He Died for You

Many Christians struggle to understand this day, Good Friday. We’re told, “Jesus died for you,” and “Jesus died for your sins.” And that makes perfect sense for many years.

And then, at some point, most of us ask, But how does that work? By what cosmic calculus does the death of one man mean that I am not accountable for my sins any longer?

I’ve written extensively about this question, including an ebook: A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. And now it seems that my next major, hardcover book with a publisher will also be on this topic (more on this soon).

We also collected some wonderful posts at this season’s #progGOD Challenge, “Why A Crucifixion?” For example,

Kimberly Knight: Washed in His Blood, My Ass:

We are not saved by the crucifixion, we are damned by it – or we could have been. Let us face that shameful dark day and accept our culpability – knowing that if Jesus returned today to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed His blood would likely run in rivulets once again.  And let us move through that desolate Saturday knowing what we have done.

Scott Paeth: The Cross and the Crucified:

Jesus dies, abandoned and alone, forsaken by all, even God, to die the death of a social outcast and a political pariah. But in his death, Jesus reveals that the Good News of the Gospel is precisely that God stands on the side of all of those who are abandoned, alone, and forsaken, that God is with them in their forsakenness, has shared their suffering in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the resurrection of Christ, has overcome and redeemed it.

Denika Anderson: Beautiful Terrible Reckless Love:

Tony asked why a crucifixion is necessary. Ontologically speaking, it isn’t. Even considering the pervasiveness of sin, it still isn’t necessary. But, presented with the choice between being crucified and saving himself, Jesus shows us why choosing the crucifixion is the only choice, and why the resurrection is the only possible outcome.

Greg Garrett: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Jesus staked his life on the belief that God’s power is supreme — and his resurrection proves it. The power of the Empire to torture and kill, to impose its will, is nothing compared to the power of God, which will not let sin and death have the last word.

There are many more, and you should add your own. I recommend you spend part of your Good Friday perusing these wonderful meditations on the crucifixion.

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  • Tim Chastain

    In Jesus’ story of the Good Shepherd in John chapter 10, he says:

    “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

    I realize the writer has an agenda and is not quoting Jeus verbatim, but this raises a question in my mind. Does this address in a small way, ‘Why did Jesus have to die?’

    If Jesus came, in part, to tell us there is no reason for us to feel alienated from the Father, does the death of Jesus add to our atonement (at-one-ment with the Father)?

    Perhaps the efficacy of the ‘work’ of Jesus is not in his death but in his resurrection, in which he demonstrates power over death and assures us of our own resurrection.

    If this is the case, he had to die in order to be resurrected. This does not begin to unpack the significance of atonement, but perhaps is a small insight.

  • Hi Tony,
    Thanks for your good work, your blog and your writing.
    Given that you are updating “A Better Atonement” and you recently wrote “No, Jesus’ death was not required in order for human beings to be reconciled to God.” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2013/02/27/the-cross-is-unnecessary-questions-that-haunt/) – I want to offer a gentle rebuttal.

    I start with the question: “Was Jesus’ incarnation necessary for humans to be reconciled to God?”

    I believe the answer to this question is definitely “Yes.” Over human history God heard the people cry out and answered that cry time and time again. God has spoken through the prophets and entered into covenants with Noah, Abraham, the People of Israel, Moses, David, to guide, love, and admonish the people. Yet these were not enough for the people to be reconciled with God, nor move Humankind onto the path of full reconciliation with God. Human free will, agency and the temptations of sin, fear, hatred and injustice prevailed over the Word delivered by the prophets. The trajectory of Humankind pointed away from God, not towards God. Human sin prevailed. The people cried out, and God sent us Jesus.

    I trust in God that the “Jesus Event” in human history (a phrase that I believe comes from theologian Gordon Kaufman referring to Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, the community he called to himself, and the movement he founded and empowered through the Holy Spirit) was both necessary and sufficient to alter the course of humankind so that our course now leans towards reconciliation with God – for all nations. I trust that God will sort out the how and when of this reconciliation for both Christians and non-Christians – in God’s own time. Humans have our part to play in our relationship with God on this path of reconciliation too. I trust that in Christ we have all that we need to do it.

    Human sin is the reason for Jesus’ incarnation, for his birth, life, and mission of reconciliation. He lived because of our sins. His coming as a human being means that his death was a necessary consequence of his birth. He shared our human state fully. So Jesus’ death was indeed required for human beings to be reconciled with God, because his life (and mission) was required for our reconciliation, and because he shared our birth, life and death as a human man.

  • We must remember the true meaning of the Easter holiday and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oschter Haws (the original name for the Easter Bunny) is a fictitious embodiment of all that is unholy with American gluttony for chocolate, candy, eggs and all things savory and sinful. See the Good Lord RISE from his grave and RECLAIM our sacred holiday with the Hammer of God at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/oschter-haws-easter-tale-of-calamity.html

  • Jane

    Is it the cross that sales us or the resurrection? I believe it is more that Jesus died (in the fashion of execution at the time), was known dead, seen dead, and buried in a tomb, and then was resurrected. The cross doesn’t save us without the empty tomb. We don’t cry out to a statue, or dust in a tomb, we cry out to a living Jesus who forgives us over an over again. Not just once day on a cross, but every day of our lives.