Jesus Didn’t Rescue Himself from the Cross because He Couldn’t [Questions That Haunt]

Jesus Didn’t Rescue Himself from the Cross because He Couldn’t [Questions That Haunt] February 8, 2013

Awadhesh Kumar Singh supplied this week’s Question:

Why could Jesus not show the miracle of being saved from being crucified? Surely, he expected to be saved, as his last words show: “God, God, why have you forsaken me?”

As usual, the commentary was great — although I think that some of you formerly Christian commenters have pretty much run out the string on your lines of argument. Saying we don’t need a crucifixion or a resurrection may be satisfying to you, but it’s clearly unsatisfying to most of us.

Let me start my answer to Awadhesh’s question, with a story (if the story bores you, skip to my points at the end):

Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna in the mid-second century. At 86 years old, he was arrested and told by the Roman proconsul that he’d be released if he simply swore an oath to the emperor and cursed Christ. He refused and was taken to the arena to be killed, whereupon he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man!”

Again, the proconsul pressed him:

“Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ.”
Polycarp said: “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

The Martyrdom of Polycarp continues the story,

Then these things happened with such dispatch, quicker than can be told—the crowds in so great a hurry to gather wood and faggots from the workshops and the baths, the Jews being especially zealous, as usual, to assist with this. When the fire was ready, and he had divested himself of all his clothes and unfastened his belt, he tried to take off his shoes, though he was not heretofore in the habit of doing this because [each of] the faithful always vied with one another as to which of them would be first to touch his body. For he had always been honored, even before his martyrdom, for his holy life. Straightway then, they set about him the material prepared for the pyre. And when they were about to nail him also, he said: “Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from the nails.”

Polycarp continued to preach the gospel, even as the wood and faggots were lit. Then this happened,

And when he had concluded the Amen and finished his prayer, the men attending to the fire lighted it. And when the flame flashed forth, we saw a miracle, we to whom it was given to see. And we are preserved in order to relate to the rest what happened. For the fire made the shape of a vaulted chamber, like a ship’s sail filled by the wind, and made a wall around the body of the martyr. And he was in the midst, not as burning flesh, but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace. And we perceived such a sweet aroma as the breath of incense or some other precious spice.

At length, when the lawless men saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go to him and stab him with a dagger. And when he did this a dove and a great quantity of blood came forth, so that the fire was quenched and the whole crowd marveled that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect. And certainly the most admirable Polycarp was one of these [elect], in whose times among us he showed himself an apostolic and prophetic teacher and bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna. Indeed, every utterance that came from his mouth was accomplished and will be accomplished.

Did you get that? When they burned him at the stake, he didn’t burn. Instead, he smelled of incense. So they sliced open his chest with a sword and a dove flew out.

In my industry, this is called hagiography, a very common form of religious literature. Had a host of angels descended from heaven and rescued Jesus from the Cross, his death would have fallen into this genre of literature, rather than into the Gospel genre. That’s my first point: It would have been totally expected for the story to end with Jesus being rescued from the Cross.

My second point is that some early Christians did, indeed, believe that Jesus was rescued from the Cross — or at least that his divinity was. The Docetists thought that Jesus’ human body was only an apparition — they were so scandalized by the thought that God would become a meat puppet that they recast the incarnation and the crucifixion as little more than a magic trick. Other early churchers thought that Jesus’ divinity was vacuumed from his body by the Father just moments before his body died, thus ensuring that God would not experience death. But, I ask, if God didn’t experience death, then what’s the point of the crucifixion?

My final point is a related, theological point: the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, who was incarnate of God, shows God’s ultimate solidarity with all of humanity. This is a theme that I have reiterated many times on this blog. It’s the keystone of my entire theological system.

When I write in the headline that Jesus didn’t rescue himself from the Cross because he couldn’t, I mean this in two ways: 1) While Jesus of Nazareth was empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, this clearly didn’t extend to Superman like powers — Jesus didn’t fly or make time stand still; this isn’t how his miraculous abilities worked. And this would have subverted the reason for miracles: the miracles of Jesus were not magic tricks meant to exhibit his divinity but signs of the coming Kingdom of peace and healing.

