The Case for Christ Pt. III: Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

My wife has always wondered about God's plan of redemption. Why did God's plan have to be so violent? He's God. Couldn't the creator of the universe hatch a plan to save us in a less horrific way?  Another similar question is: Why did salvation have to involve the sacrifice of just one man? Couldn't salvation have been achieved through some communal effort, or movement? Thankfully, these questions are being answered through some of my reading and I can honestly say the explanations make a lot of sense.

I am in no way intimating that I have stumbled upon these answers on my own.  I believe that this clarification was a work of the Holy Spirit. The answers aren't novel as they can be found in the scriptures, the catechism, and through the writings of the early church fathers.  The thing that makes this discovery new and exciting for me is the context that they provide to one of Christianity's greatest mysteries.   I will attempt to answer these 2 questions by explaining the reasons that it had to be so.

Question 1 is: Why did salvation have to come through just one man?
Question 2 is: Why did God's plan of salvation have to be so violent?

Reason 1: Salvation had to be accomplished by one man since sin entered the world through one man.   The prerequisite to understanding this requires faith and an acceptance of the infallible authority of the Bible.  Like I wrote in my previous post about this matter, faith is required to understand any mystery of Christianity.  Without this faith all of this will seem like a bunch of whimsical fairy tales.

When Adam disobediently ate from the tree of knowledge he inherited a sinful nature.  So what is a sinful nature? A sinful nature is one which focuses primarily on self.  In the beginning God made man in His perfect image.  The consequences of this were that man had full dominion over the entire world.  Man could communicate perfectly with God, and man was not bound by death.  Once Adam ate the fruit, all of this was gone.  It is interesting to note that the first emotion that Adam experienced after the fall was embarrassment.  Why was this so? Because Adam for the first time tasted the full experience of sin.  Before sin there was no embarrassment, no shame.  But once sin entered the world Adam gained the knowledge of evil and thus became ashamed because before that there was no such emotion.  After the fall, man inherited this sinful inclination of going against God and seeking self fulfilling aims.  After Adam's fall,  man became limited by the cruel limitations of death, toil, suffering, and disease.

For thousands of years this was man's fate;  to die, to be isolated from the loving embrace of God. But God did not want things to stay this way, he enacted a plan almost immediately after the fall when he prophesied in the book of Genesis:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Gen 3:15)

This woman was believed to be Mary and the seed Jesus. But before all this could take place God chose to reveal his plan gradually through Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets.  All of these figures agreed that there would come at one time a savior which would break the curse of Adam's original sin.  St. Paul even writes about this in his first letter to the Corinthians when he says:

"But in fact Christ has raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor 15:20-21)
What Paul is saying isn't unique in the eyes of Jewish faith since it was always prophesied that a savior would redeem the world just as Adam's sin cursed the world.  However, what makes this statement groundbreaking is the fact that St. Paul attributes this reparatory action to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Without this biblical understanding of original sin one will never understand the need for a savior.

The question still remains why did Jesus' death have to be so violent?

Reason 2: The key to understanding Jesus' crucifixion lies in the Jewish ceremony of Passover.

The key to answering this question lies in the Jewish context of Jesus' world, particularly the role of the Passover.  The original Passover took place during the time of Moses. It involved the killing of an unblemished lamb.  The Passover ceremony developed over the years into an elaborate ritual complete with priests and temple worship. They had to sacrifice a lamb to atone for their sin.  A little known fact about this ritual was that the unblemished lamb was actually crucified as Justin the Martyr writes to Trypho a Jewish rabbi:

"For the lamb, which is roasted, roasted and dressed up in the form of a cross. For one spit is transfixed through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are stretched the legs of the lamb." Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho The Jew, 40)
This description is radical since it means that Jesus and his disciples must have witnessed this type of crucifixion in their Passover journeys to Jerusalem.  This explains the connection between the crucifixion of a lamb to Jesus' own crucifixion. Jesus, the Lamb of God  needed to be crucified.  If an unblemished Lamb was crucified to cleanse all people of their sins, then it isn't too much of a stretch to believe that Jesus was the unblemished lamb who was crucified to cleanse the people of their sins.

This sacrificial offering was not unique to the Jews. Other pagan traditions also involved the sacrifice of animals, and even humans to make retribution to the gods.  This primordial desire to sacrifice something to a deity was present since the dawn of humanity.  What makes God's plan so unique is that he transformed these bloody ritual sacrifices into one final and all consuming sacrifice through the crucifixion of his own son. God redeemed mankind through the slaughter of one lamb, His son - the lamb of God on Mount Calvary.

God' plan of salvation is deep and intricate. I hope this provided a bit of a framework in which to delve further into the beautiful mystery of redemption.


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