Did Jesus Really Have to Die?

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“Jesus died to save people from a blood-thirsty God!”

That, says my friend Mac, an influential atheist “evangelist,” is the message of Christianity. “Then, in our place,” he continues, “God sadistically tortured his own Son to death. If God really wants to forgive people, why can’t he just forgive them?”

Funny thing is, a few years back, this same Mac was an influential Christian evangelist with pretty much the same message: “Jesus died to save us from God!” Only now he preaches against it.

Here’s why he was wrong. Then and  now: God isn’t an angry Judge anxious to punish the human race, but a loving Father anxious to rescue it. And Jesus didn’t die to save us from God.

He died to save us from us! (Matthew 1:21) So why can’t God simply forgive us and leave it at that? Look around: Is a world of forgiven-but-unchanged Hitlers and Stalins, al-Quaedas and ISILs, enslaved addicts, abusive abusers, and angry narcissists one you want to live in?

A heaven full of forgiven but unchanged people would not be heaven, it would be hell.

ContentImage-63-114737-hell_the_alternative1Our world is broken, according to the Bible: Earth long ago abandoned the Kingdom of God, a realm characterized by selfless love (1 John 4:8), for a realm characterized by lust for things, for power, for self (Genesis 3).

Now, when a system—car, computer, or planet—is broken, you repair it by replacing the broken parts. The ancient prophets put it this way: “There is no forgiveness (repair) of sin (brokenness) without the shedding of blood (throwing away of broken parts)” (Hebrews 9:22). But what if you happen to love those “parts”? Well, then you have to find a way to repair them. Every single one. A tall order.

If you’re human.

But not if you’re God.

Recognizing this dilemma, the ancient Hebrews established, under God’s direction, a temporary solution. By solemnly sacrificing animals, and later eating them (which they lamb1would have done anyway), by symbolically shedding the blood of humans (the real broken parts), they created a deep sense of consciousness of the brokenness of our system.

But that was “just a shadow of the good things to come,” a temporary fix, Hebrews 10:1 says. Because “the sacrifices under that system, repeated again and again…were never able to make perfect (whole) those who draw near.” In other words, it wasn’t the cure for cancer, just a way to live with it. But “in the fullness of time,” Galatians 4:4 tells us, “God sent his son.” The Cure.

Jesus’ death was, in one sense, the last official sacrifice of the old (temporary) plan. It was the offering of one final unblemished Lamb to demonstrate God’s love and to fulfill Abraham’s prophecy: “God will provide Himself a lamb” (Genesis 22:8).

But His death was also the beginning of a new (permanent) plan to fix the broken system, to restore earth to its place in God’s Kingdom. Not merely a way to live with cancer, but…

A cure.

One morning, as a young believer struggling with Mac’s question, I shouted, “Why can’t you just forgive us, God?” The “still small voice” that answered stunned me:

“Jesus didn’t die so I could forgive you, he died so you could receive it, so you could be set free” (cf. Acts 26:18). (I later learned that the Greek word for “forgive” in the New Testament means to be “released” from the results or effects of something.)

images-2Suddenly my mind was filled with the most hideous scene: Jesus hovered before me, his arms outstretched, his hands nailed to a rough oaken beam. Blood flowed from his wounds as I piled rocks onto his shoulders and arms. Tears streamed from my eyes as I watched the weight of each stone push him further down, ripping at his wounds. The rocks were my sins—every thoughtless, cruel, self-serving thing I’d ever done, or would do—and they numbered in the millions. I finally stopped, too wracked with remorse to continue. Then Jesus raised his head, his eyes filled with love, and said,

“Finish it!”

I grasped that day in a way I hadn’t before the participatory meaning of the cross. Yes, Jesus died for me. But I also died with him. And rose with him. He puts it this way: “Take up your cross daily and follow me. Anyone who wants to save their (old, unchanged) life, will lose it. But anyone who loses their life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

It’s an inside job. The Apostle Paul calls it metamorphosis, like the death of a caterpillar and birth of a butterfly. Before a butterfly can be made, a caterpillar must die! “We have been buried with him,” Paul says in Romans 6:4-7. “Our old self was crucified with him…so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”

10298900_10203759279603307_7085417779304645126_nOne by one, Jesus is repairing each broken part in our corrupted system, and telling us to pass it on: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33). (“Righteousness” means to set things that are off-kilter “right” again.) And tell people “the good news,” he says, that “the Kingdom is near!” (Matthew 10:7)

One broken part at a time, God–not the angry Judge, but the loving Father–is restoring his children, repairing the system, reestablishing his Kingdom of love!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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46 Responses to Did Jesus Really Have to Die?

  1. I really love this! I am going to have my teenager read it. Just last night he was talking about wanting to be able to better articulate God and his Christian faith and I think this will help.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mitchteemley says:

    So glad, Emily. That’s what it’s there for!

    Like

  3. Semra Polat says:

    [Mention] when Allah said, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.

    Surat ‘Ali `Imran [3:55]

    And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.

