Posted by: serrels | August 8, 2010

The Burning Question: Jesus Dying on the Cross…

Hey everyone! I was thinking about writing a new blog, but while I was trying to somehow jumble out the concept, I realised that it was an issue better formed as a question.

So here goes…

In my experience most people, as children, simply accept the information given to them as gospel. It’s only when they get a little older they start to question what they were taught. This process can end one of two ways – they either come out at the other end reinforced in their own beliefs, with a well reasoned out backbone to sustain that belief, or they begin to doubt what they were taught in the first place.

I was never really brought up in a Christian environment. I went to Church with my Grandparents a handful of times, and was always interested in spirituality, but always from the perspective as an outsider.

From that perspective I can look at certain aspects of Christianity and instantly understand them – prayer, ritual, community, love, do unto others, the sabbath, the health message, etc, etc – but there are parts that genuinely confuse me.

Perhaps the biggest of these is the nature of sin, and how Jesus dying on the cross has any relevance to my life. How does it change things? How am I ‘saved’ by this act? How does his death relieve me of the burden of sin?

With this Burning Question I really want you guys to help me understand this concept. I always ask this question to my Christian family and friends and I’ve never really had it answered in a way that clicked with me. The closest anyone has come was my wife’s Dad, who is a pastor, but even then I left a little bit unsatisfied.

I’d really love to throw it out to you guys:

How is Jesus dying on the cross relevant to my life, and how does it change anything? How does this give me eternal life, and how is this fair in the context of sin?

That’s my rambling question to you guys. It’s a really personal one for me, because it’s something I’ve never really understood. I’m really keen to hear what you all have to say on this issue!

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Responses

  1. Quck response from a bedraggled refugee from the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It is all misinterpreted bible bullshit cooked up to scare Christ out of you.

  2. I think I’ve already discussed this one with you… not sure I can contend with the Pastor but I guess I’ll put my thoughts down in a nutshell anyway.

    The way I understand it, Jesus was blameless and pure, when he was killed on the cross he took on the sins of the world and they died with him.

    Sure, it seems like this wouldn’t hold up in any justice system I know of, but that’s if you see death as retributive punishment for having sinned, rather than the wages of having sin.

    Ie, if I’m sick, and I remain sick, I will die. But if I am sick, but am then healed of my sickness, I will not die of that sickness.

    So Jesus’ truly unfair death is relevant in the context of sin in that it offers that healing, the remedy for estrangement from God, as he overcame it.

    • me like 🙂

      • Well, Mario, the problem with your post is that you’re only repeating what you have been told. There is no evidence for any of it. Even the churhes admit that it’s simply a matter of faith.
        The notion that a human sacrifice can appease an angry deity is barbaric and comes from the Bronze Age. It is no better than the rites and rituals of Voodoo practitioners. It has no more basis in reality than any other superstition.
        It may be comforting to believe that an imaginary friend can excuse your wrong-doings, but common sense should tell you that you are responsible for your own behavior, and a third party cannot rightfully pardon your crime against another person. That would be the very definition of injustice and add insult to injury!
        And Mario, as far as Christians being in a “healed” state, please only study a little church history or observe the behavior of modern Christians – with their hate-mongering, arrogance, homophobia, hypocrisy, pedophilia, etc. All this is a result of their belief in an imaginary god that cursed the whole human race for the disobedience of two people, led a jihad against the whole land of Canaan, and committed genocide from city to city, destroyed the innocent animals in a flood aimed only to vent his out-of-control anger, commanded Abraham to murder his own son as an oblation, enjoyed watching as the Babylonian infants were dashed head-first against the walls of the city, condoned slavery and the stoning of children, and the list of demonic behavior goes on and on!
        Such stories are not only ridiculous, but harmful as well. Such a religion does not add to the health of society, but rather points us toward the Bronze Age for our moral compass in the modern world. The blight of Christianity has injured humanity and its progress for 1,600 years, since it’s creation as a State religion by the immoral Roman Emperor Constantine. Surely, with all the advantages of the moder world, we can do better!