And 2) Had he been rescued from the Cross, God would have lost the opportunity to experience death. And it’s God’s experience of death that is the key to our salvation.

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  • Dan Hauge

    I was kind of expecting not to like this, but I really liked this. Especially the last point about God experiencing death. One of the main ways that many progressive christologies kind of let me down, is that they seem exclusively focused on how the human Jesus revealed the divine character to us: how we can see God at work in and through Jesus’ life and ministry. This is very important. But what is equally important, to my mind, is talking about how God experienced human finitude in the incarnation–that God now has, within God’ experience, what it is to be limited in time and space, and even by death, in the way that all human beings are. That experience of finitude and death is part of God’s experience.

  • Great post. So solid.

    • ME


  • Tony: “Saying we don’t need a crucifixion or a resurrection may be satisfying to you, but it’s clearly unsatisfying to most of us.”

    That was a little shocking from you Tony. I was pleased to see that you stuck to your guns that “God’s experience of death that is the key to our salvation.” It defines who you are. I understand why, in the QTH, you have refuted demons, admitted you don’t hear God’s voice, that you can maintain the possibility that you are wrong and that some Christian traditions have been influenced by other philosophies. I’m glad you said those things. It helps to move the Christian discussion forward.

    In this latest set of responses, I heard helpful conversation about prophecies, allegory, history and inerrancy. I see no reason to say that has “run out the string” on our lines of argument simply because it is unsatisfying for you. The crucifixion may be the central theme of Christianity, but if you invite discussion on sacred cows, you have to allow discussion on all of them. If not, there isn’t much point in discussing the others. I realize it is your bog, I’m commenting on how I interpret your words, not your right to moderate the discussion.

    Maybe you weren’t referring to me or all of my comments, but I’d like to highlight that I agreed that the Easter story is a great one. I believe there is a way to retain the greatness of that story and eliminate the need for irrational, supernatural beliefs and the consequences of exclusivity that come with it.

    • Ric Shewell

      I knew that little line would get some responses, especially that “formerly christian” bit, since I know some still consider themselves Christian although they find the notion of Jesus being God ridiculous (I also think that Tony’s definition of Christian a few weeks back “People who can call Jesus ‘Lord'” is extremely wanting, given the connotations of the word in the Jewish faith and its connection to the Holy One).

      I’m glad we can have conversation with people we disagree with, but I gotta admit, It’s tiresome to have to defend the existence of God or Jesus’ place in the Trinity week in and week out. Not every QTHC is about the existence of God and the authority of the Scriptures. Many of these questions already assume a trinitarian view of the Christ story and an authority of Scripture, and these questions challenge points inside the framework that has already accepted a reasonable conclusion to the questions of God and Scripture. This weeks question was an example of that. It assumes Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It assumes that the Gospels contain truth about the story. So, the discussion ought to be about how salvation and God’s relationship to creation would have been affected had Jesus not allowed himself to be killed. You can discuss that, whether or not you believe in God or the validity of Scripture. You have to “act as if,” but that’s all a part of getting in on the discussion, otherwise, we get off topic fast (admittedly, I do this, too. And I have been asked at times to lay aside my belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection so that conversation can continue. I think it’s the same thing, only reversed.)

      • Lausten, see Ric’s response here. That’s what I was getting at. At a certain point, those commenters who’ve denied the divinity of Jesus have said all they can say in that regard. When you turn every single thread into your refutation of Jesus’ divinity, it starts to remind me of [cough] Frank [cough]. Of course, you all are more thoughtful than that. But I’m just seeing a lot of repetition.

    • Lausten, I agree with you completely.

      Tony, you wrote: “[A]lthough I think that some of you formerly Christian commenters have pretty much run out the string on your lines of argument. Saying we don’t need a crucifixion or a resurrection may be satisfying to you, but it’s clearly unsatisfying to most of us.

