Could it be that the death of Jesus was meant to rescue humankind from destroying themselves and one another as well as preventing them from destroying animals by becoming the perfect scapegoat himself – the scapegoat that the human communities had always been looking for?
Isn’t that what the book of Hebrews says – that Jesus’ sacrifice is once for all?
Could it be that Jesus was actually seeking to transform the Jewish mindset about “sacrifice” and “angry god” and sin consciousness?
Could it be that he chose to speak their language by becoming the perfect sacrifice himself, not because God required it but because the Jews required it in order to find peace for their guilty conscience? (After all, the book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrews/Jews.)
What if the cross is not about appeasing “God’s wrath” but about overcoming “man’s violence” to Jesus/themselves/one another?
It appears that many followers of the christian religion are still being influenced by the reverberation of fear-based dogma prevalent in many institutional churches that present God as a mean, angry and petty God who punished his son on the cross to “satisfy his holy wrath” against “sinful man” and created a so-called “hell” for those who did not accept his “gift of salvation”. What if the cross is not about appeasing “God’s wrath” but about overcoming “man’s violence” to Jesus/themselves/one another, as the above questions proposed, inviting us to think beyond the evangelical theological box?
One may wonder why there are many ministers and preachers today preaching about the cross as being about God’s “holy wrath” and “judgment on sin of man”. I think what Darin Hufford wrote here in his book “The Misunderstood God” gives a clue to this phenomenon:
“Fear has become the glue that holds the institutional church together. If ministries were to eliminate fear as a motivator, their businesses would literally cave. The infrastructure that holds them together would be gone. Our beliefs about God are laced with this same poison. Offering sermons, altar calls, Communion and even sermons about salvation rely on fear to motivate people and ‘seal the deal’. Amazingly, we now hear that it’s holy to be terrified of God.”
– Darin Hufford (From “The Misunderstood God”)
To me, the word “sins” in the context of Jesus’ sacrifice in ancient Israel in the first century AD is referring to the hurts people do to themselves and one another. So in this sense, Jesus’ final sacrifice is to heal them of their hurts by realising that they are already perfect and blameless, so that they don’t need to repeat animal sacrifices year after year in order to find forgiveness or peace for their conscience. I see Jesus’ sacrifice as a final full stop to all their religious rituals and sacrifices, so to speak. If the Jews refused to acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice, they may suffer in terms of experiencing condemnation in their own conscience. Not because a so-called god was punishing them (or so they thought) but because they refused to let go of their religious beliefs in sacrifices and they mistakenly thought their sins were not forgiven unless they make another animal sacrifice. But whether they believe or not, the truth remains that they are already blameless and perfect, and Jesus’ sacrifice was meant to be a tool or a means to help them to be free from sin consciousness and find peace for their conscience.
“For by one offering he has perfected forever (that is, perfected in their conscience) those who are being sanctified” Hebrews 10:14
Based on the historical context, Jesus’ reference to “hell” or “gehenna” was addressed to the unbelieving Pharisees, which they would experience in their conscience when they mistakenly thought that there was no more opportunity to get close to God or to be right with God, when the temple crumbled before their eyes in AD70, signifying the end of the old covenant system. It must have been a huge shock and disappointment for them – they would certainly have felt lost and completely alienated from God because they and their previous generations had been so dependent on their religious performance and rituals and the animal sacrificial system in the temple for the past hundreds of years in order to be righteous or to connect with God (or so they thought). Hence, Jesus had been telling them to repent (change their mind and believe the good news that the kingdom of God was already within them, not outside of them), in order to escape the condemnation of gehenna (in their conscience).
God is Love and Love keeps no records of wrongs
Recently, I read a bit of Darin Hufford’s book “The misunderstood God” and incidentally I came to the chapter on the verse “Love keeps no records of wrongs”. While he didn’t mention about the scapegoat mechanism, I think he explained well how the mindset of those who keep a record of their “sins” or mistakes causes them to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, which in effect is perpetuating the scapegoat mechanism.
“Your Father doesn’t keep a record of your sins because He knows if He did, you would be caged in a cycle of repetition. This is the biggest reason people continuously repeat the same mistakes over and over. They believe in their hearts that God has written down a record of their sins somewhere in heaven and He won’t let it go. They’ve been told about the embarrassing videos of their lives that will be played back to them when they die. Because they believe this lie, they are a prisoner to the records they imagine God is keeping.
Your Father doesn’t keep a record of your sins because He doesn’t want anything ugly being held over your head. He is the expert record shredder. Everything He touches becomes new.”
(From “The Misunderstood God” by Darin Hufford)
I think that is why the ancient Jews kept thinking they had to offer animal sacrifices for their sins, and yet these sacrifices are a yearly reminder of their sins, as mentioned in Hebrews 10. And whenever they keep a record of their sins, they are bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over, and had to resort to finding another scapegoat. Hence, I think Jesus’ sacrifice is meant to free them from sin consciousness, and subsequently, from the scapegoat mechanism. When they realise God is love and love keeps no records of wrongs, they will have “no more consciousness of sins”. They will end up forgiving and loving themselves and others too, and will no longer see any need to find any more scapegoat. Their consciousness will be marked by peace and harmony, and be free from the scapegoat mechanism. Such is the power of the gospel.
- Progressive thoughts on why Jesus died on the cross and whether God is retributive or restorative (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- According to Colossians 2:14, did Christ expose and put to shame the scapegoat mechanism?
- Did Jesus come to help humanity break free from the cycle of mimetic desire that is marked by violence?
- Matthew 23:33 What is the “Condemnation of Hell” that Jesus was Warning the Pharisees about?