True confession from me here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.
For many years now, I have merely pretended to understand the doctrine "substitutional atonement" as it relates to Jesus' death. It truthfully makes no sense to me. Substitutional Atonement is the Christian doctrine that says that before we could be forgiven, Jesus' blood sacrifice was required by God to atone for the sins of humanity. When I think about that, it gets a little weird, in an ancient Middle Eastern sort of way. I have serious doubts as to why God's love and grace, which is supposed to be unearned and boundless, has to be "bought with a price" with blood, particularly human blood, so that I can get eternal fire insurance. Once I gave up on the doctrine of substitutional atonement, I began to understand John 1:1-3. It's been about love, not sacrifice, from the very beginning. Jesus wasn't an afterthought to correct our mistakes.
Richard Rohr puts it this way. "God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weighing and punishing model, that the ego prefers, to the utterly new world that Jesus offered, where God's abundance has made any economy of merit, sacrifice, reparation, or atonement both unhelpful and unnecessary."
Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus' death was simply the inevitable collision of God's infinite love with the sin of humanity. It was a sacrifice OF love instead of a sacrifice TO GET love. Maybe it wasn't to SAVE US at all but instead was to SHOW US how to save us from ourselves.
As Thomas Merton writes, "God who is infinitely rich became man in order to experience the poverty and misery of fallen man, not because He needed this experience but because we needed his example. Now that we have seen His love, let us love one another as He has loved us. Thus His love will work in our hearts and transform us into Himself." Isn't that what Easter is really about?
Anyway...despite my problem with "why" He died, He's definitely alive. This I know. It's like he never left.
John 1:1-3 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through Him.