      Three problems I have with this:

      1) not all who reject the crucifixion and resurrection as necessary to faith are former Christians. I am a Christian who rejects the cross and resurrection theology outright, and not because it is “satisfying” to do so (which is a pretty insulting thing to say, by the way, as if that’s the only reason to hold such a view), but because it is for many wholly mythical, and thereby irrational to believe as a “real” event, and therefore a flimsy foundation for faith;

      2) by saying “run out the string on your lines of argument,” you slam the door on such arguments as if to invalidate and devalue them as limited in comparison to your own belief, which you come very close to inferring is more valid and more valuable and less limited, which really smacks progressiveness in the face; and . . .

      3) you created a pretty clear line of demarcation here, creating the distinctions of “you” and “us.” That’s probably what shocked me the most. Quite unexpected.

      Two huge steps backward on this one, Tony. Very disappointing.

      • R Jay, you may be disappointed. So be it. But I will be honest: your comments are getting redundant. Johnny One Note. We know that you reject the divinity of Jesus.

        I’m not saying stop commenting. I’m saying come up with something fresh to say. I know it’s difficult — I attempt to do it every day.

        • “Johnny One Note”?

          Because the alternate arguments of “Jesus is divine” which are offered ad nauseam aren’t redundant?

          Seriously Tony?

          “Johnny One Note”????

          • That’s correct. I do not think that what I’m offering on post after post is redundant. If it were, I suspect people would stop reading.

            I’m communicating my experience of the recent threads. Prove me wrong.

            • Your originating posts are not redundant (except when you write about gay issues or homosexuality, which you do with great frequency).

              My point was about the commentary that occurs within your posts. In certain posts, there are those commenters who insist “Jesus is divine,” and then there are those others, myself among them, who believe otherwise, and who respectfully challenge others to rationalize what many of us simply feel is irrational.

              And, conversely, we are equally counter-challenged. I might say, “Prove it’s true.” Another will counter, “Prove it isn’t.” It’s par for the course. Can it get repetitive? Yes. But this is not at all new in the dialogs that occur on the threads here.

              And we don’t create the themes of the posts you write. You do that. We just follow your lead and the resulting direction of the commentary.

              And though my position has not altered on this particular theological position of Jesus’ divinity, there have been some excellent discussions that have resulted between myself and others whose contrary positions also remain the same. Even recently.

              I have offered what I believe to be extremely thoughtful remarks on a variety of topics, including in some of the latest posts such as “Should We Trust Ray Lewis’s Conversion?” and “Is It Time for Christians to Celebrate Pre-Marital Sex?” And in those posts I did not state anything that refers to my position on Jesus’ divinity.

              But where a topic touches on that theology, then yes I will engage as I typically would, as I did in “Does It Matter If the Bible Stories Really Happened?” Just as others would engage as they typically would.

              This is your blog. Obviously. And as such, you make the rules. But you have so far been very generous about being open to both sides of any theological argument. And until today, I’ve never seen you slam a door in the face of an entire line of argument engaged in by a particular population of your commenters, as if it were the only argument being repeated.

              And so when you did that, I had the thought that perhaps you should rename this series “Answers That Haunt.”

              • Bro, I’m not slamming a door in your face. I’m making an observation.

                • It’s all good, Tony (as the saying goes). That particular part of your response (and your tone today in general) just seemed very out of character. It was directed at certain commenters and their sincere positions, rather than at the subject matter as a whole. I’m not the only one who was caught off guard, feeling like “WTF?” We’re not used to that from you.

                  Maybe some mutual “benefit of the doubt” would be healthy. I’m certainly willing.

      • Charles

        ^^^ THIS!!! Thanks R. Jay!

      • ME

        “2) by saying “run out the string on your lines of argument,” you slam the door on such arguments as if to invalidate and devalue them as limited in comparison to your own belief, which you come very close to inferring is more valid and more valuable and less limited, which really smacks progressiveness in the face;”

        Seems very hard to have a discussion with you, RJ, without it being unfair to you.

        Nevertheless, I think I understand where you are coming from more and more, but, am still curious, why bother to call yourself a “Christian.” Seems like there would be a better label. Isn’t what you believe in like a half teaspoon of Jesus plus 2,000 years of human rational development?