    Surat An-Nisa’ [4:157-158]

    Like

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thank you, Semra. I’m aware that the Quran teaches this about Jesus. Though, of course, the Bible does not. The Apostle Paul said that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then we (the followers of Jesus) are to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:17-19) because it is not merely one of the things we believe, but the very core of what we believe, and–speaking for myself–what I have experienced. There were, according to the New Testament (and a few extra-biblical sources), many, many witnesses to both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. Peace.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Heather says:

    This is a really good perspective regarding the “bloodthirsty god” argument.

    Sadly, I do believe that many Christians see God as nothing more than an angry taskmaster who’s just waiting to squash us for any minor infraction of His rules.

    At least, I know that’s the view I held for quite a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, this my second attempt to post this comment, first time my internet access dropped off-line, interesting! Anyways… Okay Mitch, but then again, since you know of my understanding of self-realization in zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, that if there were actually no contemporaries for almost forty years that wrote about the time of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, then who were according to your understand of what was written in the New Testament (and a few extra-biblical sources), the “many, many witnesses” that you referred to in what it was that Allah said about Jesus in the Quran; or is this just another distinction for the difference in Easter and Passover, like the difference between Texaco and Shell gasoline, just say-in’, I don’t know, who were the witnesses, since apparently we all believe in same God, but by many different names?

      Like

      • mitchteemley says:

        You’re kind of all over the place here, Ray, so I’m a little fuzzy about what you’re saying. Self-realization, as understood by most people, isn’t the goal of Jesus’ teachings; it’s an eastern concept in which self is the focus, rather than God (unless one believes that self is God–I don’t). I’m not sure which “many, many witnesses” comment you’re referring to, so maybe I’ll address that at another time. Re. your Texaco and Passover metaphor: I would say that, no, Jesus is not another brand, he’s the oil itself. Do we all believe in the same God? Depends on what you mean. If you mean we all have the same understanding of who or what God is, then I’d have to say No.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Indeed, Heather–sadly true! A friend calls it “penal replacement” theology. Though, to me, that sounds like what people take Viagra for. ;>)

    Like

  6. You make me explode with passion for God. I long to light a fire under other butts. We need more butts in heaven.

    Okay. I’m done now.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. ASH says:

    A MOST excellent offering!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dawnlizjones says:

    This is beautifully compact (like a hydrogen atom, only with more explosive power), and amazingly clear. What a revelation you had! Thank you for sharing that with us. I’ve “buffered” it, and hope many more read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The best response I’ve heard to the claim that Jesus’ death on the cross was divine child abuse is to ask whomever is making the claim, “Who or what are you willing to die for?” The two choices we have in life are to live just for ourselves or to live for other people or for a cause greater than ourselves. Even those with no religion at all agree with this. The whole reason we live for Christ is because he died for us – 2 Corinthians 5:15.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tim says:

    To save us from us – good point. We are the ones who need rescuing, and I’m glad Jesus is my rescue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    Is God an angry Judge? Or a loving Father?

    Like

  12. Andreea Gutu says:

    Wow! This is a wonderful explanation! So true…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. atimetoshare.me says:

    Great post, Mitch. It had to be this way, because of man’s doubt, disobedience and desire. We had everything until tempted into the devil’s lair. Our God is a jealous God, but also a patient one. He is with us every moment and loves us so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice of laying down His life for us – but He even took away the sting of death and rose again. Wow! Are we blessed or what? Hope you had a blessed Easter.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I asked myself this question and realized that the crucifixion requires me to understand the severity of my own condition. It’s the difference between fixing a driving ticket and teaching someone to drive properly. There is no wiggle room on the cross. People also leave out the spiritual, supernatural reality of the conversion process. Yes, something that happened 2,000 years ago does affect us today. Thank you for your take on this subject.

    Liked by 3 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Couldn’t agree more, Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Robert, I was thinking about what you wrote to Mitch about “something that happened 2,000 years ago” that maybe you can ask Mitch to explain who were the “many, many witnesses” that he referred to in what it was that Allah said about Jesus in the Quran at the time of the “crucifixion and the resurrection” in his response to what Semra Polat wrote to Mitch on April 7, 2015 at 5:14 pm…. I would just like to know who were the “many, many witnesses” that he indicated were “contemporary” to what was written in the New Testament (and a few extra-biblical sources)……?

      Or is it true in this atheistic response “Did Jesus Really Have to Die?” that Mitch posted on March 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm? https://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/did-jesus-really-have-to-die/

      Anyways, I think it will be really interesting to know what you have to say to my question that Mitch has avoided responding to; that is if this defective wordpress blog actually allows you to reply to my thoughts about why Mitch is actually playing the part of the devil’s advocate, since I always would much rather bet on the underdog!

      Thanks’ Ray Stiles ..