      • Carl, I think you make some good points here. Particularly about the problem of evidence. Christians will argue that the Gospels and prophecy provides that evidence – and yes the Gospels (you can argue the validity if you like) are historical documents with some merit. I would say that argument is tenous and a bit of a circular one but whatever, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here.

        This, however, I don’t like: “observe the behavior of modern Christians – with their hate-mongering, arrogance, homophobia, hypocrisy, pedophilia, etc.”

        That’s just empty rhetoric at best, baseless name-calling at best. I don’t want this to devolve into that kind of weak argumentative stuff, which is always what happens when people start tarring each other with brushes! We’ll have Christians talking about Hitler and Stalin in no time, then Atheists hitting back with the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition.

        Then it’ll just be a yawnfest! 🙂

        But thanks for your comments, much appreciated!

    • But HOW does it offer that healing? That is the question. “Washed in the blood of Jesus” is what we were all taught in Sunday School, but this is meaningless. Blood spreads nutrients and oxygen throughout the body; it does not possess magical properties, no matter what the Old Testament says. Not a single Christian can explain exactly how and why Jesus’ death was supposed to have saved the world from sin. It hasn’t made one whit of difference in how humans behave or think. Sin has NOT been magically eliminated from the world, or even from a single human being.

      Why does God require a human sacrifice in order to forgive people of their sins? I can forgive people who sin against me without sacrificing so much as a fly.

  3. Hey Marky,
    I feel really passionate about this being the foundation of my belief in God and my salvation. Here’s how I understand it (I’ll do my best to make it brief):

    It begins with Lucifer – heaven’s arch angel – rebelling against God, claiming He is unfair and that everyone should have the powers God has as ruler over the universe. He challenges God and loses and is thrown out of heaven along with all the angels that sided with him. Why couldn’t God just zap Lucifer dead then and there? – That would just make him seem right in his claims that God wasn’t fair and the remaining angels would just serve God out of fear instead of love. So…

    When God created the earth He allowed Satan the power to tempt Adam and Eve to sin too (disobey God) and show the universe the results of disobeying Him. God couldn’t stand back and watch His beloved creations dying as a result of sin so He and His Son Jesus had a plan for saving us from our sin. So Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life as a man – free from sin – but then died for our sins so that we could live and not die for our sins. His death was relevant because He was devine, pure and faultless so his sacrifice was acceptable to satisfy the justice system of heaven.

    Now the only way that we can benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice is if we accept the gift of His undeserving death to cover our sins to make us pure and faultless before God and therefore worthy of life and heaven.

    So that’s my take on things and gives me purpose in life – rationalises the unfairness of this world in my mind and gives me a reason for living 🙂

    • Kitty, You, like Mario, are only repeating a story that you have been told. There is no evidence whatsoever for the content. Had you been reared in another culture, you would’ve just as readily accepted the myths common to your surroundings there. Common sense should tell you that you are in the world of mythology – NOT reality. Literature and poetry deal with these subjects as metaphors, but religions take the myths as history! Rather foolish, eh?

      • Carl you do realise that the question requires that the answer be based on religion right… you cant exactly state why Jesus died based on an athiest point of view. while we know you dont believe in religion at least realise that its impractical not to answer using the bible as a refrence.

    • But it makes no sense. HOW has Jesus’ death made anything different for anyone? How does it even count as a sacrifice? If I die in the process of saving someone from a fire, then I have sacrificed my own life to save theirs. And I don’t get to come back from the dead a few days later, happy as a clam in mud, as if nothing had ever happened. Jesus didn’t stay dead, he came back to life and floated up to the sky. If I had lived for gazillions of eons in the distant past, then came to Earth for a few decades, spent 3 days dead, and came back to life so I could live for a gazillion more eons into the future, how is that a sacrifice? It’s not even a minor inconvenience!

      And if Jesus really did take our punishment, then shouldn’t be burning in hell forever? That IS the punishment we allegedly deserve, right? So why isn’t Jesus suffering that punishment for us? He sits on a throne (up in the sky, I guess), next to God. No suffering going on there! Yet I am supposed to accept all of this as being somehow a terrible thing for poor little ol’ Jesus to have gone through. What was so bad about it?