        • ME . . .

          I’m not sure what you mean by it being hard to have a discussion with me “without it being unfair” to me. I am no different than anyone else who comments here. I have my own positions on certain topics. I challenge others’ positions. They challenge mine. Many times I agree with others, and many times they agree with me. When I am disagreed with, I never feel it is “unfair.” When I am agreed with, I never gloat.

          At times, discourse can be robust and adversarial. But in almost all cases, respect is always maintained toward others. People can disagree very strongly, and respond very sharply (as Tony occasionally does in his comments). But at the end of the day, I would say we all respect one another. And I don’t think anyone goes away feeling the discussions were “unfair” to them.

          Why bother to call myself a Christian? Perhaps for the same reason I still call myself an American. It is not what it was or even what it should be. But it is my home. To abandon it would be a failure to respect it. Because it must change. And I believe it can. And I want to be part of that. I am part of that.

          • ME

            I’m glad you have an involvement with Christianity.

            BUT, your involvement is thoroughly irrational! Look at the totality of Christianity, 2,000 years of it, look at its documents. It is rooted, yesterday and today, in belief in a deity that has interacted in this world and belief that it is necessary to submit to that deity. You do not believe in anything that is not a human construction. (I write that because you will not believe in anything that is not provable by human science).

            Christianity has been sustained from the beginning till now based on the fundamental belief of Jesus as deity. That is what Christianity is. It’s fine to say that’s a fiction. But, it is irrational to say it’s a fiction and call yourself a Christian.

            I bet David Koresh had a couple good ideas. Would it be rational for me to say his beliefs are a fiction, yet call myself a Branch Davidian?

            I think what you need is a new religion or a different religion that is based on belief in the utility of love, the economic betterment of the human race, the belief in a 21st century liberal interpretation of justice (a pretty good thing) and the belief in what scientifically is provable. That’s not Christianity, at least the first 2,000 years of it.

            • You made my point for me, ME. Traditional Christianity has been around for 2,000, with a despicable history to carry it. There is a reason there are “progressives” and “emergents.” The traditional way of thinking has been the dominant canopy of this forest. But it’s time to emerge above it, as many of us are. Those who wish to remain with old will certainly do so. But you’re stuck with the likes of me. Get used to it.

              • ME

                I’ve got no issue with what anyone believes, and certainly no issue with your beliefs. I just have an issue with what it’s called. Calling Jesus a fiction and calling yourself a Christ-ian at the same time is nonsensical 🙂

                You and I both like Jesus to some extent, which is good news if you ask me.

                p.s., Maybe you would be interested in the “Church of Christ without Christ.”

                • Craig

                  I believe it should be called Christian. You got an issue with that?

  • This is really a great post.
    I recently joined a new social community based around the Bible Series that will be airing on the History Channel in March. I have found it a GREAT place to express my faith and to talk about it with others. I think you would really enjoy it and it would even be a good blog post to talk about it if you enjoy it as much as I do.
    The site is you can watch the trailers for the Bible Series too if you haven’t seen it yet.

    I hope you like it and thank you for all the work you put into your blog!

  • Charles

    “…t’s God’s experience of death that is the key to our salvation.”

    Tony, what are we being saved from?

  • I had my differences with Bruce McCormick at PTS, but his answer, which is consistent with yours here (absent the Moltmannian overtones) always struck me as persuasive. We deny the incarnation and treat Jesus as a demi-god if we think that he could just *decide* to get down off the cross. In his humanity, he was no more capable of performing miracles than you or eye. He performed miracles in the same way anyone would — through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Of course, like you, I take my lead from Moltmann often. Bruce’s explanation may explain why he COULDN’T but I think Moltmann’s answer, and yours, and mine, explain why that’s salvifically important — because of what it says of God’s solidarity with the poor.

    • Ric Shewell

      I think I’m gonna start “^^^ this”–ing things. Or is that lame? I haven’t decided yet.

      • Charles

        There is no “Like” button – thus “^^^ This.”

