Did Jesus Really Have to Die?

images-1“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 goes on, “God sadistically tortured his own Son to death. If God really wants to forgive people, why doesn’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 people–murderous dictators, enslaved addicts, abused abusers, angry narcissists–one you want to live in? A heaven full of forgiven but unchanged people would not be heaven.

It would be hell.

Our 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).

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 would have done anyway), i.e. by symbolically shedding the bloodlamb1 of humans, they created a deep sense of consciousness of the brokenness of our world.

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 (to repair) 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 the ultimate 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 system, to restore earth to its place in God’s Kingdom. Not merely a way to live with cancer, but the cure for it.

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 my forgiveness, 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.)

Suddenly 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 images-2flowed 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 and reestablishing his Kingdom of love!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Did Jesus Really Have to Die?

  1. Great post and very well said! A timely reminder during Holy Week.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have it right, change one at a time. It’s a cosmic game of Othello flipping everyone from dark to light. But in that game of Othello it is first important to remove your own dark before you can begin flipping others to light. Otherwise, you’re just polluting the others with your own definition of gray parading as light that is innocent and pure.

    I like how you go about flipping others in the direction of God. It’s a really cool message you send and how simply you deliver it propels one to feel much while easily understanding why. I have faith that this Cosmic game of Othello will be won in our lifetime, because doesn’t now feel like the best chance we have at changing everything we once knew was the only way to be? Aren’t we suddenly living life drastically different in a way none imagined possible? Why can’t we grow from this and never look back to what once was other than a guiding post for how we never want to be again.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I hate that argument that “God tortured and killed his own son. How loving is that?” Instead of our having to pay the price for our sins (since we can’t even come close) Jesus did. He did it so WE could accept the forgiveness that God gives us freely. Thanks for that very clear answer!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Marie-Louise Schreve says:

    I once had a friend ask me, how can you believe in a God that sends you to Hell if you don’t believe in Him. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the answer: God doesn’t send us to Hell if we don’t believe, we are already on our way to Hell – that is the status quo. The reality is, we are heading there anyway. In the courtroom of Heaven, we are not holy enough for Heaven and Satan knows that and he knows that he has a right to accuse us. The thing that Jesus’s death changes is the fact that we now have another option. He presents an alternative to us. Because He died in our place, we have a choice,

    Thanks or the great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Amen Mitch, preach it!!! That is seriously one of the best sermons on why Jesus had to die that I have ever heard! God bless!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I wrote a book about that about a year ago called, “The Road to Heaven.” Forgiveness is complicated. Just what does it mean, “I’m saved”? Most people say, “It means I’m going to heaven” But we are not saved to something. When we are drowning, we are not saved to the shore; we are saved from the water. So, what are we saved from? It began in the Garden of Eden when God told Adam and Eve, “The day you sin you will die.” So, they did and they did. “Death” means separation. Their souls were separated from God who is Life. Who is the source of death? Satan. The “second death” in the Bible is existing forever with Satan. Basically, in the Garden that day, Satan got humanity. God wanted us back. There was a ransom to redeem us, get us back to God. A Blood Ransom. To free us from Satan, God put his word in a human body with blood in it, and that body died on the cross. Sometimes I smile when I think of Satan freeing us (Jesus referred to that often his last few weeks ~ speaking of the Satan as being the Prince of this World and his head being crushed) for God’s Word in a human body paid the blood price and died, Satan freed mankind, then God played a trick on Satan and came back to life three days later. You can’t kill God. Instead, he destroyed the power of death ~ body death and soul death. Of course, we now have the problem of people with Stockholm Syndrome who return to their kidnapper. Remember the word “ransom” God did not pay the ransom to himself. That makes no sense. He paid the ransom to Satan. Satan loves for us to forget him. Too often I think we do.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. K.L. Hale says:

    Thank you, Mitch, for this wise teaching. I’m so thankful I don’t have to offer up every kind of offering the Israelites did~I do not have to put blood over my doorpost. Jesus WAS our sacrificial lamb. My faith is in him. God bless you and yours.

    Liked by 3 people

    • fgsjr2015 says:

      I don’t really believe that God required blood and pain ‘payment’, from Jesus or anyone else; I do, however, know that the creator’s animals have had their blood literally shed and bodies eaten in mindboggling quantities by Man. And maybe the figurative forbidden fruit of Eden eaten by Adam and Eve was actually God’s four-legged creation. I can see that really angering the Almighty, and a lot more than the couple’s eating non-sentient, non-living, non-bloodied fruit. I’ve noticed that mainstream Christianity doesn’t speak up much at all about what we, collectively, have done to animals for so long.