  4. Nice question. I have been brought up in the church. I have pastors in my family I have gone to church pretty much every Saturday of my life for as long as I can remember. I went to Adventist schools as well. I heard about Jesus dying on the cross so many times from Sabbath School teachers, school teachers, my parents and in sermons. I had accepted it as truth but honestly it didn’t mean anything. It became a cliche. I only really began to understand it when I was 19. It was not anything particular that someone had said or anything I had read anywhere it just kinda clicked for me and this is why…..

    I finally understood how disgusting I am as a person. I have done and still do horrible things. I say mean things to people I love, think horrible things about people I don’t know. I have little self control in many areas of my life and I tell lies …. the list can go on. Until I realised my depravity as a human I realised that Jesus dying on the cross had relevance in my life. It changed things for me. It wasn’t just a cliche I had heard over and over again it was real.

    That was just my experience I guess it doesn’t really answer your question directly. Sorry.

    • Actually Caryn that’s the point that my missus makes to me – she thinks that the fact I’m so arrogant and full of myself (her words not mine!) makes it difficult for me to ‘get’ this!

    • You are NOT a depraved human being, Caryn! That is another cruel teaching of the church. What kind of parents force their kids to grow up thinking they are depraved, evil, rotten, horrible, disgusting people who deserve to burn in hell?? This is emotional child abuse, in my opinion. It may be very subtle, but it is still abusive, because look at the kind of adults it produces–people who think they are depraved just because they mess up once in awhile. Oh, you sometimes say mean things, tell lies, and don’t always do your best in life? Well, there’s a club for that, Caryn–it’s called EVERYBODY and we meet at the bar on Tuesdays.

      Even Jesus messed up. He did things that none of us would dare to do because we know that they are wrong. If someone came to you for help, would you call them a dog and say they weren’t worthy of your help? That is what Jesus did when a Canaanite woman approached him. Would you go into a church or temple and start knocking tables over and throwing a tantrum just because they were selling stuff? Jesus did this. If living up to his example is your goal in life, well hell, that means you’re better than him already!

      You need to quit thinking of your failures and focus on your good qualities. We all have a tendency to be negative about ourselves, but this is no excuse for believing what our parents taught us just because they’re our parents. You are NOT depraved and disgusting. You are a normal human being.

      • My parents never ever ever taught me that I was depraved human being! I have the most loving parents in the world. The church never told me that I was depraved! What I was taught is this…. no one is perfect…. people stuff up and make mistakes and do the wrong things… thats what sin is…. but instead of feeling guilty and like there is no hope of becoming a better person I could reach out to someone who would forgive me for the things I have done and help me to not do those things again.

        I don’t believe any of this just because my parents have said it! I have made my own adult mind up about this. It’s not fair to make these assumptions about me and my family Lois. I know I have good qualities. There are great things about me and things that aren’t but thats what being a human is about. I want to be a better person and is not something that is unique to me or Christians.

        There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a better person and just because I want to be better doesn’t mean I think I’m depraved.

  5. Seems like what Christians want is for someone else to take the blame for their shortcomings, failures, and bad behavior. We are told he took the punishment we deserved, and if you accept his “sacrifice,” you only need ask forgiveness every time you sin, and you are made perfect.

    It’s like God tallies up all your failings on a chalkboard every day, and when you finally get around to asking him to forgive you, he erases the entire board. That way, your ticket to heaven will still be good should you die under the wheels of a bus the next morning.

    This is an insidious thing to teach children. It teaches them that they don’t have to strive to be good people, but can settle for mediocrity, as Jesus will forgive them the instant they feel sorry. This is wrong! If you hurt someone, you should have to go to THAT PERSON and ask THEIR forgiveness. If you break the window, you pay for it out of your own allowance. These are things we normally teach each other, because they are RIGHT. Nobody likes the idea of being punished for somebody else’s crimes.

