict, Good Christians are nice”; “Human beings are so horrible that only killing God can atone for them” and the list goes on.

I want to propose an alternative version of events and their meaning.  As a person of faith, I do believe (however “irrationally”):  1) Jesus and God are One in some funky way that’s hard to understand; 2) Jesus is God Incarnate (in human form); 3) God is good; 4) Jesus is Good; 5) People could go either way and they do frequently; 6) Jesus was here; 7)Jesus died; 8)Jesus rose again; 9)We are saved from sin if we believe that 6,7,and 8 are true.

So here’s my take on it:

God (who is male and female and all kinds of spirit) sent Jesus to teach people how to live.  God had tried this numerous times before in the form of prophets or judges or other human beings, and it didn’t work.  This time, God decided to do it God’s self. God took the chance that people might attempt to kill Jesus, but also took the chance that people might get it right this time and live well with each other in the way God wants.  Powerful people didn’t want to hear what Jesus had to say for any number of  reasons, so they decided to kill Jesus.  Jesus saw this coming because it was always a possibility, though hardly his favorite.  Also, it’s not hard to tell when catastrophe is coming or when people are angry or feel threatened.  Jesus and God talked it over and Jesus was willing to die. God had never died before, so this was a chance to see what it was like/see what was in people’s hearts. Jesus chose to die if that’s what it took and God agreed with it — though not-at-all happy about it because good parents let their children take risks and are willing to suffer through their own pain to let their children become their own ultimate self.  That is love and the Ultimate in Loving Parents (God) would  suffer for their child rather than kill them. Besides, there was still the possibility that this particular group of humans wouldn’t end up killing Jesus, but would change their minds.

The humans there chose poorly, let their anger and fear and limited vision get the best of them and killed Jesus.  God watched the death of Jesus and was in agony doing so.  God also experienced the death as  Jesus, but a  Good God can never let Evil have the final say,  so God/Jesus rose from the dead.  We are saved from a life of misery (life has meaning) when we believe that ultimately Good wins and that God won’t allow Evil to triumph in the end, and that even when we are at our worst, we can’t kill the goodness in the God who loves us.

No mean God, no abused children, no bad Jews or nicer Christians, no mean men who want to punish their children, lots of choices, freedom and respect. Good is good. Evil is Bad.  Same event, different understanding of what it all means.

That’s what I got. What do you think?

Peace,

John

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7 thoughts on “Did Jesus Have to Die? No. But God Couldn’t Stay Dead, Either.

  1. There’s a concept in mathematics – in calculus – called the “limit.” It’s a funky concept. In essence, it’s the number that a given calculation will *almost* reach, but never quite get to. That is, if you change the value of some variable numbers in the formula, the limit for this other value will be… something.

    Why bring this up? Because in one way I agree with you. God and Jesus took a chance that human beings would accept the message and messenger of Good News. It didn’t *have* to happen the way it did.

    But…

    I strongly suspect that the chance of it happening differently wasn’t a fixed number, but more like a limit, and the limit was zero. That is, the chance was vanishingly small. Never quite impossible, but so improbable as to be impossible for all practical purposes.

    Why? Because it’s too easy for human being to talk themselves into bad actions. We hear good news and say, “That’s for me,” and in the very next moment find a reason that it shouldn’t be for someone else. We protect ourselves and “ours” against threats that are sometimes real, sometimes remote, and sometimes illusory; at the expense of forming real relationships with others or, heaven forfend, loving the enemy.

    We persuade ourselves into the rectitude of defending privilege, and shake our heads sadly at those who do not enjoy it, bemoaning the sad state of their lives.

    And for heaven’s sake, in a world full of wonder, we manage to be bored.

    No, this is a species that can persuade itself to reject God, God’s son, and God’s care. The measure of God’s love for us is that, knowing that truth, Jesus came to us anyway, and when we fulfilled anticipation (if not expectation), came back.

    • Wow, Eric:

      DEEEEP thought. It’s the kind of thing I’ll have to ponder over for quite some time. I like it, though. I’m not sure I’m as cynical as you are about humans. I like to give ’em 50/50, but they can go really hard either way and I’ve seen more stupid than enlightened but I have seen enlightened, decent people do incredibly good things. Anyway, you’re my 100th blog comment and I REALLY like the depth of the thought.

      Peace,

      John

  2. I’ve never been able to buy that “belief” saves anyone from anything. Why belief? And why do we equate that with “faith” anyway? This is much more like magical thinking even than the atonement stuff. (In the sense I understand it, at least. I like the way you put it: “Human beings are so horrible that only killing God can atone for them”)

    Trust, now. I grok trust. I grok “faith” as in trust, and I can “get” a deep trusting willingness to allow into ourselves the Light of God (however named), and how transformative that can be… how that can of faith can lead to the experiences that lead to faithfulness–not in a grey-faced sense of duty, but in the way that joyful marriage partners are faithful to each other: because they love one another, and wish to bring each other joy.

    Why wouldn’t anyone who has felt that Light want to bring it joy? And once our feet are on that road, what does “sin” or “salvation” even matter?

    I just don’t get it. Never have.

    • Cathi:
      I love that this question is raising such discussion.
      You ask, “Why wouldn’t anyone who has felt that Light want to bring it joy? And once our feet are on that road, what does “sin” or “salvation” even matter?” Who’s to say that “having your feet on that road” isn’t salvation? I think the turning point is not knowing that the Light exists, but not being afraid of it, and believing it wants good things for you. The faith that that takes, and the trust to follow through is what I experience as “salvation”. I agree, after that, sin doesn’t really matter. Not because we’re free of it, but rather because we’re going toward the Good and chasing after It.

      What do you think of that?

      Peace,

      John

  3. Hm. Interesting typo. I mean to say “kind of faith.” But a can of faith might be useful to keep in the pantry, to open in case of sudden crisis.

    Maybe. 😉

  4. I think the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, is what I think. Basic immanence. Which is kind of what you just said.

    (I also think cans of faith could catch on, from a marketing point of view.)

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