Monday, 7 April 2014

Why is the Death of Jesus so Significant?

Speaking Christian in our Lenten Journey
Why is the Death of Jesus so Significant?

Jesus’ death is foundational to Christianity in a way that the death of a central
figure in a religion like no other. Jesus’ death is crucial as Paul writes that the Christian message is to be “Christ crucified”. All the gospels tell this story and it is of major importance for Christians today.

Why is it important? Because Jesus’ death paid the price for our sins by dying in our place. Substitutionary sacrifice or atonement means that Jesus is the substitute who satisfied God’s wrath by undergoing the punishment that we all deserve for sin.

But this is not biblically based- but written in 1097 by Anselm of Canterbury who asked, “Why did God become human incarnate in Jesus? His answer- God required that the penalty for our sins must be paid from the human side. But we are all sinners and thus cannot adequately make the payment. Only a perfect human can. But a human cannot be perfect unless also divine. So God became human in Jesus in order to pay the price for our sins.

Yet this has problems and raises further questions. Jesus was killed- a very public and prolonged form of execution.  Jesus’ death obscures the fact that he was killed by the powers that ruled his world.  Did God really need someone to die for our sins? Isn’t Christianity and salvation about transformation of ourselves and of the world?

Jesus’ Death brought different meanings to the early followers and still does to Christians today.
a) Jesus was crucified on a cross- a public way and by authorities beyond the community in which he lived.
b) Death and resurrection are dying and rising with Christ. This is a metaphor for the personal and yet communal transformation at the centre of Christians. Galatians 2:19-20—I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it Christ who lives in me.”
c) Jesus’ death is the revelation of the love of God.  In Jesus we see what God is like. In Jesus’ passion for the kingdom of God and his challenge to the powers at the risk of his own life, we see the depth of God’s love for us.

Loving God as we read about Jesus’ death and why he died, we pray that you would touch our hearts to understand and know it was for us and because of us. Clear our confusion, enable us to ask questions and call us to you in praise and love. Amen.

As Lent leads us towards Holy Week and we hear the Passion Story of Jesus- from triumph to tragedy what does Jesus’ death mean to you? Do you believe he did for you and because of you? What does ‘we shall also rise with him” mean in anticipation of Easter?
Please reflect and respond to these questions as you share pray for your understanding.

Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power- and how they can be restored, Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning, 2012.

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