  • Greg

    You need to look into the Catholic Church Tony. Instead of trying to just come up with your own answers, seek the Truth! It is vital to know it. Jesus declares himself to be the truth, so we need to understand it. Only in the Church will you find your answers.

  • To be slightly dichotomous, I see two definitions of “haunting”. One is found in books like Greg Boyd’s “Letters From a Skeptic”. The skeptic has some kernel of belief in god, but has questions that keep them from going to church or from being comfortable praying. Answers to their questions tend to be more about comforting them about truth being with God. These stories end with the skeptic back in the fold.

    The other kind is no faith. No haunting questions has been sufficiently answered. It can be interesting to engage them for a while, but eventually it is the believer that becomes uncomfortable. Statements like “a reasonable conclusion to the questions of God…” are thrown about as if they are in fact reasonable.

    Your request for those who participate in the discussion to “act as if” is a request to say they are not haunted at all. You’ve changed the topic from “these are questions that are troubling for the foundations of Christianity” to “Christianity has solid foundations, now let’s make it internally consistent”.

    • Ric Shewell

      You are definitely tracking with me. I was trying to avoid saying any foundation was “solid,” cemented, or complete. But I do think that you have to leave some rooms in the house “as is,” work on some other rooms, and then come back and keep working on things. So yeah, you are hearing me, we are working on making theology internally consistent, even as we leave rooms unfinished (theology will never be finished).

      Regardless of what you think is “reasonable,” can you say, “Okay, a whole hell of a lot people think this about God and Jesus, given what they think about this…” or will we always fight about the premise of every question? That is the tiresome and totally played out. There will be plenty of times to argue out God’s existence and historicity of the Christ event… just not everything is that argument.

      • If we’re going to talk about who is getting tired of what, I’m getting tired of being accused of “fighting about the premise of every question”. The question was about the meaning of the resurrection. I went into a church 20 years ago for Easter and the pastor said, “man this ‘I’m going to die for you’ stuff is hard to preach to.” He turned that story around into one of love and walking the walk of what you believe. He didn’t talk about salvation because he didn’t have to. I thought I’d share a little of that with you. I stuck with that community for 10 years, they are still my friends. It was when I started looking at moving up in the hierarchy and realized progressive theology was not supported at those levels that I began questioning the whole system.

        Anyway, enough about me. I thought this was a place where you could say there is nasty stuff in the Old Testament without being branded a Dawkins’ follower. I thought that was the kind of healthy discussion that was supposed help lead the church into the 21st century. Guess I’ll have to rethink that.

        • I think you’re overreacting. I hope you don’t go anywhere.

          • Some things are difficult to express in less than 200 words.
            I’d be interested to hear your take on Frank Schaeffer’s recent Patheo’s post about what’s wrong with progressive Christianity.

  • First, let me say that I don’t believe in any type of atonement doctrine. That said, I think Jesus made a decision not to save himself from crucifixion. Why? Maybe he wanted to be the first martyr in the Christian cause. Maybe he thought it was the right thing to do since we don’t have the prerogative to avoid the worst of what life dishes out. Maybe he knew that a dramatic death would propel his cause forward in a big way.

    Tony, I like your point about how it “shows God’s ultimate solidarity with all of humanity.

  • JoeyS

    Good answer.

  • Here’s my two cents about this post, for the moment (which makes me feel redundant more recently): I have nothing to say.

    I read all of Tony’s posts, but when I feel like I’m going to be repetitive, I try to just let the conversation go on without me.

  • (In the interests of contributing in a different way, I’m going to open an old inner closet from the time long ago when I used to subscribe to salvation theology. My way of, shall we say, crucifying my present belief for the sake of this discussion. Thank goodness I can resurrect it later. I give myself two days.)

    Jesus did not rescue himself from the cross because to do so would have been to re-commit Adam’s sin, which he came to earth to undo. As such, it was his conscious choice to remain crucified.

    Adam’s sin was self-salvation. He was told that by partaking of the fruit, he would be like God. Jesus was tempted similarly. His fruit was the temptation to save himself. Only this time the “snake” was the crowd that bid him to take himself off the tree (i.e. the cross).

