When I originally posted about this January 15, 2008, a lot of people wrote in with questions. The inquiry is important.
For Christians and non-christians alike, the common question asked is, "Why did Jesus have to die? Was Jesus’ death a sacrifice to an angry God, or was it something else?" Fundamentalists have their answer, and people are more familiar with it.
Blasphemous movies like The Passion of the Christ proclaim quite loudly, that Jesus death was some sort of Divine torture porn. A spiteful little god needed to see suffering and bloodshed to appease his wrath. They say that Jesus had to die because of the Law written by men and angels (De 4:14; Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). It is true that this law charged and condemned God with Blasphemy for saying that he is God. So the question they should be asking is, was Jesus killed to satisfy Moses and the Angels.
Whether or not Jesus died as a human sacrifice to a God of Wrath all blood boils down to the answer to one question very important to the answer to a single question:
If there was no sin, would Jesus have been crucified?
The Orthodox answer is yes. On the Cross, Jesus stood on the threshold to mediate between us and God. Now follow me closely. On the cross, he stands between live and death, faith and doubt, hope and fear, pain and release, God and humanity. In this singular act, he mediates between all these opposites and shows the way to Life. The cross is the gate to the sheepfold.
Christ is the Word of God, nailed up as an edict from the Eternal Father for us to read and therein find the Son of Man and the Son of God pointing us to our true Humanity and the true Divinity.
Christ is the manifest book of Life in which the Mind of God is made know. “This is the book which no one found possible to take, since it was reserved for him who will take it and be slain. No one was able to be manifest from those who believed in salvation as long as that book had not appeared. For this reason, the compassionate, faithful Jesus was patient in his sufferings until he took that book, since he knew that his death meant life for many. Just as in the case of a will which has not yet been opened, for the fortune of the deceased master of the house is hidden, so also in the case of the All which had been hidden as long as the Father of the All was invisible and unique in himself, in whom every space has its source. For this reason Jesus appeared. He took that book as his own. He was nailed to a cross. He affixed the edict of the Father to the cross (The Gospel of Truth).”
This is the glory of God, that in seeing Christ crucified, all of our fears and doubts are brought out of us. We fear death, yet we look upon the one who died and yet lived. We fear pain, yet we look upon one who was nailed to a cross. We fear that God will forsake us, yet we hear God cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” All of our fears become clear at the cross.
In the Round Dance of the Cross, we see Jesus after the last supper signing a hymn of praise and dancing with his disciples. In the Hymn he sings, he declares the pairs of opposites that he mediates between. It is in these paradoxes that we find the mystery of the Cross. From death, many are born.
Jesus on the the cross, returns the Tree of Life to those who will eat its fruit.
This is the tree of unity, where the pairs of opposites are knit together.
The idea of Christ sacrificed for moral outrages that offend God is not an idea found in the gospels. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, not the sins of the world (John 1:29). The sin of the world is that we forget God.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom 1: 16-21).
These verse are often taken out of their context to make a moralistic argument that Paul was not. The point of the text is that through Christ crucified, the knowledge of God is given through faith to those who believe. Those who do not have darkened their hearts to the light of God.
Behold, Jesus hung on the Tree of Life as its first fruit.
The Crucifixion offends our senses in every way.
We like things to make sense. Why did Christ have to die? To show us the way to the Father by demonstrating the way between all of the pairs of opposites that frighten us and distract us from God.
In the Crucifixion, we see our lives and our deaths. We see all of our hopes and fear coexisting as they do in life. Peace, ground luminance, basic goodness, what ever you want to call it exists at the same time as the horror of our life.
Suddenly, we realize that when Christ called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was singing the twenty-second Psalm. He was praising the God that would lift him up.
Once we see the way through the pairs of opposites, we sing:
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Gal 2:20-21)."
On the cross he unfurled the edict of the Eternal Father, so the invisible, unknown God may now be known.
"Now, none can say that they have found God, for it is through Christ that God is made manifest to us all. None can boast that they have found the truth, and they agree with the apostle: God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal 6:14)."