      Liked by 1 person

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Animal sacrifice was the divine institution during Israel’s ancient days to signify purity. The heavy price that had to be paid for sin involved the blood of these animals. The Israelites saw the blood of the animal as a symbol for the animal’s life. They felt it made them stay in his covenant relationship with him. A lot of Christ-followers, including myself, might shiver when reading the book of Leviticus and what seemed so barbaric (we’ve been bad so here’s an animal to kill so I won’t be). It was talked about a lot while I was growing up because the Old Testament was the main focus in the preaching I heard. I believe God’s nature to be good and his love and grace were evident then, too. I do not have to, nor would, sacrifice an animal. I don’t fully comprehend the old laws, and I shudder hearing sacrifice in that sense. Yet, when I think of what sacrifice, and the blood of Christ, means when Jesus died I feel the goodness of God~even with the greatest sacrifice of his son. I’m sure, like you stated, it is not talked about much.

        Liked by 2 people

      • mitchteemley says:

        Amen, Karla.
        fgsr, I greatly appreciate your comments, having been a vegetarian myself for some years. For what it’s worth, the Israelites weren’t vegetarians, so sacrificing animals didn’t change what they already did, i.e. raise and eat animals (the priests ate the sacrificial offerings). It simply introduced a symbolic ritual giving meaning to something that was a way of life for them, and virtually all people at that time. Just thought I’d point that out (I understand that there are other things about Christianity you take exception to).

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Pretty amazing read!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee says:

    Great post, Mitch. I, too, have wrestled with the question “Why didn’t God simply forgive us, if that’s what He wanted to do? Why torture and murder His own Son, to ‘pay’ for our sins?”

    I believe at least part of the answer to this question is because God is just, as well as merciful, gracious, and loving. When we owe a debt, justice requires that someone must pay for that debt — either we must pay it, or someone who loves us very much may choose to pay the debt for us, in our stead.

    I believe that a lot of the confusion surrounding this, comes from the belief that Jesus Christ, as God’s Son, is somehow separate from Yahweh God, the Father. And yet, difficult as it is for mere mortals to fully understand, there really is only One God. He is expressed in three Persons, much as the chemical formula H2O is expressed in three forms: H20 can be expressed as liquid water, H20 can be expressed as solid wood ice, and H20 can be expressed as a gaseous, misty, foggy vapor. In a similar way, our Creator God can be expressed as God, our Father in heaven, as God the Holy Spirit living with us, and as God in physical, human form, Jesus the Messiah.

    God came to earth in the form of a human man, and in this sinless human form, He chose to go to the cross and suffer and die for our sins. God, our awesome, amazing Creator, took upon Himself the full punishment for all of our sins, in order to demonstrate His amazing love for us — AND to demonstrate Perfect Justice. Like the old gospel song proclaims, we owed a debt we could not pay, and our Redeemer came down to earth and took it upon Himself to pay our debt in full — out of His amazing love, mercy, and grace.

    It would be similar if a parent caught his child stealing from a store, and in his love and mercy the parent not only takes it upon himself to pay back the store for the stolen item, plus the parent also invites the child to take a rod and administer the spanking to the parent’s own back side.

    Anyway, these are my ideas on this great mystery. For years, questions like this one kept me from believing in God. Today, I still don’t haven’t found answers to all of my questions, by any means. But despite my unanswered questions, I am a Christian believer, a Christ follower, purchased and redeemed by the His selfless sacrifice on the cross, and I have been Born Again and made a new creation, by the Holy Spirit of God.

    WHY do I believe in Christ, when many of my old agnostic questions still have no satisfactory answers? I believe, simply because the preponderance of the evidence compels me to believe. And one of the biggest pieces of evidence is the huge difference that believing in Christ has made in my life!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee says:

      Oops, I posted my comment, before proofreading. Sorry, the word ‘wood’ does not belong in the 3rd paragraph, between the words ‘solid’ and ‘ice’!

      Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      My faith is similarly grounded, Linda, in his goodness and character. And the fact that I don’t understand all things, I realize, isn’t because God is unwilling to explain everything to me, but because (to cite that great theologian Winnie-the-Pooh) “I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long (cosmic) words bother me.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee says:

        Right! Like Pooh, my brain is similarly addled. My membership in Mensa is indicative of only one thing: I am uncommonly good at taking IQ tests. In real life, however, where the rubber meets the road . . . I am often uncommonly stoopid. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Don’t be too hard on yourself, my dear! Eternity is beyond all human understanding. At that level, even the smartest human ever born is sub-Pooh.


