Did Jesus come to die to save us from sin – or from something much closer to home?
Why did Jesus come to die? The answer to this question is such a major part of what it means to be a Christian, it hardly seems possible to write about it in such a short piece of writing. So I’m just writing this as part of a conversion, part of an open talk about some of our doubts and things we aren’t so sure about.
Lets start with a general understanding of why Jesus died. God created the earth perfectly, man chose to sin by eating the fruit, sin entered the world through that action and leaves us distanced from God, with no way to be in relationship with him.
Jesus comes to earth as God, yet as man – living a perfect life, and then dying, as we deserve to do, in our place. God accepts this as atonement for the sin, and through Jesus we can accept the gift of life and relationship with Him. This then changes us, as we now know the love of God, and can love ourselves, and others.
But here’s the catch. In the deepest part of my being, as I say this and think about it over and over, it honestly doesn’t make sense. Does it make sense to you?
Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the way we understand sin: what exactly is it? Is it the activity of evil? The devil and his ‘kingdom’? Is it how we describe our rebellious attitude toward God, when we ignore His voice in our hearts?
Something I’ve been mulling over is the reality – or perhaps just concept – of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. If we say that ultimate reality is that God is Love, then whatever exists is given reality by him. God himself is love and goodness, therefore evil can only be a an absence of good, not something in and of itself. Following that thought then, evil and sin, doesn’t exist.
As a thought experiment, if that were the case, and evil does not exist, how then do we explain the negative and unloving actions that we all commit? If evil doesn’t exist, then the only explanation is that evil is a delusion of our minds. Is evil and sin all simply the outplaying of the belief we aren’t loved by God? Do we fabricate this lesser ‘reality’ in our minds, giving power to it with our conscience, deeds and words? Is it out of this perceived reality we act, out of a warped sense of self and the world. Is this a distorted filter through which we perceive the ‘acts’ of sin?
Such an understanding may then confuse our understanding of Jesus’ death, especially the idea that it was is a transaction. We say Jesus took our place on the cross, bore the wrath of God upon himself, and in doing so took the judgement for me. He now offers the free gift of life and relationship with him, in exchange for taking my sin.
But again, this just doesn’t make sense to me. It seems as though we are spiritualising something that ‘is not’. In order for Jesus to take my sin, there had to be some kind of handover in the background, a ‘spiritual transaction’ in the sky for this to make sense, and maybe there was. But I just struggle to get my head around that one.
I think the Hebrew text offers a different reason for the death of Jesus: Jesus came and died the way he did because he came as a sign to the Jews, Matthew 12:39 – 40. The Jews had for thousands of years been waiting for a Messiah, someone who would be able to make an ultimate redeeming sacrifice. Their scriptures repeatedly prophesied that. Every sacrifice, every design of a temple, and all the prophets pointed towards a ‘once and for all’ sacrifice that would enable to people to come to God freely, and without shame. The broken relationship that Adam and Eve had in the Garden would be restored, Genesis 3:15. The vale that had been over our eyes would be lifted.
It begs the question: for the Jews, Jesus died as the Messiah; but if we were to believe sin is only in our heads, why do we believe Jesus died for us? If sin and evil do not exist except as delusions of our minds, does that mean Jesus died for a delusion – for something that doesn’t exist? If he didn’t come so there could be a great transaction in the sky, and he didn’t even come to be the ultimate sacrifice because without the existence of sin there is no need, why did He come?
Unless, the delusion itself was something God knew we would never see unless our minds were shattered by an action so unthinkable and illogical that it would begin to break the delusion: to create a crack just wide enough for the truth of God’s love to break in and begin it’s work in our hearts and minds. What if our blind minds and the Jewish history of prophecy that ‘there has to be a sacrifice’ combined to create only one way for us to ‘get it’ – Jesus had to die?
So a final question for you. Did Jesus come, and die, not to save us from something called ‘evil’ or ‘sin’, but to free us from ourselves. To free us from our own minds, and realise all along that God is love, and He loves us.