Who is Sacrifice for: God or Man?

Going on from a subject I have been talking about lately, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sin, the more I ponder the more I find there is more to talk about. I mentioned how different it was, indeed, for John to go about offering remission of sin for something as meager as repentance. The Jewish tradition wasn’t like that, it demanded sacrifice. Jesus too came and argued with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law concerning things he did, such as heal on the sabbath and telling people their sins were forgiven. For this kind of thing, which was against the law when the law was taken at its strictest level, they called him demon possessed and a sinner. He countered with a warning to those around him who would listen concerning the Pharisees, how they obeyed the law to such an extent that they tithed even to the last tenth from their gardens, yet they neglected the weightier aspects of the law such as justice and mercy. Is this just further ammunition for my argument that the basis of the law is actually a signpost to love and not obedience, or does it go further, hinting at the condition of man and the role of his condition in God’s approach to man?

Might it be that sacrifice is something brought about because of original sin, that it has nothing to do with what God wants from man? In other words, that sacrifice is something that the current state of man demands and that God includes it because it is the language He must speak to us in? That we will not have him speak to us in any other way?

Yes, I have already said that Jesus had to die. It was necessary in order for him to baptize the early church with the Holy Spirit, and also now that he is with the Father that he continues to give. But the entire vernacular of sacrifice, does it have to be the way it is because of this one act? Some of it had to, obviously. His death was foreshadowed everywhere in scripture, even in the law. Given, however, that Jesus was giving his life when he was also able to take it up again, that he actually had an indestructible life, was this act entirely in line with the notion that sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sin. Certainly he did not require sacrifice of those he came across whose sins he forgave openly. Maybe his act of sacrifice had more to do with a statement of love than sacrifice, “greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his brothers”?

The love of Jesus is made more plain in a simple statement he made when the events leading up to his death were transpiring. He said something to the effect, “Don’t you realize that even now if I said the word that the Father would send twelve legions of angels and I would be freed from this.” It is very important that number twelve. It’s the same number as that of the apostles. It’s the same number as that of the sons of Jacob, the number of tribes that received the law. What he was saying was that he was giving himself so that man could receive the Spirit which was contained within him. If he didn’t die the Spirit would only be for those who didn’t die, the angels. Jesus was determined to give the Holy Spirit to man. He had to die in order to do that, probably because he had to reach us where we were, dead as in “if you eat this you will surely die.”

And where were we? What is death? If you listen to Jesus it is to not know God. How does that happen? Doesn’t it happen when we cannot see beyond ourselves? Doesn’t it happen when we are entirely entwined in selfishness? Here we are cut off from the Spirit. Here the opportunity for reason alone to grasp love is about the same as that of ten thousand monkeys with typewriters writing throughout the age of the universe and us hoping for them to turn out the collected works of William Shakespeare. It is so because even reason is doomed in this place. It is doomed because it is beholden to the thinker to step outside of their self and to apply reason from the same point of view that God does, the rain falling on the just and the unjust. We are doomed by having our own sense of right and wrong, our own knowledge of good and evil. Even the best of us has a hard time escaping “what’s in it for me?”

Here is where sacrifice parts company with love. Sacrifice essentially says, “I want to remain me. I want to go about being me and have my sins covered with blood, but I don’t necessarily want to have been a different person who would not have sinned.” Can you see the difference? Love doesn’t say that. Love says that it wants to be a different person. Love wants to see the world the way that God does.

For Jesus to give his own life was the ultimate shock to the condition of man. There he was penetrating the very spiritual nature of death, bringing life with him. Can’t you see it is all an argument to get you to listen? He does not expect you to either understand it or to go it alone. He has given the Spirit to us. You can’t do it without the Spirit, without the voice of God in your personal world. You need to repent in order to accept it. Repenting is turning away from a universe that includes only yourself. It is a brave thing to do, but he is waiting there for you.

 

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