  10. Bruce Cooper says:

    Hi Mitch, that was quite a post. That “finish it” floored me. And it could not be any other way. I’ll be remembering this post of yours for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing this. A blessed Easter to you and yours. – Bruce

    Liked by 3 people

  11. numrhood says:

    matthew 1:46
    hebrews 34:47
    hebrews 35:1
    genesis 47:33
    acts 51:43
    luke 34:48-49
    acts 39:
    matthew 6:08
    matthew 35:32

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That was truly fantastic brother! I gained insight into our Lord’s sacrifice which I too often miss. I focus on sin, on wrath. I forget it was for freedom He died and rose again. I pray we all understand the true nature of our Savior’s sacrifice. Thank you so much, God richly bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. nitinsingh says:

    Lovely post, thnx to share

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Bill Sweeney says:

    Great post, Mitchell. I am praying that the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of your cynical friend Mac.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Mel Wild says:

    Good word, Mitch. Sadly, Mack is the victim of really bad theology. Hopefully someday, He will discover the good Father you talked about.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. gregoryjoel says:

    Thank you for the reminder Mitch. This is one of those articles to which I can only say thank you. I frequently tell my friends in recovery that recovery is a free and gracious gift of a loving God and it was always there for us. We have to learn how to accept it. Jesus put an end to the idea we could learn to live kingdom lives on our own and freed us to live life abundantly. Thank you again!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. karanoel says:

    Beautifully said!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Kymber says:

    Thank you for writing this. It makes a lot of sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Brilliant! Your posts never fail to satisfy the spirit

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Mitch, what a wonderful way to guide us to Him. In my lifetime I have experienced the need to concentrate on my relationship with God. This is as we all may have been taught. Lately, the main thrust is on trying to read what God’s relationship is with me. When I take myself out of the picture there seems to be more clarity. Another winner by “The Mitch.”

    Liked by 3 people

  21. themeonnblog says:

    ‘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’…Amen!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Ted Salt says:

    Why does Jesus have to die? In order to reconcile sinful humans, God cannot violate his nature, part of which is holiness and justice. His holiness and justice require that sin be punished. Jesus suffers the punishment in our place. God’s love is demonstrated. God’s justice is satisfied. God’s holiness is preserved. We are made righteous. Problem solved! I have agreed with this argument for decades, but as I have grown older, it has become less satisfying. Why does God’s holiness and justice require that sin be punished rather than just forgiven? Is the father of the Prodigal Son less holy or just because he forgives his fallen son, without the demands of justice being satisfied? Does anyone have a more satisfying answer?

    Liked by 3 people

  23. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Wonderful and insightful on the nail head explanation. I pray this gets into the right hands and hearts. Thank you brother for writing this. I pray my cynical boys would read it. It’s worth a shot In Christ,


    Liked by 3 people

  24. Wow, awesome post Mitch, you really put this message together well, thank you for stirring the hearts of readers with our Lords wisdom, peace be with you

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Quite an inspiring read Mitch. Well done.
    Here’s a video that I was worked on recently and thought i’d share it with you for your feedback. Please take a minute to watch it on YouTube and post a comment if you like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Very well said! God bless.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWueaTClFgRYflNdBlATKDQ

    suggestions on increasing subscribers so this can reach more…..

    Liked by 3 people

  28. fgsjr2015 says:

    Biblical interpretations aside, perhaps God didn’t require the immense bodily suffering by God’s own incarnation in place of that sustained by a sinful humankind as justice/payment for all sin.
    Might God have become pacifistically turn-the-other-cheek incarnate, performed numerous unmistakable miracles before experiencing a brutal death, followed by his resurrection—all to prove there really was hope for all?

    Maybe Jesus—who may have had a great sense of humour—didn’t die FOR humans as payment for our sins (the greatest mostly resulting from unchecked testosterone rushes), but rather his vicious murder occurred BECAUSE of humans’ seriously flawed nature; and due to his not behaving in accordance to corrupted human conduct, particularly he was nowhere near to being the blood-thirsty vengeful behemoth so many wanted or needed—and so many Christians still do to this day—their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be?

    Our collective human need for retributive ‘justice’—regardless of Christ (and great spiritual leaders) having emphasized unconditional forgiveness—may be intrinsically linked to the same unfortunate morally-flawed aspect of humankind that enables the most horrible acts of violent cruelty to readily occur on this planet. Thus, we may be making God’s nature in OUR own vengeful image.

    I sometimes wonder how many potential Christians have felt repelled from the faith altogether due to the vocal angry-God-condemnation brand of the religion, perhaps which resembles the God of the Quran and Torah?

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Pingback: Scapegoatism | Mitch Teemley

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