      Like

      • mitchteemley says:

        Ray, I did not “avoid” your question, I didn’t know what you were referring to, since it was not something I said in the above post. The statement “many witnesses” would have been in response to what the Bible says in at least a dozen passages (here’s a quick reference: http://bibleq.net/answer/2467/ ). You apparently don’t believe the Bible can be trusted. I’d be happy to discuss with you why I believe it can, but not in this post–because I don’t want to spend an hour cramming it all into one overlong response.

        I’m unclear why you (apparently) think the Quran–which was written over 600 years later based on the sayings of a man who says an angel spoke to him in a cave–is a more trustworthy source.

        On a related note:there are numerous non-biblical sources that address Jesus’ existence as a historical personage. http://www.provethebible.net/T2-Divin/D-0201.htm

        Like

  15. josiahmacrae says:

    Excellent post. Glad to see more and more people rejecting the theology of a bloodthirsty God!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. wzippler says:

    Reblogged this on Smart Christian.net and commented:
    Before a butterfly can be made, a caterpillar must die.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ray Stiles says:

    OMG Mitch, this blog at WordPress is so broken in the way that we can’t comment in response to your reply to someone else’s comment like we can on facebook, so let me try to re-re-re-comment my question for wanting to know who were the “many, many witnesses” that you referred to in what it was that Allah said about Jesus in the Quran at the time of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus in your response to what Semra Polat says: [at] April 7, 2015 5:14 pm…. Who were the “many, many witnesses” according to your understand[ing] of what was written in the New Testament (and a few extra-biblical sources)…… And, secondly, were the many, many witnesses to what was written in the New Testament about what Allah said about Jesus in the Quran at the time of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus just another distinction for the difference in Easter and Passover, like the difference between Texaco and Shell gasoline? In other words, do we all believe in the same god by many different names? I hope this question is easier to reply to this time around, thanks again, Ray…

    Like

    • Allah isn’t the Lord God.

      (Sahih-Al-Bukhari Bk 73; Num 224) Mohammed said, “The most awful name in Allah’s sight on the Day of Resurrection, will be (that of) a man calling himself Malik Al-Amlak (the King of kings).”

      I don’t know where you are, in terms of Islamic literature, but what I have just listed is from one of Islam’s most trusted sources on the life and teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, “prophet of Islam”. This is a quote attributed directly to Muhammad himself.

      Like

  18. Pingback: did Jesus really have to die? | Random thoughts

  19. mitchteemley says:

    If you have a moment, folks, visit this brief atheistic response to my post: https://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/did-jesus-really-have-to-die/

    Like

  20. Pingback: Did Jesus Really Have to Die? | Just Thinkin'

  21. thia licona says:

    O mine! As a human being? I have no patience with the arrogant human beings who set themselves as authorities to define the Almighty Father/Creator of our beings. I am visiting Jordan. The first shock of these warped beliefs I received is when I was told in a very condescending way, “We are not His children. We are His creatures.” In shock I exclaimed, “WHAT? I am not a cow! He breathed His life in us!”
    As a child of my Father/Creator? My heart is filled with compassion for all, Christians, Muslims, Jewish even Atheists! After most of my life living as a human? Father brought me to this region of the world among the wilderness of people to judge me face to face, as written, And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will I enter into judgment with you and contend with you face to face. (Ezekiel 20:35)
    That was 2009. Now is 2016. Almost 7 yrs. ago. Now? Tears flowed from my lacrimal as I read this post with such clear response directly from the heart of our Father. Reading the diverse comments? After my tears? As a human? Anger with the arrogant responses defining a matter with such colossal ignorance of the reality of our Father/Creator!
    By the time I got to the point of writing this comment? My Father’s compassion came into play as it has happened all these times among the wilderness of people. After all? It is not about the wilderness of people. It is about me and my Father! It is about you and your Father. Still? It is about THEM and the Father they do not recognize.
    Compassion? His compassion for us all? Indeed! It is for that reason that He has sustained and established me among the wilderness of people. Perhaps? His people. What right have I to judge them? What right have I to judge anyone? He is the JUDGE–A Loving Judge. Not I! Hahaha! HalleluYah.
    Somehow? I will post this comment today to give the link to this message straight from the heart of our Father/Creator on this 7th Day of rest. Thanks for your visit my Brother. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: This…right here… | The Ezekiel Project

  23. I’ve always understood this in a very abstract manner, but the full weight didn’t hit me until I stumbled across a video on YouTube regarding this subject. It was the Crucifixion from a medical perspective. Seeing the full impact of everything He went through, for our sake, blew me away.

    Even realizing that He not only endured what can only be described as one of the most horrendous ways for a human to die, but that He also had the full wrath of God poured out on Him in the process, it’s…miles beyond humbling. It still brings tears to my eyes.

    Here’s the link:

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Very nice! Absolutely Lord Jesus had to die! Great article… I recently wrote a very condensed elucidation from an Orthodox perspective- I think you will enjoy it as well! https://thechristiannation.org/2017/08/09/god-needed-blood/
    Thank you so much for your prayers dear brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Scapegoat | Mitch Teemley

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