    Imagine if you kill someone, and instead of paying the price for it, the judge sentences some other guy to take your place behind bars. Nobody in their right mind would say this is fair. But the Bible presents the scenario that Jesus was punished for the bad stuff that we do, and Christians think this is okay. They will go to their graves believing that it’s okay. It is not.

    • Jesus did take the fall for us but that doesn’t mean we don’t still pay the consequences of our actions while still here on Earth. The Bible teaches us to not only ask God for forgiveness but ALSO the forgiveness of the people we wrong. If anything I think believing in Jesus only makes you work harder to become a better person, something I think is only achievable with His help. Yes the Bible does say that it’s not our works that get us to heaven but it also says faith without works is dead – ie. you can’t truly believe and not work to change youself for the better. It comes in the true acceptance package.

      I must admit that as a child I thought that I had to consistently pray for forgiveness because if I didn’t, there was a small chance I might be killed between the next time I did something wrong and had the time to try to make it right both with God and others and as a result, not go to heaven! My understanding has changed now in that so long as you have Jesus in your heart, He immediately covers your sins in God’s record book and I have no question anymore to whether or not I am saved. I have a blessed assurance in Jesus.

      Do you honestly think having such a philosophy in life would make you a worse person?

    • Jesus didn’t get sent to jail for us he volunteered to go instead of us, kind of like when a Dad tries to go to jail instead of his kid just so his kid doesn’t need to suffer.

      As Christians we know it would not work in our law system that someone else suffers instead of you but that is why it’s such a great gift he gave us because he willingly suffered and died so that we have a chance to be saved from dying.

      and yes im not very good at explaining 😀

      • Your first paragraph is a good description of the completely wrong teaching of the Bible. It is WRONG to send an innocent person to prison just so the real criminal won’t have to suffer for his crime. Nobody anywhere would say otherwise. If it is wrong for humans to engage in such a travesty of justice, why is it okay for God? I am told all the time that a person who doesn’t believe in God cannot have moral standards. Yet, God himself has NO moral or ethical standards whatsoever, and just does whatever he pleases without reason or fairness, and Christians yammer about how great he is! Seems to me that your God is an immoral, unjust, rotten jerk if he thinks it’s okay to punish an innocent person for other people’s crimes.

  6. Here’s a couple of thoughts:

    A righteous man might lay down his life for a friend. Jesus demonstrated His great love by laying down His life while we were still enemies.
    The greatest possible demonstration of Love.

    Sin entered the world through one man’s sin (Adams) and so all men die- one man’s act of righteousness (Jesus laying down His life on the cross) brings life to all men.
    See Romans 5

    Adam as man’s representative brought death; Jesus as man’s new representative (2nd Adam as Paul calls him) brings life.

    He demonstrated His defeat of death (the result of sin- living apart from God) by His resurrection; thereby bringing hope that if we are now identified with Him then we too will have death conquered for us also.

  7. Jesus Christ was crucified because he was a criminal and a heathen under the laws of Roma Italia. As with the modern criminal justice system, his punishment serves as a deterrent and a terse reminder to everyone that no one is above the law. Not even the son of God.

    Organised religion would have you believe his execution serves some grander metaphor. A bit like the tale of the hare and the tortoise. Except no one truly believes a hare and tortoise literally raced each other.

    OR DID THEY?

  8. I like Stuart’s summation. I’m a bit more wordy.

    The crucifixion isn’t the crux of the matter. God could have chosen any way He wanted to “erase” our sins. He chose crucifixion because it was a metaphor that the “church” (Jewish community, tabernacle, what-have-you) of those days would understand. (It is also easily translated to today’s church, due to our possession of the Old Testament.)

