Skip to main content

Why Did Jesus Have To Die Such A Brutal Death?

Once someone asked me this poignant question: If God was God then why did he allow his son to die the terrible death of crucifixion? At first I was dumbfounded. I didn't really have any compelling arguments.  Inwardly I also agreed with my friend's assessment If God was truly omnipotent couldn't he find a more benign, less gruesome tactic of salvation? How can God be God if he allows his son and his subjects to undergo the things that they are most afraid of?

After much prayer and reflection I came up with these two primary ways to understand Jesus' crucifixion. These answers are by no means exhaustive, for a more through presentation of the matter I strongly suggest reading, Brant Pitre's "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of The Eucharist," Peter Kreeft's, "Making Sense Out of Suffering" and St. John Paul II's, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope."

1) Jesus crucifixion fits perfectly into the Jewish context of his time. Jesus was the new Passover. The Old Passover feast was a commemoration of Moses, who during the exodus was commanded by God to slaughter an unblemished lamb to use it's blood to mark the lintels of his door. By doing this Moses was able to avoid the angel of death who was killing the Egyptian's firstborns.  Each year millions of Jewish pilgrims would witness the slaughtering of millions of lambs. The reasoning for this slaughter was that these pure, unblemished lambs took on the sins of the people. By killing these "pure" lambs the sins of the people would be forgiven.

Now if you put this all within the Jewish context, which Christianity fulfilled Jesus became this sacrificial lamb, who by his death was able to forgive the sins of all.  Jesus' crucifixion was a one time event which ended the Jewish Passover tradition of slaughtering sheep. This was not necessary anymore since Jesus was the true "lamb of God" who freed the people from their sins.

2) Since Jesus suffered there is meaning in it. I often ask this question, "What if Jesus was this all powerful, wealthy, and successful warrior, king who died peacefully at an all age?  Where would suffering fit into this grand, unattainable image? Jesus, who was fully God and fully man choose to live a humble, difficult life life that didn't resemble anything of a great king. This meek view was often at odds with many Jews who believed that the Messiah would come to earth, as a powerful king and right the wrongs of the Jewish people. Jesus by his condescension knew the meaning of all suffering; he suffered loss, was homeless, was betrayed, was denied, and lastly wrongly accused, and sentenced to die a gruesome death. Jesus freely choose to be in all of these very human circumstances to give us an example of the dignity of suffering. If Jesus died as a typical king than human suffering would rightfully look like madness, something that needed to be avoided at all costs. "If the king didn't suffer than why should I?"  This condescension is what makes Christianity unique among the world's religions.  In no other religion does a God freely suffer and overcomes that death through a resurrection.  By doing this Jesus shows us all that a true relationship is possible since he went through many of the things we humans go through in our lives.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

10 Great Quotes from The Book of Sirach

The book of Sirach is a book that is often overlooked in the bible. This is unfortunate since this book contains many wise, practical saying on how to live a virtous life. The book was believed to have been written between 200-175 B.C.E.

Here are ten quotes that I feel best reflect this timeless work.

1."Do not become a beggar by feasting with\borrowed money, when you have nothing in your purse." Sirach 18:33

2."In all you do remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin." 7:36

3.."Glory and dishonor come from speaking; a man's tongue is his downfall." 5:13"

4."A wise man is cautious in everything." 18:27

5."One who trusts others is light minded." 19:4

6."If you pursue justice, you will obtain it and wear it as a glorious robe." 27:8

7."Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but no many as have fallen because of the tongue." 28:18

8." In all of your work be industrious and no sickness will…

George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and The Afterlife

I was stunned, as was most of the world was when I heard about the passing of George Michael on Christmas day.  Michael possessed enormous talent was and one of the most successful acts in the 1980's and early 90's

Shortly after Carrie Fisher died.  Fisher was famous for her legendary role as princess Leia from the Star Wars movies.  Strangely her mother also died the day after.

2016 was notable year for celebrity deaths.

Some names include: Prince, Glenn Frey, David Bowie,  Doris Roberts, Alan Rickman, and Muhammad Ali.

As a Catholic these deaths got me thinking about the transient nature of life, and the inevitability of death.

Marcus Aurelius, the stoic, emperor, philosopher king wrote about the passing nature of life as he reflected, "Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."

Even though I agree mostly with Aurelius&#…

Me vs. The Almighty

There is famous scene in the bible where Jacob wrestles with God.  Jacob fights with God until God takes out a bone from Jacob's thigh. Interestingly, God eventually relents and stops fighting with Jacob. After this dramatic incident Jacob is renamed Israel which literally means, "he who struggles with God."

I can relate to this story.  Many times in my life I have argued with God. I still do. (my wife can attest to that.) Many times I have criticized his tactics, his ways, and his wisdom. In my worst moments I have even used choice language. I have a complicated relationship with God. Like Jacob I have wrestled with God. (thigh bone still intact)

Recently I approached a priest friend of mine and told him of my struggles with God.  I expected that he would chide me for my lack of respect and informality. What this priest said was illuminating and encouraging. He told me that it was OK at times to be angry with God, God understood. He in fact encouraged this honesty and o…