In the years since Mel Gibson’s excellent depiction of the crucifixion, “The Passion Of The Christ”, there have been a number of questions raised that need to be answered.
You need to know, before you decide to continue reading, that I am a Christian and a student of the Bible. That may mean little to you; each sect or division of Christianity has its own peculiarities where Scripture interpretation is concerned, and my own peculiarities are no exception. In fact, forget I brought it up. The questions I have in mind are those I’ve seen, for instance, on magazine covers, or discussed (largely by non-Christians) on TV news shows, such as: Why did Jesus have to die? or: Did the Jews kill Jesus? (One would have hoped that the use of the crucifixion as an excuse for anti-Semitism had been abandoned in some previous millennium, but alas, here we are again.) What I’m attempting here is not a specific set of answers to specific questions, but rather a point of view that better illuminates the landscape of the crucifixion; some questions will disappear, some will be answered, and possibly some new questions will be raised. Sound like fun?
I tried to boil the whole thing down to some fundamental irreducible truth, or in this case, a few facts that must be faced. These include: 1) Jesus is the Savior; 2) His salvation required His sacrificial death; 3) The sacrifice must be performed by the Jewish Priesthood; 4) The sacrifice must involve a tree.
To put it simply, if Jesus had not died, He could not be the Savior. The details of the death are not nearly as important as the fact of the death; if it had not been a Roman-style crucifixion, it would still have been valid as long as it involved the high priest and a tree. It is clear from Scripture that the Romans had no particular gripe against Jesus; regardless of who wielded the hammer, Jesus’ death was brought about by the priest. As for blaming the Jews in general for Jesus’ death, nothing could be more foolish. We should thank them on our knees for facilitating our salvation.
Ultimately, Jesus came here to die, on a tree, at the hands of the priest. However, please allow me to point out that a great many people, guilty and innocent, suffered the same death. Had Jesus been one of countless ordinary people who ran afoul of the law, civil or otherwise, his death would have been just as ordinary, just as anonymous, and just as final, as the rest. Jesus’ sacrifice would have been just another death, but for one startling fact: He came back.
You may call Jesus anything you like; call Him a great teacher, a moral leader, a religious fanatic, rabble-rouser or heretic, but after the name-calling is over, you must face one last fact. The resurrection validates His salvation; validates His entire earthly ministry, in fact. As long as He was in the tomb, He could be dismissed; one corpse is as good as another. But the one who came back, there’s no dismissing that one.
David L Henderson is a career Respiratory Therapist, with some Christian preaching, teaching, and writing thrown in. Find out more about him, and read more of his articles at: http://www.myspace.com/stenoch or check out his personal web pages at http://www.intergate.com/~cyrano