    Jews were required by Levitical Law to sacrifice various animals for various sins. The reasons for theses laws and sacrifices were made to show them that they couldn’t do it on their own- that they would never be perfect enough, and that they didn’t have to be, because of God’s grace. Levitical Law also served as a way for Jews to interact with God. God had appeared to them after the exodus from Egypt and they freaked out. They said, “What was that?! Don’t do that again. It’s scary and we can’t handle it!” God still wanted interaction, so he gave them Laws to follow. Following the law was an act of devotion (aka: interaction). Christ was referred to as the “Lamb of God”; Jews were called to sacrifice an innocent lamb, among other things, after sinning to assuage God’s anger at them for said sin. Therefore, the crucifixion of the “Lamb” was an easily explained metaphor. Additionally, crucifixion was the harshest form of punishment in those days, and is still considered to be the most excruciating way to die by many, rivaled, only possibly, by being drawn and quartered. Further, the death of the Son of God allowed Him to venture into Hell and, consequentially, experience everything that we people experience- from birth, to death, to the afterlife. AND in another twist, that sacrifice of Jesus, allowed us interaction with God like the sacrifices specified in Leviticus did- much more intimate interaction than slaughtering an animal, though. It says in the Bible that the “veil was torn” when Christ died. The “veil” referenced was the curtain that hung between the Arc of the Covenant (or the Holy of Holies) and the rest of the temple. That is where God’s Spirit resided. When the veil was torn, God’s Spirit took off and was able, for the first time, to mingle with His children, to speak with them and live with them and love them, first hand, since the people freaked out in the desert with Moses.

    BUT, as I said, God could have decided to require us to believe in Purple People Eaters if He’d wanted, so what really matters isn’t the “Science” of how Jesus’ death purifies us. What matters is that God asks us to believe in Him and Jesus’ death. If we do that, and we come to meet God, to talk to Him, listen to Him, and learn about Him, we fall in love with Him. And his death and His pain and His heartbreak over humanity will break our hearts. When your heart is broken is when you love the most honestly, isn’t it? And, by believing what He asks, we’re telling Him we want Him in our lives, that we allow Him to take control and tell us when we are wrong and intervene and perform miracles and tell us things and a whole host of things I could never even get close to finishing a list of.

    Soooo, it was a metaphor, but it was also quite literal. Our sin broke God’s heart. So he took it to Hell, then came back. God’s perfect, Jesus was perfect; He had to be turned on by God in order to go to Hell.

    By the way, I like what you do here, man. I’ve only read a couple blogs of yours, but I admire your search. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Much love, and be blessed.

  9. Hi Mario,
    In your reply to Kitty you make the following comment, “you, are only repeating a story that you have been told.” I don’t see how this comment is relevent. Mark is trying to come to grips with particular aspects of the Christian faith. The only way you can understand it is through hearing the “story” as you put it.
    If you accept the Protestant version of this “story” you turn to the Bible. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism)
    In the Bible you find this statement by the apostle Paul:
    “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Protestant accept the Bible as “the word of God”.
    What Mark is asking about relates to what theologians call the doctrine (teaching) of justification by faith.
    Since Mark is married to an SDA he’ll want to appreciate the SDA take on this doctrine and how it differs from that of other Protestant denominations.
    Following is a link to the best presentation on the doctrine of justification I know of (from an SDA perpective of course):
    http://www.dennispriebe.com/new/node/8

  10. Hi Mark,
    I went back and re-read your question and realised I had jumped the gun. So please let me start again. You started with a question regarding the nature of sin before you got to the others.
    Dennis Priebe answers your questions in the same logical order you have presented them. His answers take the form of studies starting at: http://www.dennispriebe.com/new/node/4
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts so openly. I look forward to any comments you may have regarding these studies.

  11. One stumbling block many people have with the concept of sin is that one lie would dam you eternally to hell–but when jesus came he re-defined sin and said that it was as much your internal emotions as your external actions. (if you look lustfully at a woman it is as bad as committing adultery.)

    well we became sinful beings when eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this gave us the ability to judge others and ourselves. this gives us a sense power.

    Sin is essentially trying to de-god god. It is trying to justify our actions by our own morals and not trusting that the protection and love of god come. (This sounds clichéd but really how hard is it to walk away from a situation where we feel we have been unjustly treated.)