    It’s the same temptation scenario: what is taken off the tree makes you God.

    But by remaining on the cross Jesus SUBMITTED FULLY to God. Because only God gives life. And THAT was Adam’s sin, the failure to submit.

    And it was in Jesus’ submission — to the cross and to the grave, which proved his submission to God — that he was rewarded with life. In the resurrection. Risen anew as the “branch” of David, the “stump” of Jesse. The new tree of the Promise.

    Jesus could certainly have saved himself. He had the divine power to do so, even in his humanity. But he did not save himself because he knew the experience of submission was the only true way to “god-ness” It was his theosis.

    And through his death, resurrection, and resulting theosis, God accepted him as the new Adam, and thereby recognized humankind as this new Adam’s offspring. As such, the blessings of eternal life that were bestowed upon him passed onto us as an inheritance, releasing us from the old inheritance of eternal death we had originally received through the old Adam.

    That’s the new covenant. A covenant of inheritance between God and humankind. Thanks to Jesus’ blood. By it we can experience our own theosis today, and eternal life tomorrow.

    He chose to remain crucified because, unlike Adam, he loved us more than himself.

    • Marcel VB

      That is a beautiful post, R.J., and its theology is compelling. However, I’m not sure you can make that argument Biblically. The crowd did not “bid him to take himself off the tree (i.e. the cross)” as your post suggests. The crowd bade, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” They wanted Him DEAD. Now, you could make the argument that Pilate tempted Jesus to save Himself, but I think you could make the even more compelling argument that Pilate’s intentions were more about getting himself out of an impossible political dilemma rather than trying to demonstrate Godly power and save Himself (which sort of deflates the comparison to the Satan temptation in the wilderness / Adam comparison you’re trying to make).

      Again, it’s an interesting post, and I’m not sure that I’m 100% with Tony here either. But I think I’m a bit closer to where Tony’s at than where you’re at here.

      • “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40)

        “Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a commandment, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. . . . For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:14,17)

        “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. . . . The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. . . . The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. . . . And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:22,45,47,49)

        “In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:4,5)

        • Marcel VB

          The Matthew citation is a fair point, however, I think we could have a very valid conversation regarding “Are these genuine, intentional temptations, i.e. the Devil in the wilderness, or are these snarky, cynical attacks from a mob, akin to be yelled at in a bar? I think the Devil was being far more intentional in the wilderness in tempting Jesus than an angry mob at a crucifixion.

          The tone is everything here, and as beautiful as your theology is, and I suppose this is a difference of interpretation.

          Your Pauline proof texting CERTAINLY is evidence that Christ and Adam can be looked at side by side when discussing the atonement (of which I agree theologically with Tony). However, while the language may SOUND on topic because it happens to mention Jesus and Adam, and we’re talking about Jesus and Adam, it’s a sly deviation and misdirection, I feel.

  • MarkE

    Beautiful story, RJP

  • Craig

    Saying we don’t need a crucifixion or a resurrection may be satisfying to you, but it’s clearly unsatisfying to most of us.

    This statement should prompt the beginning of conversation and inquiry, not the end. Is it just a matter of personal taste that some are so satisfied and some aren’t? Are some people harder to satisfy? Why? Is it because they are like the spoiled and unreasonable child, or is it because they are more discerning? If such questions don’t interest you, you are insufficiently curious, spoiled on junk food and habit, and lacking a nose for philosophical substance.

  • Ryan

    I’d say the main reason Jesus could not be rescued from the cross is simply that he’d already agreed to go to the cross, and NOT be rescued. Christ gave His word and His word is binding. By nature, He could not go against His word. He cannot fail to deliver on a promise He made.

    • Craig

      That’s the “main” reason? If I promise not to starve my kids, keeping my word won’t be the “main reason” I feed them. Or, why did Jesus make that promise?

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  • Harry

    Let me open up this discussion again. I have major problem. why god wanted his son to commit death. even he asked him to save from death. he never respond. other hand why he wanted so called his son to scarifies for the peoples sins. he could have just forget it. because he is almighty god and he controls every thing.