    Jesus lived the life of total surrender with a total trust in god. in his death he did what we could never do–he made himself nothing in a world of self promoting people.

    He lived the life in the hell which most of us live out on this earth, complete estrangement from god.

    When one becomes a Christian you ask god to come into you. Before Jesus died god couldn’t enter because the selfish side of you would keep rejecting him. Jesus lived like a man and suffered like a man yet triumphed. He has given his life to us as a gift. we can walk with god on this earth because when we accept that we have fallen short of god’s glory and take his gift we can become one with god because Jesus has done it what we couldn’t do.

    Accepting this gift cleans us from sin because we are de-goding ourselves and accepting that god is bigger than us. Therefor we as pitted and marred individuals can be treated as sinless by god

    so to conclude although it feels as if i have said very little Jesus’ death means that now we can walk a life with him. Eternally it means that we are now presented with a choice we can spend an eternity as a nobodies with god or as a successful somebodies without him.

  12. Haha, so late to the party, as always….

    To understand the cross is a hard one. There have been so many books written by so many theologians and philosophers who have already spent decades thinking about the thing, which goes to show how much there is to think about.

    Having said that, the Bible sets forth a set of propositions that make it pretty clear that, from a human perspective, it’s made enough clear about the cross that we can understand it, believe, and be saved by it.

    This death is relevant for a couple of reasons. The first is the obvious “yay, I’m saved, going to heaven, etc” point, which is a lot more detailed than that description in reality, but you’ve probably heard people talk about that one over and over again, so I won’t labour it unless you want to hear it from me.

    The second, in terms of the day to day, is that it means I no longer live (or rather, should no longer live) for myself, because as Christ died for us, and then was raised again, I have died to sin (which is rejection of God and all that comes with that), and have been made alive in Christ; that is to say, my life, my purpose is found in him, rather than my aimless sinful self, because of the swap on the cross.

    It also means I can come out of any shame, any guilt, any remaining ties to sin, because the price is paid, God has wiped the slate clean once for all, and I can serve him with a clear conscience, and actual joy. It’s not necessarily as easy as that, my forgiveness by God might have ramifications for giving or receiving forgiveness from others for example, but that’s the gist of it.

    The reason the cross provides us with eternal life is because, in terms of God’s judgement, it is essentially a reset to a pre Fall condition. The reason there is death, is pain, is suffering in the world is because of the fact that humanity, individually and collectively, has decided to give God, and his good plan for creation, the slip, and run the world as we see fit, which we are simply not equipped to do. We tried (and try) to play God, a job description we can’t fill.

    The cross represents the point at which Jesus literally substitutes himself into our place, takes on the wrath of God and the sin of the world, removing the debt of sin, and then rose bodily, so that we might have a hope of resurrection ourselves (if he stayed dead, not much of a hope for ourselves then, really!)

    And the answer to your final point is that, yes, this trade is patently UNFAIR. The word the Bible, and that guy Paul, typically uses is ‘grace’ which basically means unmerited favour. God didn’t bail us out because we were good people, or because we sought him. The being the case, there’d be nothing to be saved from. Grace is not grace if you can earn it.

    Christians aren’t bailed out because we are morally superior people (though some pretend to be). He did it simply because it is in his character to be righteous, but also to be merciful. He took pity on his creation, and the Son went to the cross, willing following the Father’s instruction, so that sin would be dealt with, so that sinners would go free, and so that people could turn back to God not in fear of retribution, but in joy and gladness because of his great mercy.

    If God wanted to play fair, no one would get eternal life. Or life, for that matter. It’s unfair that Jesus went to the cross, seeing as he was the one person in history who did not deserve to die. And that is why the cross is both beautiful and revolting. Beautiful because Jesus was willing to be so unjustly, grotesquely treated on behalf of the sinners who treated him so, but also revolting for exactly the same reason.

    In that framework, it’s also beautiful if his death results in repentance on the part of above wayward sinners, and a life that is truly transformed and renewed, and horrible if that sacrifice is essentially ignored.

    And that’s just a snippet of why the cross is freaking confusing!


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